Dan has been a homeowner for some 40 years and has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks. He is a licensed electrician.
Can You Paint a Bathtub?
The short answer is "Yes, you can," but there is more to it than that. If you use some types of latex paint, I can guarantee that your satisfaction in a job well done will be very short-lived. The paint won't last past the first few baths.
Things to consider before you begin:
- The type of paint you use will play a large part in determining the quality of the work, as will preparation. Prepping the surface and using the right materials is the key to success here.
- The difficulty of the project needs to be considered. Are you prepared to take on a home improvement task?
- Your expectations of the finished product need to be evaluated. The finish will not be absolutely perfect, and if you don't like the result, it could well require a complete bathtub change.
Each of these points will be discussed in detail below.
What Kind of Bathtub Paint Should I Use?
Some several products and manufacturers supply paint intended for bathtubs, tile, and sinks. You can use both one and two-part epoxy paints, and I would recommend the two-part brush on epoxy paint even though it requires mixing two paints into one. Any leftover material will not be usable, but it is a small price to pay for a high-quality job. I used paint from Rust-Oleum for this article, and I was very pleased with the result.
While a spray can of epoxy paint is also available and might give a better, smoother surface, it will also be complicated to clean up places where the spray breached or worked its way behind the masking material. In addition, a spray requires a great deal more care in masking off areas that are not to be sprayed.
Under no circumstances should you use regular paint (not made specifically for bathtubs) as they are simply not designed to stand up under constant water conditions. It is one thing to have the paint occasionally rained on and quite another to have it underwater for long periods of time.
How to Paint a Bathtub
The first step is obviously to read the directions on your chosen paint. A two-part paint will require mixing the two parts into one container while one part will not.
Clean the tub thoroughly with soap and water and make any repairs as necessary before beginning. Easy-to-remove pieces such as faucet handles, trim, and the water spout should be removed. If the shower door is fitted to the bathtub, consider removing it as well; removal and installation will take only a few minutes and is probably quicker and easier than masking and carefully painting around the bottom track of the door. It may be necessary to do some sanding with 200 grit up to 600 grit sandpaper, and thorough cleaning with TSP is a good idea as well.
Mask off the wall at the tub edge with masking tape, as well as any other parts not to be painted, such as the drain. Don't try to paint right up against these items without masking them, as removal of excess epoxy paint will be difficult, if not impossible. Extra time spent masking is well worth the effort.
Painting can be done with a small paintbrush for the edges that are masked off and either a large brush or a roller for the larger surfaces. Brushes and rollers won't really be cleanable, so don't use your best brush; buy a cheaper brush and discard when finished.
Two coats are almost certainly required and the drying time will vary depending on which paint you use, as will the instructions for what to do with the epoxy while the tub is drying.
Following the instructions for your particular paint, then re-apply after drying the recommended amount of time. Store the paint and brushes during this drying period as instructed on the paint—different paints and manufacturers recommend different storage methods.
After a second drying period, remove the masking tape and re-affix any removed items such as faucets. Again, check the paint instructions for the time necessary before using the bathtub and wait at least that long if not a few days longer.
My Personal Experience in Painting a Bathtub with Epoxy Paint
When my wife and I bought our latest home, it came with hideous avocado green fixtures throughout the house. While I changed out the kitchen sink and toilets, I did not want the expense or work of replacing a bathtub and instead decided to try painting it.
I used a two-part epoxy paint that required mixing with no trouble. Interestingly, the instructions were to store the paintbrush and paint in the freezer overnight while the first coat was drying. I very nearly decided that they really meant the refrigerator but finally wrapped the brushes in Saran Wrap and stored them, along with the paint, as instructed. The next morning the brush was still soft and pliable and the paint in good condition, ready for the second coat. (Lesson learned: Follow the instructions.)
My own paint job turned out very well, with no runs or streaks. The paint was very smooth, and it was hard to tell it had been painted at all. I also painted a small bathroom sink simultaneously, with the only problem there being that my brush was really too large. Nevertheless, it also turned out well. I did wait a week before using the bathtub or sink, even though the instructions did not indicate that it was necessary to wait that long. As I have another bathroom available, it was not a particular hardship, and I felt it wasn't worth any risk at all of peeling the paint up prematurely.
