How to Paint a Ceramic Tub or Sink

A ceramic bathtub with pink tile on the wall

Worn-out tubs often still work perfectly well long after they’ve lost their luster. Chips, scratches, stains, and dullness can all leave the fixture looking less than its best. Professional refinishing isn’t an option for every tub, but painting will work for most finishes. Ceramic or porcelain can be particularly tricky to paint, but it’s feasible with the proper preparation and materials. The new finish will look good and should last for a few years with regular use and careful cleaning.

Choose the Right Paint

Homax Tough Tile Tub, Sink & Tile Refinish

Not all paints will bond tightly enough to the ceramic surface to stay attached through washing and cleaning cycles, mainly because the material is non-porous. Epoxy-based paints designed specifically for the shower, tile, and tub use are all you should try. They’re available primarily in white and beige shades, but some brands also stock more colorful tints so you can get creative in the bathroom. Don’t be tempted to experiment with acrylic or oil paints in a tub. Even if you rarely or never use the tub, it’s likely to look less than ideal and even peel just from sitting empty unless the right materials are used.

Prepare the Surface

Woman wearing yellow rubber gloves cleaning her tub

Even epoxy-based paints will struggle to bond to the smooth and non-porous ceramic surface unless it is perfectly clean. Start with basic scrubbing that you’d use any other day to remove dirt and debris. Once the tub’s surface is free from general grease and dirt, use a large sponge and trisodium phosphate to wipe down the surface again. Wear gloves for this step and eye protection. The TSP strips away residual oils, soap scum, grease, and other residues that can interfere with the bonding of the bond. It will evaporate and leave the surface clean and ready to paint.

Remove the fixtures and scrape out the old caulk around the edges. Then it’s time to sand the surface. You’re aiming to completely roughen the surface until it’s no longer smooth anywhere to the touch. Then wipe the surface with slightly damp rags to remove any lingering dust. Finally, mask off surrounding areas with painter’s plastic and tape.

Apply the Paint

Masked off tile surrounding the tub

Epoxy-based paints produce powerful vapors, so open the windows and use fans to create good ventilation without directly blowing air over the tub or paint. Two-part epoxy mixtures bond better, but they’re harder to mix and produce more fumes. One-part mixtures can be shaken or stirred and then applied directly. Make sure to mix as long as the manufacturer recommends and in any way they require to ensure good blending.

Wait for Use

Freshly painted bathtub with pink tile surrounding

Two coats should give a smooth and complete coating. Unless the instructions recommend it, avoid additional coats since they’re more likely to peel up. After painting, let the tub cure at the conditions recommended by the manufacturer. For best results, this may mean using a dehumidifier in the room to maintain the right humidity level or adjusting the heat or cooling in your home. Wait longer than the recommended curing time for long soaks in the tub. Brief showers should be fine at the listed wait time, but a leisurely soak exposes the paint to more heat and moisture. Stick to limited use for the first few weeks, at least to give the paint time to bond as much as possible. Sinks can be used as soon as the manufacturer recommends, but don’t fill them with hot water and leave them standing.

Clean With Care

Woman smiling, wearing yellow rubber cleaning gloves while cleaning bathtub

Avoid using any solvents, abrasives, or even scrubbing brushes when cleaning the painted tub or sink. Any spray-on cleaners and a soft sponge should work well enough for routine cleaning. Don’t pour boiling water in the tub if you used to do so for clog management in the drain since it can make the paint weaken or peel.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.