Wondering how to change the color of your bathtub? If your house was built in the mid-1900s, and your bathroom has never been renovated, then the chances are, you are stuck with a colored tub. Now, some people like the retro look of bright pink or avocado green porcelain—no judgment!
But if you want to change the color of your tub, you can refinish the surface yourself. This will take about 4-6 hours of work plus 1-2 days for drying time (depending on which bathtub refinishing kit you choose). However, if you’re willing to pay more, you can purchase a bathtub liner, which is a molded piece of plastic that adheres to your current bathtub surface and essentially gives you a brand new tub.
If you want to go the bathtub liner route, be sure to read my guide. You’ll get all the information you need for how to get the perfect bathtub liner fit for your tub and what you can expect to pay. However, if you want to learn how to change the color of your tub yourself for a lot less, read on! (And if you’re considering replacing the tile around your bathtub, you’ll want to do that project first. That way, if you accidentally nick the tub with falling tiles, you can fix it when you change your tub color.
Changing the Color of Your Tub Yourself
You will need to buy a bathtub refinishing kit to change the color of your bathtub. And if the surface of your tub has any chips, you’ll also need to purchase a bathtub repair kit.
These sorts of kits are more widely available than you would think. You can look at your local hardware store or online. These kits can usually be used for porcelain, acrylic, and fiberglass tubs, but check the packaging for confirmation that it can be used on your tub. I recommend my favorite DIY bathtub refinishing kit just below.
But for right now, if you’re not sure what your bathtub material is, check out my post about how to clean your bathtub for regular maintenance, as well as how to figure out what type of bathtub material you’ve got.
Warning: Change the Color of Your Tub on a Sunny Day
An important requirement for changing the color of your tub is dry weather. This is not a rainy-day project. Your windows will have to be open throughout, and moisture is the enemy.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started!
How to Change the Color of Your Tub in 8 Steps
Most bathtub refinishing kits will direct you to follow these steps:
- Gather items you need to refinish your bathtub
- Set up ventilation and PPE in your bathroom
- Remove caulk and hardware
- Repair chips
- Clean the bathtub thoroughly
- Prepare the surface for the paint
- Paint the bathtub (and let it dry)
- Finishing touches (re-caulking and touch-ups)
Step 1: Gather Materials to Refinish Your Bathtub
Buy a Bathtub Refinishing Kit
You will need to buy a bathtub refinishing kit, but these are more widely available than you would think. You can look at your local hardware store or online. These kits can usually be used for porcelain, acrylic, and fiberglass tubs, but check the packaging for confirmation that it can be used on your tub. The kit is designed for refinishing an average-sized bath. If you have a larger-than-normal tub, you might consider getting two kits at once.
I strongly recommend the Ekopel 2K Bathtub Refinishing Kit. It’s odorless and different from all others I’ve heard of, it contains no toxic chemicals. You won’t even need a respirator! It will also dry in 24 hours instead of 48.
You can walk through the process using the video just above. And if you run into any problems while you’re working, you can contact their live chat tech support during business hours.
If you get this kit, you’ll also want to get:
- 1-inch masking tape
- 12-inch masking paper
- wooden paint stirrer
But no matter what bathtub refinishing kit you choose, you’ll want to carefully check what items come in your bathtub refinishing kit so you don’t unnecessarily purchase them twice. (Some kits include sandpaper and a foam paint roller, for example.)
One more important word about your bathtub refinishing kit: Read the directions carefully! If those directions conflict with anything I mention below, follow the written directions that came with your kit.
Buy a Bathtub Repair Kit (Optional)
You’ll only need a bathtub repair kit if your tub’s surface is chipped or scratched before you start this project. You’ll want to get a bathtub repair kit that matches your bathtub material (i.e. fiberglass, acrylic or porcelain enamel) and the new color of your tub.
Additional Items for Project
Also, you’ll need the additional items listed in bullet points at the beginning of each step below.
Step 2: Set Up Ventilation And Put On PPE
For your bathtub refinishing project, unless you purchase the Ekopel 2K Bathtub Refinishing Kit, you’ll be using chemical cleaners and epoxy paint. Both of these pose a risk to your health, and it is essential that you take precautionary steps to prevent toxicity.
So for this step you will need:
- A bathroom window or an extractor fan
- A standard, portable fan (like a box fan)
- Cleaning gloves (like you use to wash dishes)
- Disposable gloves (latex or nitrile will be fine)
- A respirator with proper filter (recommended for kits other than Ekopel 2k)
- Safety goggles
The first thing you need to do when you’re changing the color of your bathtub is to make sure the bathroom is well ventilated. Epoxy paints give off toxic vapors, and you don’t want the levels to build up as you work.
Windows and Doors
Never close the bathroom door during the refinishing process. If your bathroom has an opening window, you will need to open it as wide as possible. Move any curtains and blinds out of the way so that they do not interfere with the flow of air. Do the same in the rooms around the bathroom to ensure cross ventilation.