That work was done nearly 10 years ago, and I am just now seeing some chipping and peeling of the paint. One huge spot in the bathtub has chipped off, along with a couple of tiny areas, as well as a couple of small chips in the sink. It has actually lasted longer than I expected it to, and I plan on re-painting the bathtub. The sink, being more difficult to get a good job in and much cheaper and easier to replace, will probably be replaced soon along with the countertop.
Overall, with the understanding that the paint will not last forever and will need to be redone sometime in the future, I found that painting was a good alternative to replacing it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am planning on refinishing and painting a clawfoot tub. It has flaking paint areas and am wondering if this needs to be patched first or can I just paint the epoxy over it? If it needs to be patched, what would you recommend using?
Answer: If it is an iron tub and rusting in the flaked areas it will need a thorough sanding - all of the rust must be removed. In addition, any flaking areas need sanding to smooth the transition to the unpainted area and to ensure the flaking will stop.
Other than that, there should be no reason to patch anything.
Question: I have already started my vanity sink with tub and tile but didn't like the look. I bought the Rustoleum tub and tile spray and sanded with 100 paper and 0000 steel wool. Is that enough for the spray to adhere to?
Answer: My guess would be "yes", based on doing other spray jobs, but I've not used the tub spray.
Question: I have an old porcelain tub. Would it be able to paint over Bondo? the porcelain is worn through to the iron base in spots. I plan to sand the bottom, TSP the whole tub, apply Bondo and sand smooth. Can epoxy be applied over the sanded Bondo?
Answer: I can't imagine why not. Epoxy paint has better adhesive properties than most paints, and should hold well on Bondo. Whether the Bondo will stand up to the continual pressure on it remains a question, though.
Question: How come the epoxy paint is peeling after we put one coat in bathtub?
Answer: By far the most common answer is that the tub was not cleaned, and the paint was applied over a dirty surface; when the dirt comes off so does the paint.
It is imperative that the tub be absolutely clean before painting.
Question: My porcelain tub was resprayed professionally about 5 years ago and parts are peeling off now. Can we use this method to paint over the peeling area?
Answer: Regardless of what you put over peeling paint, it will come off as the paint continues to peel. Any loose paint or other product must always be removed before repainting.
Question: I have an Acrylic tub - can i use Rust-Oleum on this?
Answer: There is no real reason an epoxy paint cannot be applied to an acrylic tub. If it isn't installed correctly, however, it may flex every time a bather moves and that could crack the epoxy.
Question: I just painted my tub three days ago, but don’t like the results can I repaint over it? Will it stick? I’m using the magic tub and tile refinishing kit.
Answer: I suspect the answer is yes. (I don't know why paint would not stick to itself), but a firm answer can only come from the manufacturer of the product used.
Question: I used the rust oleum spray tub paint and its coarse like sand in spots, and not glossy anywhere. I followed the prep instructions and let it cure for a week. How can I fix it?
Answer: If it's not too coarse, you can try to paint over it with the roll on tub paint. The only other choice is to sand it off and repaint.
Question: All of the fixtures in my bathroom are blue, but I want to change the color to purple. How can I do that with epoxy paint?
Answer: As far as I know, you can't. I have not seen any epoxy paint of any color except white. The paint section of a home improvement store might be able to tint it, but you would have to check with them.
Question: I have a bathtub in my mobile home. I am assuming it is the hard plastic or whatever comes in mobile homes. Can I use epoxy paint as a finisher on this type of plastic bathtub?
Answer: Epoxy will work fine on a plastic tub.
Question: I have a bathtub and sink both chipping to expose a sage green. Don’t know if it is steel or cast iron underneath, though the bottom of the sink resembles cast iron, but doesn’t have the same sound as a cast iron fry pan. Either way, the refinishing/painting appears to be new and poorly done (bought the house eight months ago) so I am not concerned about lead paint. Can I continue to use the tub without worry? Will the chipping just spread?
Answer: I'm sure you can use both without worrying about lead. But while the chipping will almost surely continue to spread, it just won't cause any harm when it does. It will just look ugly.
Question: Can you tell me the exact brand of two-part epoxy paint you used?
Answer: I used a Rustoleum brand paint.
