Have an ugly bathtub or shower surround? What if I told you you can use bathtub paint to refinish your tub and shower surround to make it look fresh, clean, and beautiful?! Read on to learn how to paint a bathtub!
Ugly bathtubs are the worst.
When my husband and I lived in our first apartment together, we had a mustard yellow bathtub and surround – and not in a cute, vintage way. It was so bad, and I cringed a little every time I had to use it!
In our second home, our bathtub wasn’t quite as horrifying but it was pretty darn ugly. The tub was a marbled off-white that always felt dirty, and the tiles were a different color of off-white that had seen better years.
I knew there had to be an affordable way to fix it, so I did some research and decided to try out Rust-Oleum’s Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit. It brightened the entire room up significantly. Plus, once it was done, the bathtub actually felt clean when I cleaned it.
What a novel concept!
You don’t need professional refinishers for a bathtub reglazing. You can get a whole new look with this tub and tile kit, and you’ll be amazed at how simple it is to use bathtub paint!
Using Bathtub Paint: The Overview
Refinishing your bathtub is one of those projects that seems incredibly intimidating if you aren’t super comfortable with DIY. I want to take a moment to assure you that it’s not that hard. As long as you follow the directions and take your time, you will end up with a gorgeous result that will fool everyone into thinking your tub has always been bright and shiny.
My favorite thing about this project is how absolutely affordable it is to completely change the look of your bathtub. The kit is about $50, and you should be able to tackle a garden-sized tub and surround like mine with two kits. So, for about $100, you can say goodbye to your ugly colored bathtub. Forever.
This project took me about three days to complete. If you don’t have a five-year-old and a teething baby in your house, you could probably knock it out in just one. I’ll detail the timeline below (along with a couple of mistakes I made, so you can avoid them).
The kit requires that you allow it to dry for a full three days before you shower in it again, so be aware of that before you start this project! If you don’t have a secondary bathroom, plan on borrowing a friend’s shower or heading to the gym to clean up.
Or, you know, just embrace the stink. It’ll make your first shower in your newly-refinished tub that much sweeter.
Okay, let’s do this. Here’s a reminder of what our tub looked like BEFORE I got started.
How to Paint a Bathtub Using RustOleum Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit
Note: Please feel free to use this as a reference, but please do NOT attempt this project without fully reading the manufacturer’s instructions!
Supplies you’ll need
Step One: Remove Caulk, Repair if Needed
The directions state that you should clean the tub before removing the caulk, but I knew I was going to make a giant mess removing the caulk anyways, so I decided to tackle that first.
To remove the caulk, I just used a sharp razor blade and ran it along either side of the caulk, then peeled it up. If you have a caulk removal tool, that will make the job a lot easier. A spackling knife can even help in a pinch!
This sounds incredibly simple and quick, and it’s not difficult (at all!), but it will definitely require some elbow grease! I’d estimate that it took me about 40 minutes to remove all of the caulk around the bathtub. Just put on a good podcast and tell yourself that you’re getting your strength training workout in for the day.
This is also a good time to use epoxy putty or a tub repair product to repair any chips or issues with your bathtub.
Step Two: Clean + Prep Tub
Now, you’ll need to thoroughly clean your tub. Rust-Oleum recommends using a bleach and water solution, but you can use any tub cleaner. Make sure to get up any mildew or soap scum!
After your first round of cleaning is finished, sand the entire tub and tile area with 400 (or 600) grit sandpaper. This improves the bonding of the paint, so don’t skip it!
After sanding, rinse everything off and clean it again. You want the tub to be the cleanest you’ve ever seen it, because you don’t want to paint any dirt or hair into the bathtub. If you do, it’ll be stuck there forever! I recommend finishing up the cleaning by using some acetone and a tack cloth to remove any final traces of cleaner or dust from the tub.
Allow the bathtub to fully dry before painting it (I wiped mine down with a towel once I finished cleaning to speed up the drying process).
Step Three: Cover Tub Fixtures
If you can, go ahead and remove the faucet and drain hardware so you don’t even have to worry about it. If not, use painters tape to thoroughly cover it. You’ll want to remove the tape before the epoxy dries, but it’ll do a good job of keeping it safe while you work.
Step Four: Mix the Epoxy Bathtub Paint
Here’s where I’ll make a note about the smell of this epoxy paint: It’s strong!
Be sure that you’re wearing a mask while you work, and I would even recommend some protective eyewear if you’re sensitive to this stuff. You’ll also want to turn on the bathroom exhaust fan, open a window in the bathroom, and if you’ve got a standing fan, place it in front of the window to help the fumes escape the room.
I kept the bathroom door closed while I worked, but of course some of the smell did escape to the rest of the house. We found that the best way to keep it from bothering us was to open the windows throughout the house and light a few candles. After about an hour or so, it wasn’t even noticeable! Even better? Do your painting first thing in the morning, then have the whole family head out for some errands. Leave a couple of windows open while you’re gone and let the house air out.
