If your old porcelain bathtub has started looking dingy, it’s time to plan a makeover.
Refinishing and refreshing your old porcelain (ceramic or fiberglass) tub’s color is achievable using a specialty kit labeled for tubs and tiles.
When done right, it can provide a high-gloss finish that looks and feels like new.
However, if you have an enameled cast iron or steel tub, the process is a little different, and you’ll need to consult a professional.
No matter which type of bathtub you have, it’s important to start with a clean surface.
That means removing any and all soap scum, mildew, dirt, and grime build-up.
You’ll also need to remove any old paint or other surface treatments before you plan to apply fresh paint.
Luckily, there are a few different ways that you can go about removing paint from your bathtub.
But the cleaning product and supplies you use will generally depend on the type or material of tub you have.
1- Removing Paint From a Porcelain Tub
While porcelain cracks and chips more easily than other materials, it is significantly more durable and scratch-resistant.
This also means most household cleaners and solvents will not damage porcelain tubs if you use them cautiously for cleaning.
If the flaking paint is loose and easily removable, you do not need to use paint-stripping solvents. Instead, you can use a scraper or razor blade to remove flaking paint on a porcelain tub just by scraping.
However, if the paint is not loose and is tightly adhered to the surface, you will need to use a solvent.
- Apply a commercial paint stripper, rubbing alcohol, or acetone on the area and leave it there for about ten minutes.
- As you see the paint bubbling and loosening from the porcelain tub’s surface, use a scraper to peel away the loosened paint.
- If the paint isn’t loosening or there is still some paint left to remove, apply another layer of solvent or paint stripper and repeat the process.
- When the paint is no longer visible, wash the tub with warm soapy water and rinse to clear away any leftover paint remover.
Caution: It’s recommended to use appropriate protective gear like a respirator mask, rubber gloves, and safety glasses whenever you’re handling chemicals or solvents.
2- Stripping Paint From an Acrylic Tub
Although acrylic bathtubs are resistant to dirt, they scratch easily. Unlike porcelain, many cleaning chemicals and paint removers can dissolve acrylic material if not used correctly.
So, I recommend not using abrasive cleaners, solvents, or scrapers on an acrylic tub.
The best way I have found to remove paint stains from an acrylic tub is by using a non-abrasive shower cleaner like Ajax®, which comes with bleach.
Not only does Ajax® Ultra clean the acrylic tubs in the bathroom safely, but you can also use it to clean your bathroom/shower, walls, floors, stainless steel appliances, patio furniture, and even stones like marble and granite.
Alternatively, if it’s a fresh paint spill on the acrylic bathtub, you can wipe the paint with a paper towel and prepare a homemade vinegar-based bathtub cleaner for cleaning the tub before painting.
- Fill your bathtub with hot water in such a way that it covers the paint stains fully.
- Add three to four ounces of laundry soap and allow it to sit overnight so the detergent loosens the paint.
- In the morning, scrub the paint stains on the acrylic tub with a soft sponge.
- Now spread baking soda over the stain and let it soak for ten minutes.
- Next, squirt vinegar onto the area to form the foaming between the two ingredients, which will help lift away the paint.
- To treat the tough stains that have remained, use a sponge soaked in vinegar and scrub while the reaction occurs.
TIP: During the entire process, keep the affected acrylic tub area wet with hot water, and do not let the paint dry.
3- Removing Paint From Cast Iron Bathtub
If you have an old cast iron bathtub in your bathroom, it might have a protective layer of paint coating, enamel, or porcelain to protect the surface against rust.
So, after all the years of good use, the paint might flake and chip, making your bathtub look ugly.
The good news is that you can refinish it to make it look new after cleaning and removing the old paint.
- Start by cleaning the tub with dish soap and a mildly abrasive sponge to remove any dirt or grime built up over time.
- Then, use sandpaper or steel wool to get rid of paint and rust stains from cast iron tubs.
- If you hand-sand the paint off cast iron, use circular motions and frequently clean debris off the surface with a damp cloth.
- Alternatively, utilize an electric sander which will erase old paint quickly. This can be helpful if you have a significantly large bathtub or other cast iron accessories like faucets in your bathroom to refinish.
TIP: After removing the old paint layers, you must apply a new coat of spray paint, lacquer, or refinishing oil immediately.
Please do not leave the cast iron bathtub without a protective layer for an extended period, as it will start to rust.
4- Getting Rid of Paint From a Tub Made of Metal
Metal bathtubs – such as those made from copper or stainless steel – can add an element of luxury to any bathroom.
However, it’s important to note that these shiny tubs are susceptible to scratching and other damage if you use abrasive cleaning products like steel wool and sandpaper.
While most people do not consider painting over them, if you already have old paint or want to redo the old piece, I recommend using olive oil for paint removal on your luxurious stainless steel or copper bathtub.
- Apply a generous amount of olive oil evenly on the surface with paper towels or rags and let it sit for about half an hour to loosen the paint.
- Remove as much paint as possible from the lubricated surface using a plastic paint scraper wrapped in a thin rag. Wrapping the rag on the scraper is important to avoid scratching the underlying metal surface.
- Wet a rag with mineral spirits and rub the stain for one minute, then use a clean rag to wipe away the loosened paint that has remained.
5- Removing Epoxy Paint From a Fiberglass Bathtub
Fiberglass tubs are typically coated with epoxy paint, and removing these paints from the fiberglass tub’s surface is relatively easy.
The first step is always to clean the bathtub with dish soap and a mildly abrasive sponge to remove any dirt or grime build-up over time.
After that, you need to use a mild paint removal solution to remove the epoxy paint.
Remember that solvents like acetone will remove epoxy paint faster but will also damage the fiberglass tub. So, we will be using vinegar with baking soda here.
- Mix baking soda and vinegar to form a thick paste.
- Spread this paste over the area, and let it sit for about thirty minutes.
- Using a non-abrasive sponge, scrub the bubbling paint, repeat if necessary
- When the paint is gone, wash the area with warm soapy water and rinse to remove any leftover paste or paint residue.
TIP: You can now paint the tub or apply a new epoxy coating if you want to change the look of your bathtub.
The bottom line
Paints serve as a durable, long-lasting coating for bathtubs.
However, cleaning and removing the layer is crucial before refinishing if you have misapplied the paint or the old paint has started peeling or flaking.
First, identify the type of paint used on the specific tub material. And then, go with the most effective method to remove the paint without damaging the bathtub.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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