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Tips for How to Paint Steel Bathtubs

Tuesday Fuller

Bathroom renovations improve the visual aspect of the room, make it feel new and clean, and increase the value of a home if a potential sale is in the future. While bathtubs are not expensive, some under $100, they are the most inconvenient fixture in a bathroom to replace.

Bathtubs are incredibly awkward to move, so instead of dealing with these troubles, most homeowners begin looking at tips for how to paint steel bathtubs.


While some approach painting a steel bathtub with a sander and professional strength chemicals, home improvement stores carry bathtub-refinishing kits. These kits contain all the chemicals needed to clean and repair a steel bathtub. In addition, purchase safety gloves and glasses. Buy extra fans to improve ventilation. Many of the kits have noxious fumes that require a great deal of ventilation for safety purposes.

Before purchasing a bathtub repair kit from a local home improvement store, consider all the available options, like hiring a professional refinisher, simply replacing the entire unit or having a cover-up unit installed. Consider your own skill level as well as the time involved to repair the steel tub and any health risks such as breathing difficulties and allergic reactions to abrasive chemicals.

Prepping the Surface

Before beginning repair on the steel bathtub, remove any caulking around the bathtub and its fixtures. Next, apply tape to the surrounding surfaces to prevent damage to the walls and floor. Finally, lay down protective tarps on the floor and cover the other bathroom fixtures. If using a repair kit, simply follow the instructions with the kit. The kit will give detailed directions on sanding the surface as well as using the included acid etch chemical or primer reducer cleanser to remove the protective glaze. If a kit is not available, use a course-grit sandpaper to remove the glaze. Repair any imperfections with putty designed for metal applications. Sand out evenly again and remove any dust left over. Then coat with a porcelain-based enamel primer. Manufacturers and repair kits will include directions for determining the number of primer coats required.

Painting the Surface

After the primer, apply a first coat of paint to the steel bathtub. Do not use latex paint; instead choose a durable top coat paint mixture designed strictly for steel bathtubs. Some paint manufacturers recommend using different tools for applying paint; some prefer rollers or brushes, while others work better with a paint gun. Use long even strokes to create a smooth initial surface. Allow to dry thoroughly, gently sand again and apply two more coats of paint, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.

Maintaining the New Surface

Avoid using abrasive chemicals on the new finish. Common commercial cleansers cause fine scratches and damage the protective surface, allowing stain development and cracking. The gentle spray-on cleaners will work instead, or clean with a mild soap and water with a soft rag. Do not use stiff scrub brushes or steel wool to clean the bathtub. Ask store associates for quality cleaners that will not damage the tub’s new surface.