Question: I have an old Port Hope built kitchen sink. I believe it is cast with an enamel coating. It is in good shape - no chips or cracks - just dull and a few stains. I would like to refinish it and put it back in my kitchen. What steps are needed to get this old beauty back to its original condition?
Answer: I did a bathroom sink with the same materials and procedure used on the tub. It has worked well and held up for many years. The bathroom sink was a little small to get a paint brush in very well, but it worked with some extra effort.
Question: My epoxy paint is not drying with a gloss finish?
Answer: I have used the Rustoleum brand twice now, on different projects, and both times it came out very glossy. Could your paint roller have been too rough, or spray not put on heavy enough?
As a fix, you might try sanding, ending up with at least 400 grit sandpaper, but it will be a tough job.
Question: Can I touch-up a bathtub using epoxy paint, and a gravity brush gun?
Answer: I can't imagine that being very successful. The epoxy paint is just too thick for any kind of gun, and I think you would have a very hard time feathering the edges into the existing. I also don't know how you would ever get the gun clean again - it would likely be a throw away after putting epoxy through it.
Question: My tub is rusted around the drain. I am selling my house and the bathroom will be completely re-done, so I don't want to spend much money. The city inspector said to either paint it or replace the whole (built-in, cast-iron) tub. My question, Can I use the Rustoleum Tub spray epoxy to cover just around my drain? Also, what grit of sandpaper should I use to get the best adhesion?
Answer: Yes, you could paint just around the drain, but it will be visible. There is almost no chance the colors will match exactly and the edge of the paint, even sprayed, will also be apparent.
I'd use around a 60 grit to get rid of the rust, followed with a 120 or so anywhere you're going to paint. If a spray is used, follow the 120 with a 240 or so.
Question: I want to paint the bathtub with black epoxy paint. I just wanted to know if can this be done?
Answer: I can't imagine why not if you can find the paint. All I've ever seen is gloss white.
Question: I recently refinished my sink and after the second coat, the smooth finish dried rough, so after curing I sanded smooth again, will I be safe to spray Rust-Oleum coat over sanded cured surface?
Answer: Ordinary paint will not last on a surface that is wet much of the time. Other than that, I don't see why not.
© 2010 Dan Harmon
Besarien from South Florida on August 21, 2019:
We used a brush on two part epoxy paint on an old claw foot tub about ten years ago. There was a very rusted out spot that we sanded and filled out again with Milliput, which is an epoxy clay often used in boat and auto body repair. We then painted the whole thing inside and out. We have moved since, but for about seven years the tub looked great.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 17, 2018:
You would have to check with the company that painted it in the first place. Without knowing what kind of product they used it is impossible to say if they can re-paint or even if an epoxy paint will stick to whatever they used.
Lori on February 17, 2018:
I had my bathtub professionally painted just over a year ago. It's chipping in a couple of places and I tried calling the company a few times and they won't return my call. Can this be repainted again (professionally)? even better, can we just repair the three small chips ourselves following your instructions?
Kyriakos Triantafyllidis on February 13, 2018:
Dear Dan Harmon
Thanks very much for all your suggestions you give to us
the do it yourselfers.
Details, tips and techical particulariities are valuable gifts
Thanks once again.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on December 18, 2017:
You will have to remove all rust before applying: even an epoxy paint cannot make rust stick to the tub. But if you do that it should last a few years, yes.
karen on December 18, 2017:
my tub is very rusty and I am afraid someone is going to fall through I rent for the nest 2.5 years then I am leaving. Will this cover and seal the rust spots and keep it from rusting through for a few years or do you recommend something else???
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 05, 2017:
I'm sorry - all I can offer is to wait another day in the hopes that additional drying will help. Good luck!
Paula on September 05, 2017:
I put the first coat on and it was fine then I started to apply the second coat the next day and it started bubbling up now what can I do? I just stopped because I don't want my whole tub to look like that.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 30, 2017:
Hi Jody. I can only offer a couple of suggestions. If the sink isn't leaking water - the cracks are in the surface coating only - I would suggest sanding and using the epoxy paint shown here.
If they actually go clear through I would replace the sink. If that isn't possible, coating it with fiberglass resin, or even a layer of fiberglass cloth with resin, might provide a lasting solution. Might.
