How to Clean and Paint Porcelain Sink?

best paint for porcelain sink, tub and toilet

A porcelain sink, tub, toilet, and tiles are made from more refined clay fired at a higher temperature than ceramic, making it a denser and more durable option.

While a variety of different paints are available for porcelain, you must typically use latex-based or epoxy products and not oil-based paint.

For smaller surfaces like porcelain pottery, teacups, serving trays, jewelry, miniatures, or other craft items, regular latex or one-part (pre-mixed) epoxy paint will generally do the job.

But for painting larger porcelain surfaces such as sinks and bathtubs, acrylic urethane paint sticks well, is durable, and will last much longer once cured correctly.

Unlike most interior paints that will fade and lose their color over time, acrylic urethane is different because its adhesive qualities ensure that it lasts longer without losing color, even when exposed to heat and water.

Painting Porcelain Sink

Painting your porcelain sink, tub, or toilet is not difficult, but it does require some prep work and a few specialized supplies that you may not have on hand.

Start by gathering the following materials:

  • A drop cloth or old newspapers to protect your work area
  • Masking tape
  • Sandpaper (100-grit and higher)
  • Household cleaners
  • Bonding agent
  • Paint in the color of your choice
  • 1-2 small paintbrushes

Once you have all of your materials, follow these steps to get started:

Step 1 – Clean the porcelain sink

Clean your porcelain sink surface thoroughly with a cleaner like Homax to remove any dirt, grime, and rust. If there are some tough hard water stains, try to remove them as well as much as you can.

To avoid scratching the surface and remove any residue left behind by cleaners, you could also use a soft cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.

Be sure to rinse the surface and allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 2 – Mask off any areas you don’t want to paint

Use masking tape to protect any areas of the porcelain that you don’t want to be painted. These can be nearby light fixtures, mirrors, plumbing, or other hardware.

Also, consider laying down some old newspapers or a drop cloth on the flooring beneath the sink to avoid any paint drips staining and damaging your floor.

Step 3 – Sand the porcelain sink surface

Use 100-grit sandpaper to lightly sand and rough up the entire surface of the porcelain you intend to paint. This will help the paint adhere better.

If the white porcelain surface is new and super smooth, and you need to paint it for a color change, you will need to roughen up the gloss so that the paint sticks better.

In this case, use 400 or 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper for sanding the entire surface where you will be putting the paint to change the color and looks.

Step 4 – Apply the bonding agent

To prepare your sink for painting with acrylic urethane paint, it’s recommended to apply a bonding agent first that’s designed for use on porcelain.

This can be found at most hardware stores and is usually applied with a rag onto the sink’s surface. A single thin coat of bonding agent is enough to adhere the paint to the surface properly.

How to Spray Paint Porcelain Sink

Step 5 – Apply the paint to the porcelain sink

Before you proceed to apply a coat of porcelain paint, read the manufacturer’s instructions on the paint can for specific guidance.

In general, you’ll want to apply a thin layer of acrylic urethane enamel with a small brush, working in long strokes in the same direction. If you feel uncomfortable with a brush, you can also use a paint roller or a sponge for the paint job.

Pro users can also use a spray gun with a compressor to spray the paint evenly. Depending on the color you’re aiming for and the type of paint you’re using, you may need to apply at least two coats of paint, allowing the first coat to dry completely before adding a second.

Step 6 – Allow enough time to dry and cure the paint

For an hour, place a heat lamp next to the porcelain sink to help it dry. If you don’t have one handy, let the paint air-dry completely.

Once it’s dry, sand the sink again with 800 or 1,000-grit paper to smooth out any uneven patches or rough areas. Next, wipe the entire sink with paper towels to clear away any dust particles.

Let the paint cure for about 2-3 days. Once cured, you can use a power buffer along with foam and a bit of car wax to give it a shiny finish if you want.