The tub and tile refinishing kit comes with a two-part epoxy. You’ll open both of them, stir them, and then mix them together into the larger paint bucket.
You’ll probably notice that the mixture is much thinner than regular paint. The key is that you have to stir the epoxy for a minimum of two full minutes before you try to paint with it! The box isn’t specific about how long to stir for, and it technically doesn’t require any wait time before painting, but I found that stirring for a good 2-3 minutes was the best way to get the mixture to thicken up enough that it didn’t leave drips while I was painting. Don’t skip this step!
Step Five: Paint the First Coat
This is the part where, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start having panic attacks right before you start.
I mean, this is a big project. Tubs aren’t easy to replace. Projects like this can be intimidating – I get it. The best way to get over that fear is to just dip your brush in the paint and DO IT. Once you’ve brushed a bit on, it’s too late to go back so you might as well move forward.
I give you permission to even close your eyes for that first brushstroke. But please open them up afterwards so you don’t make a mess.
You’ll want to use a foam paint roller or a really high-quality paintbrush to paint your tub. You could use a paint sprayer (it’s honestly probably the best way to get a totally smooth finish) but I didn’t quite trust myself with spraying epoxy in my bathroom. I’m just a bit too accident prone and the fine particles of epoxy make me nervous. I used a combination of a small foam roller and a paintbrush, and it worked great.
Remember – be sure to cover up or remove and drains or metal pieces that you don’t want to accidentally get epoxy on. As you can see, I skipped this step. I now have a bit of paint on my drain. Whoops!
Step Six: Paint the Second Coat
The box recommends you wait an hour before doing the second coat of paint. I found that an hour was great for the tile and the outside of the tub, but when I stepped in the tub to reach the top of the tile, I smudged the epoxy a bit. I think a lot of it has to do with the temperature and climate that you’re working in. I’d recommend giving it two hours before doing the second coat, just to be on the safe side! The epoxy has a working time of 6 hours before you need to toss it, so you don’t have to rush. Just put the lid back on the paint while you’re waiting.
Because of my smudging, I did have to do a third coat on the tub – if you need a third coat, you have to wait 24 hours before adding it.
Step Seven: Re-Caulk
The directions actually don’t note exactly how long to wait before re-caulking. You have to wait three days after painting before exposing the bathtub to water, but it says that the epoxy is cured after 18 hours. So, I split the difference and waited two days between finishing my last coat of paint and re-caulking the tub.
Here’s how the breakdown of my schedule went:
- Thursday: Remove caulk
- Friday evening: Paint coats 1-2
- Sunday morning: Paint coat 3
- Tuesday: Re-caulk around tile and tub
- Thursday: First shower in the newly painted tub!
If you’re able to just work without distractions (and without smudging the paint), I’d recommend removing caulk and cleaning the bathtub the evening before painting. Then, spend the next morning painting. It should be pretty simple to knock out in one day, as long as you give a little extra dry time between coats!
We had to use our kids’ bathroom for a few days while everything cured. Let me tell you, it felt good to be back in our bathroom when all was said and done!
I know some of you still have questions. Here are the answers to a few of the most-frequently-asked questions I get about this project. If you have one I missed, just drop it in the comments and I’ll be sure to address it!
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of tub does this work on?
Can you paint a plastic bathtub? Can you paint a fiberglass bathtub? What about porcelain tile?
Yes, yes, yes! This product works on porcelain, fiberglass, and and ceramic, acrylic, cast iron, and steel which means it’s good for just about any tub and shower surround out there!
How does it hold up?
Epoxy is incredibly sturdy so you should have absolutely no issues with your tub over time. We moved out of this house about 10 months after painting it. But, after daily use for 10 months it still looked just as good as it did the day we painted it! No chips, no streaks, no issues!
What kind of caulk should I use?
Does it leave brush marks or a texture?
No, the epoxy is pretty self-leveling and I didn’t notice any brush or roller marks once it was all try!
If you have any issues with things still feeling a little rough, I would lightly sand it with a high-grit (600+) sandpaper to help buff out any imperfections!
How do you clean a painted bathtub?
I didn’t change my cleaning methods or tools at all after painting our bathtub! You can clean with anything you would feel comfortable cleaning porcelain tile with, and it should hold up perfectly fine.
I’m so, so incredibly pleased with how this turned out, and I am so glad we did it. Until I started researching this, I had no idea it was even possible to paint a bathtub at home. Now I know that not only is it possible, it’s totally affordable and not all that difficult!
Let me know if you have any questions about Rust-Oleum’s Tub & Tile Refinishing kit. Be sure to check out their website for more information (and a how-to video).