If you have an extractor fan, you should turn this on before you start and leave it on throughout the process.
Also, if your bathroom only has an extractor fan but no window, you will need to take frequent breaks. These breaks remove you from the immediate vicinity of the fumes and also allow the fumes time to dissipate. Furthermore, opening windows in adjacent or adjoining rooms is extra important if your bathroom has no windows.
Take the portable fan and set it up inside the bathroom. It should be in a spot that it will catch the fumes from around the tub and push them towards a door or window.
Personal Protective Equipment
Hopefully, you won’t brush the freshly painted surface with your arm, but just in case, you should wear a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms. Make sure that this shirt has tight sleeves that don’t hang down as you work.
Protect your hands from the cleaning and paint chemicals by wearing the cleaning gloves during step 5 and the disposable latex or nitrile gloves during steps 4, 6, 7, and 8. If at any stage you notice that your gloves have split or torn, put on a fresh pair.
When you are refinishing your tub, you will spend a lot of time with your face close to the surface on which you are working. This creates opportunities for liquid to splash up into your eyes.
To protect your eyes, you will need some form of safety goggles. You can buy these at a hardware store, or if you have a pair of swimming goggles, those will work as well.
The last piece of PPE you need is a respirator. You can also purchase these at a hardware store. You don’t have to buy the fanciest model, but you do need to make sure it is appropriate to filter chemical fumes. Sometimes people purchase dust masks for painting, and these provide almost no protection against paint fumes.
Respirators can be uncomfortable and annoying to wear, but they are very important, so keep yours on while you work. If you need to remove it for a spell, then rather take a complete break and remove it once you are outside of the bathroom.
Step 3: Remove Caulk And Hardware
For this step, you will need:
- Tools to remove bathtub your bathtub hardware (screwdriver, pliers)
- Razor blade or utility knife and pliers
- Caulk softener (optional)
- Heat gun (optional)
Start By Removing Caulk
This can be as simple as running a utility knife or razor blade scraper under the caulk, or it may require a bit more work. You can buy a caulk softener to make the task easier.
If there is a lot of caulk in the joint and you cannot reach it with the utility knife or razor blade, you can use pliers (needle-nose) to grip it and pull it out. You can also blow the caulk with a heat gun to help soften it up.
Make sure that all the caulk is removed. It will not come off when the bathtub is cleaned, and it will hinder the adherence of the paint to the tub. You can learn more about how to remove bathtub caulk here.
Then Remove Bathtub Hardware
Take off the overflow drain covering and the bottom drain cover. If you have faucets, taps, or any other hardware fixed to the tub, you will also need to remove these.
If this is not possible to remove your hardware. (Don’t worry, you can cover it with painter’s tape at a later stage.)
Step 4: Repair Chips (Optional)
This step is only required if you have chips in your bathtub that need to be repaired. If so, you’ll want to get a:
- bathtub repair kit (optional)
You can purchase a bathroom repair kit online or at a hardware store. The exact directions will be on the kit’s instructional packet, but remember to sand the patch down after you fill it in.
Step 5: Clean The Bathtub
Dirt, grease, grime, etc., will prevent proper adhesion of the paint and affect how good your finish looks and how long it will last, so thorough cleaning is vital. So you want to do a great job cleaning your tub. Here’s what you’ll need:
- An abrasive cleaner with bleach
- Acetone (or similar)
- Abrasive scrubber
- Mold or mildew remover (optional)
You should be careful about using too much hot water in the cleaning process because steam can build up, and moisture can also interfere with paint adhesion.
Start with a diluted bleach solution, which will remove mildew. Then rinse well. If you notice mold and mildew stains that don’t come off, apply a mold or mildew remover. Leave it on for several hours and then wipe with a towel. The stains will likely come right off.
Use Abrasive Cleaner
Follow this with an abrasive cleaner (like Ajax or Comet) and use an abrasive scrubber. You may have to wash and rinse a few times to get all the soap scum, grease, and grime off. Make sure you clean in any corners, around the drain, and the outer sides of the tub. You may have to lay a towel down on the floor to soak up excess water as you clean the outer edges.
One final cleaning step is to remove any remaining residue with acetone. You will not need to rinse off the acetone as it evaporates quickly. You can also double-check that there is no residue by running a razor blade scraper along the surface of the bath.
Step 6: Prepare The Surface For The Paint
Just as the refinishing paint will not stick to dirt or moisture, it will only adhere weakly to a smooth surface. This means that you will need to scuff up the bathtub before painting it. For this step you will need the following:
- Sandpaper (400/600 grit wet/dry)
- Etching cleaner (only if it’s already included in your bathroom refinishing kit)
- Towel or paper towel
- Painter’s tape
- Plastic tarp
- Plastic bag
Depending on what bathroom refinishing kit you purchased, you might have received an etching cleaner. If you did, then follow the instructions on how to use it and rinse the bath out so that no etching cleaner remains on the surface.