Finally, mask off the areas you have protected with the masking tapes, and your freshly-painted porcelain sink is ready to use.

lemon juice and salt to remove hard stains from porcelain sink

Removing Hard Water Stains from Porcelain

Porcelain is a highly durable, nonporous material, perfect for bathroom and kitchen sinks.

Although it’s easy to clean, the material isn’t resistant to stains – some spots can be tough to eliminate entirely. Particularly the hard water stains and the marks your regular tap water creates over time are more prevalent and challenging to remove, no matter what you try.

There are various methods for cleansing hard water stains off your sink before you start painting. But it’s recommended that you first wash the sink with regular liquid soap to pre-treat the area and remove any dirt, soap scum build-up, and other contamination before using any cleaner solutions.

Using a soft sponge, work delicately along the sink’s surface, and ensure no suds or bubbles are left behind after rinsing it away. Performing a quick wash will also make it easier to see the hard water stains, and it does help in further cleaning. Once you finish the cleanup, you can use one of the following strategies…

1- Spray Wash with Vinegar

Everyday household go-to’s like white vinegar can clean and whiten your white porcelain sinks very well.

  • Mix together 25% vinegar with 75% water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the solution on your sink’s surface, focusing on any discoloration, and wait at least five minutes.
  • Gently scrub the area with a sponge or rag and rinse the sink completely.

2- Cream of Tartar and Vinegar

A mixture of vinegar and cream of tartar (a baking ingredient used for its anti-caking, anti-crystalizing, and thickening properties) can also serve as an excellent porcelain sink cleaner in your bathroom to clean the hard water stains.

  • Mix equal parts of these two ingredients in a cup.
  • Apply the cleaner to a sponge or rag, and scrub in small circular motions.
  • Give the cleaner a few minutes to work and maximize its cleaning power, then rinse the residue away thoroughly.

3- Baking Soda and White Vinegar

  • To prepare this homemade cleaner for a porcelain sink, take equal amounts of vinegar and baking soda in a cup and make a paste out of it.
  • I use Arm and Hammer Baking Soda because it gives me great results; you may use any other brand.
  • Apply the paste to your sponge or cleaning rag and start scrubbing in small circular motions over the stain.
  • Allow the mixture to settle for 15 minutes, then wipe the area when you see the stain changing color.
  • Finally, rinse thoroughly with clean water.

TIP: If you do not have vinegar at home, you may try this recipe by mixing baking soda and a little warm water.

4- Lemon Juice and Salt

  • Take half a lemon and sprinkle some salt over the cut surface.
  • Now, rub the lemon over the stained sink, faucets, or showerheads in a circular motion.
  • The natural citric acid and salt will work together to break down the minerals and loosen the bond between them and the porcelain.
  • Give it a few minutes to work, then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • You may need to repeat this process for particularly tough stains if they don’t go in the first round.

5- Borax and Some Lemon Juice

Lemon juice and borax homemade porcelain cleaner recipe can be used on multiple surfaces, not just porcelain sinks in your kitchen and bathroom.

  • Mix Borax and lemon juice to make a paste, then rub the mixture into sink stains.
  • Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, and then wipe it away with a clean cloth.
  • Give your sink a final rinse with fresh water, and you will see most stains should be gone.
  • Be cautious not to leave it too long as the citric acid in lemon juice can harm porcelain if left there for an extended period.

TIP: Borax is also an excellent homemade cleaning solution to fix clogged sink pipes. To fix them, pour half a cup of Borax into your drain and add two cups of boiling water on top. Stubborn clogs may require repeating the process.

6- Use Bleach if it’s a Pure White Porcelain Sink

To begin with, this method, pour the bleach into a spray bottle, as it will help control the amount of bleach you will use. Then follow these steps to use this method…

  • Line and cover the porcelain sink with some paper towels and place them on top of the stains as well.
  • Saturate all the paper towels by spraying the bleach solution. This will keep the bleach in contact with the area that needs to be cleaned.
  • The minimum amount of time you should leave the bleach is 30 minutes so that it has a chance to work on tough stains.
  • Once time is up, carefully remove the paper towels being mindful not to let any drips fall onto other surfaces as this could cause damage.
  • Clean the surface with a brush, sponge, or old rag, and rinse off the bleach with clean water.