Jody on January 30, 2017:
I want to use this on my tub and also my sink,however the sink is that hard plastic and has cracks through out the bottom of the sink.How do I fill those cracks before I paint?
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 23, 2017:
I don't know why it could not be painted. But I'm sure you would be able to where it was chipped unless some permanent, waterproof method of filling those chips was found. Perhaps a fiberglass patch?
Carla on January 23, 2017:
My bathtub is in need of refinishing in the inside it is chipped beyond repay can I still paint over it?
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on April 27, 2015:
Probably an hour per day or there abouts.2 adults and 2 kids, each with a shower each day.
JK on April 27, 2015:
Can I ask how often the tub was being used over those ten years? Considering doing this for a child's tub, it would be soaked for roughly an hour every single day. Thus I'm curious how long it might be expected to last under such conditions.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 21, 2014:
Good luck with your project. It isn't a difficult one and can yield great results.
ClaytonDaily on September 21, 2014:
Great hub. I was looking for this info, my tub has nicks and scratches and I knew that latex paint wouldn't work. Saved me hiring someone and paying extra for the labor.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 17, 2014:
Well good! Perhaps I've done some good then by writing the hub. Good luck with whatever you choose.
Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on February 17, 2014:
Oh my Gosh! My husband and I were just wondering last night if it is possible to paint your bathtub! Will have to refer him to this useful hub!
Joyce on February 05, 2014:
Oh, thank you for this idea. I have always dreamt about changing the color of our bathtub to brighter one. I have been searching for it for very long time and finally found the best way to do it! We recently purchased our house, by the way my husband found it at http://localmart.com/ really useful page. With this useful plan and my imagination I can make my bathtub fantastic. Actually, I thought that it is costly, but now I don’t think so. Without a special person I will do it by myself cheaper. To my mind it will also be a great opportunity to unite our family doing such interesting thing)) I hope that with our joint efforts we will change the bathroom for better!
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on October 10, 2013:
Littlejonigreen, that would be my approach. Someone has painted the tub quick and cheap to sell the house, and you are stuck with the result. Clean all the paint off, through sanding or chemical stripper, and re-paint it properly.
littlejonigreen on October 10, 2013:
Just bought a house and after a few baths the paint started peeling. It's my assumption that epoxy was not used. Should I remove all paint and or sand it before applying epoxy?
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on August 02, 2013:
I'm not familiar with that product, but epoxy paint is pretty tough. Not as tough as the original surface, but tough. I usually use just soap and water, though.
Joanne on August 01, 2013:
I am in the process of painting our tub. Actually waiting on the first coat to dry so I can add the 2nd. My question is about cleaning the tub. I've always used Bar Keeper's Friend, but I'm assuming that would be too abrasive on the paint. What do you recommend?
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 03, 2013:
My intent is to use a blunt scraper and take what I can with that. At that point I will use an orbital sander and sand both the epoxy finish and, in particular, the edge where it has chipped. You won't want a sharp edge there - it needs feathered out.
While I expect this to leave sanding marks in the fiberglass tub, it won't hurt anything as the epoxy is so thick and could well provide better adhesion the second time around.
diynovice on February 03, 2013:
I also painted my tub about 10 years ago with good success and in the past few months it has started chipping. I also don't remember what specific kit I used. I wanted to paint it again, but I wasn't sure how to take off the rest of the finish that hasn't chipped. How are you planning to do that? I really appreciate you sharing what you have learned.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 22, 2013:
Well, it's certainly a viable alternative to replacing a tub. That's a major renovation project, while a couple of coats of paint only takes a few hours.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 22, 2013:
How cool. I will have to remember this one. I have friends who love to do this sort of stuff in old homes to restore them. This would be perfect.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 12, 2013:
I don't see any reason why not, as long as the shower surround does not have large flexible spots in it. While epoxy paint will have some give and flex, if the shower wall can be moved in and out 2 or 3 inches it might crack.
Some of the older shower surrounds have had some of the wall covering behind it rot out, leaving just the thin fiberglass, and it can have considerable give.