If you did not receive etching cleaner in your kit, then you can proceed straight to sandpapering. The coarser the surface, the better the paint will adhere, and the longer the refinish will last. So, putting in the elbow grease now will save you time and money in the future.
Dry Tub Thoroughly
Rinse the bathtub thoroughly and use paper towels, normal towels, and a hairdryer to dry it completely before you start painting. If you have splashed onto the walls or floor around the tub, dry this up as well.
Protect Tile and Remaining Hardware
One last preparation is to cover the remaining hardware with painter’s tape and to run painter’s tape along the walls where they join the bathtub. Lay a plastic tarp down on the floor and secure it with more tape to catch any drips and protect your tiles. The tarp needs to be secured so that the fan does not blow it away or up against the tub.
If you were unable to remove your faucet, you should wrap it up in a plastic bag. This will help to ensure that there is no chance of any water dripping onto your tub while you are painting.
Step 7: Paint The Bathtub
Not all bathtub refinishing kits are the same, but all should come with instructions, so follow these carefully. For this step you will need:
- Bathroom refinishing kit*
- Paintbrush, paint roller (small), or paint sprayer
- Foam brush
- Paint tray
- Paint stirrer
* Check and see if any of the other items are included in the bathtub refinishing kit, like the paint roller. Also, some kits come with a cup and comb for a pour-on approach, so you won’t need a paintbrush or a foam brush.
Apply Primer (Optional)
If you have received a paint primer in your kit, apply this to your tub first.
Next, take the part A hardener and part B paint that probably came in your refinishing kit. Mix these together as instructed.
Let Paint Thicken (Optional)
Even if the packaging does not say to let it sit, if you notice that the A+B mixture is very thin, you can let it sit for about 5-10 minutes, at which point it should thicken enough to paint the tub with it properly. If you are hesitant to let it sit because this is not mentioned in the instructions, go with your gut and start painting immediately.
Change the Color of Your Bathtub!
Now you can paint your tub. Make sure your brush or roller has plenty of paint on it at all times, and apply the paint in even strokes, in the same direction when possible. If you are using a paint roller, you’ll want to use the foam brush for painting along the caulk line.
Some kits require you to wait before applying the second coat; others say you can do it immediately. When you do paint the second coat, follow the same pattern as before and make sure you do not lean against the wet or recently dried paint.
If you have ever painted your nails, you’re at an advantage here, as you’ve likely already learned the hard way that ‘‘dry’’ nails can still be marked by fingerprints or material textures.
Step 8: Apply Finishing Touches
Once the tub is completely dry, you can re-caulk. For this step you’ll want:
- Caulking Gun
- Tools to put back on hardware (like screwdriver)
Apply the caulk to the edges between the bath and the walls and the bath and the floor. A caulking gun can help you do this with a steady hand. (Read my recommendations for easily recaulking your tub.)
For non-porcelain tubs, you should fill the tub with room temperature water before re-caulking. If you don’t, then the flexing of the full tub will pull it away from the walls and destroy your neat caulk line.
Before filling the tub with water, you need to make absolutely sure the paint is dry. You also need to ensure that the water in the tub does not reach the caulk line at all. Leave the water in the tub while the caulk dries.
Replace the hardware that you removed in step 3.
If you notice any spots that need to be touched up, then make sure the bathtub is clean and dry and use some of the left-over paint for these touch-ups.
Caring For Your Refinished Tub
You should never clean your refinished bathtub with an abrasive cleaner. Use a gentle but effective cleaner and a cloth, as opposed to a sponge or scrubber, to clean the surface of the bathtub.
Changing the color of your tub and even the replaced caulk is going to make your bathroom look unrecognizable. And your refinish should last you a good few years, depending on the quality of your kit.
What To Do With Left-Over Paint?
If you have any left-over paint, why not spruce up your shower as well (if there is enough). If your shower doors are glass, then you will only have to do the acrylic, fiberglass, or porcelain floor. You follow the same method as with your tub, and you may just have to buy some more primer.
Suppose you do not need your left-over paint for the shower. In that case, keep it for a few days in case you need to do touch-ups of your bathtub. You can’t keep it indefinitely, but it should last at least five days, depending on your kit.
You Changed the Color of Your Tub!
If you did this project successfully, you probably feel like you modernized your bathroom in a flash. It’s likely that the new finish makes your whole bathroom feel brand new. You might even be inspired to make further changes to your bathroom.
If you have a small bathroom and are looking for how to make it feel more luxurious on the cheap, now is the time!
Or maybe you just want to turn your bathroom into a spa. Go for it!
But first, you deserve a delicious soak in your brand new (looking!) tub.