You can use a liquid cleaner with oxygen bleach to clean colored porcelain sinks. But never use chlorine bleach or other acids on colored or vintage porcelain – they can damage the finish.

Caution: When cleaning with bleach agents, keep the room well-ventilated and take care not to get them on your clothes. Also, always wear gloves and goggles to protect your eyes and skin during this process.

7- Use Tartar and Hydrogen Peroxide

Cream of tartar mixed with hydrogen peroxide powder can also be used for getting rid of white porcelain sink stains (caused due to hard water, hair dyes, rust, molds, and mildews).

But avoid using these types of bleach cleaners too often on your porcelain surfaces, as they can dissolve the finish and make them dull.

  • To start with the method, mix 1 cup of cream of tartar with 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to form a mixture.
  • Now rub and spread the mixture into the stain using a sponge or cloth in small circular motions.
  • Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes on the stained areas, then rinse with clean water and dry the surface with a soft cloth.

Besides the above methods, you can also use some gentlest abrasives and pumice stones. But use these options only as a last resort, as there is a high risk of damaging the surface.

As an alternative, you can also use Bar Keepers Friend. Using this cleaner is easy, but read and follow the manufacturer’s directions to maintain the integrity of your vintage porcelain sinks in the bathroom and kitchen.

Although not a DIY cleaner made by yourself, it’s still gentle to work on delicate porcelain surfaces and yet powerful enough to remove tough stains before you paint.

Seal Porcelain Sink

Do You Need to Seal the Porcelain After Painting?

While it’s not essential, sealing your sink with an acrylic topcoat is one investment that will reward you for years to come.

A clear sealer top coat will not only protect your paint from wear and tear but also from stains, hard water minerals, and other contaminants from penetrating the porcelain.

When deciding how to apply the sealer, you must choose between a convenient spray gun or an accurate paintbrush. The former will speed up your job, but the latter can provide more control over specific application areas.

After you have applied the sealer and it has dried for a couple of hours, ensure its bond with your sink by creating a small pool of water and letting it sit in the basin for at least 8 hours.

If it is still intact after that time, you are good to go. However, if any water manages to seep through and change the color of the surface – wait several days for the sink to completely dry off. Then reapply two additional coats of sealant.

Repainting vs. Replacing Your Porcelain Sink and Toilets

You might have an antique bathroom sink or a toilet that’s made of porcelain. It holds an emotional value for you but now looks a bit dull and outdated.

So, if you are considering revamping your bathroom, you may want to consider either repainting or replacing them.

The process of replacing these fixtures can be difficult and costly. It includes the entire process of removing and replacing the old fixtures, as well as new costs for pipes and other accessories.

Repainting porcelain, on the other hand, is a much simpler, more cost-effective solution. Not only is it faster and less expensive to repaint than replace your fixtures, but you can also customize the look to match your décor.

When considering your options, thoroughly examine any damages like crazing, fine cracks, chipping, and pitting on the porcelain sinks and toilets.

If there are extensive damages that are challenging to fix, it’s good to replace them. But for minor damage, stains, scratches, or other surface imperfections that can be repaired with some glue and touch-ups, repainting or reglazing is the best option.

The Bottom Line

Porcelain is the densest and most durable ceramic type, making it versatile for a myriad of uses and practical applications like bathroom fixtures, sinks, tubs, toilets, as well as flooring tile.

And when it comes to painting porcelain, the process is not complicated. With a bit of prep work and the right paint supplies, you can achieve excellent results that will last for years to come.

So, the next time you see your sink dingy and dull, take the time to give it a new look. It will be well worth the effort.

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