Jennie on January 12, 2013:
can this paint be used on the old fiberglass shower/tub units? Mine is blue and I am so sick of it. If I can paint this thing I will save a lot and can spend money of some new hardware and shower head for it.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on October 24, 2012:
I've been wanting to try this but have never known of anyone to do it. Now that I know it works I'll be putting this on my to do work list.
chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on October 24, 2012:
I will have to give this a try. We have a tub in our basement that is hideous. I tried the spray stuff but it did not hold up well and I mostly just use the tub to give my dogs a bath in so it is not used everyday. We have hard water so I am sure over time the paint will wear faster but if it even last for 5 years it is worth it. The tub was put in by the previous owner and the bathroom was built around it and it would be too much of a hassle to replace it!
Simon Cook from NJ, USA on October 24, 2012:
You might just have saved me a lot of money - this should keep my bathroom going for a few more years before I re-do the whole thing!
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on October 24, 2012:
I'll need to do this soon. Our tub was second hand when we installed it 24 years ago. Thanks for the information and tips.
jellygator from USA on October 24, 2012:
I did this on the bathtub in a house I bought. The tub was in horrible shape, but it was cast iron (way too heavy for me to move it alone, and I didn't know anyone in the area yet.) It had rust stains and scratches that were hideous! After using an epoxy kit, it looked brand new.
I haven't tried the stuff for appliances or kitchen counters yet, but after that turnout I'm game for 'em if I ever need to.
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on July 01, 2012:
I hope it works out you, Chris - fish eyes weren't apparent in the work I did (I've only had that happen when painting a car, not with thick epoxy paint).
Good luck on the rest of your project!
Chris on June 27, 2012:
I live in Canada and bought a 2 part kit from Home Hardware - no one else sold paint kits. I didn't want to over spend by purchasing off the internet either so I just bought the only kit avail. I needed to use a mask - strong fumes and the prep is harder than one may think. I scrubbed and scraped everywhere because if there is caulk left behind you will get 'fish eyes' and it won't stick and sure enough, I got fish eyes. So the manu. says if that happens to apply 2 dots of anti-fish eye stuff in the paint for the 2nd coat. Hope it works and doesn't mean it will only half ass stick. I was dissapointed that my hard work still left behind some caulk residue..
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 07, 2012:
I'm very sorry, Rheafly, but I cannot. That work was done 10 years ago and I have no idea what brand was used. It was a two part system requiring mixing of the two parts of the epoxy paint, but that is all I can tell you.
I do recall that we purchased the tub paint at Home Depot, but so long ago there is a very good chance that they no longer have it anyway.
I'm rather surprised to hear of poor reviews, though - we have been very happy with our results. It needs re-painted now, but it HAS been ten years - that's not bad for a coat of paint on anything, let alone a bathtub.
Rheafly on February 07, 2012:
We have an ugly flesh colored tub that I hate and have wanted to try to paint, but all the kits get very bad reviews. Could you tell me what type you used? Thanks!
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on December 05, 2011:
We found it worth while, mostly because tubs are especially hard and expensive to change out.
Our tub needs another coat by now, and I will probably put it on this winter sometime. The chipped area has grown quite large. In spite of that, though, I find it worthwhile to simply paint again. It lasted for a long time.
I might mention as well that the chipping started at the drain - next time I will take extra care to make absolutely sure that area is well painted. Perhaps even taking the drain out before painting. The outside of the tub is still beautiful after over 10 years now.
I didn't find the smell too bad at all. An open window will help, of course.
Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on December 05, 2011:
We were considering hiring this for about $300. There is a complete kit on Amazon - the savings are substantial - $75 for the entire kit! Will have to discuss with my husband. Is the smell really bad?
The information you shared is invaluable - my husband hates the designer pink - if it were your avocado I would paint it myself - pink is livable until we renovate but until then I think he would enjoy the challenge of painting it white as you did 10 years ago.
Bathroom fixtures are expensive in time and money to change out - this is a great alternative.
Thank you so much!
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on August 31, 2011:
It was new to me, too, and I think few would ever consider it. In my case I found the avocado green tub ugly as sin and it would be a lot of work and expense to replace it.
Epoxy tub paint took care of the problem for only a little effort and a few dollars. Definitely worth it to me.
hanwillingham on August 30, 2011:
Interesting and useful hub.Painting bathtub with epoxy sounds new to me. Thanks for the information.