How To Paint Your Freestanding Bathtub

Close up image of a paintbrush placed on top of paint cans
Published: 30th January 2023
Author: Alex Palmer

As anyone fortunate enough to own a freestanding bath knows, these beautiful tubs form the grand centrepiece of any interior they’re placed in. Whether modern, traditional or something in between, your bathroom is informed and enhanced by the splendour of its freestanding bathtub. These stunning models stand boldly above the rest of your fixtures, transforming the space around them to truly magnificent effect.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t get a bit boring after a while. If you’re updating your bathroom’s interior design, you don’t want your once-proud bathtub getting left behind in the drab, matt-white dust. To avoid this, you basically have two options: buy a whole new bathtub, or recolour your existing one with a fresh lick of paint. From subtle blues to regal golds to bold, sultry crimsons, your bath can be any colour you want! 

Product Cut out image of a ready to paint Heritage Freestanding Bath with cast iron feet

Can I Really Paint My Own Bathtub?

Yes! Even if you’re not wholescale redecorating, repainting your bathtub by itself is a great way to add fresh colour and life to your interior. It might sound like a daunting task, especially if you’re not typically a DIY-minded individual, but all it takes is the right gear, a little knowhow and a good dollop of elbow grease. We’ll take you through everything you need to know on a simple, step-by-step basis, covering everything from equipment to technique to aftercare. Let’s get started!

What Equipment Do I Need?


Close up image of a paintbrush resting on top of some paint cans

Paint is the obvious one, so we’ll begin there. Whether you’re working with an acrylic bathtub (most likely) or a cast-iron enamel bath (less likely, but still fairly common), you need to make sure you don’t hobble yourself from the outset by choosing the wrong paint. Naturally, we’re talking something a little heftier than a nice set of watercolours here. Bog-standard latex paint won’t cut it either, as it lacks the toughness and water-resistant qualities we’re looking for.

For an acrylic bath, it is recommended that an acrylic polymer paint is used, particularly a one or two-part epoxy paint. These are available in huge range of colours and offer superior adhesion, finish and durability. These paints will also work well for cast-iron enamel baths, as will polyurethane paint. There are numerous bath-specific painting kits available for purchase that include paint, primer and thinner, so shop around to see what you like the look of. Whichever type of paint you’re considering, always contact the manufacturer of your bathtub to check whether its suitable for that particular model before proceeding to avoid any damage, issues with the lifespan of the bath, or simply voiding the warranty.


Primer, or undercoat, is a necessary product for both acrylic and metal baths. Acrylic baths are notoriously difficult to recolour, and a plastic-specific primer will reduce the number of paint layers required and help the paint adhere. For cast-iron baths, an oil-based primer designed for metal is the best choice.

Brush, Roller or Spray Gun?

Close up image of a small paint brush and a paint roller in a plastic container

The painting implement of choice basically comes down to a matter of budget versus convenience. A spray gun will yield the best results, offering a factory-level finish with far less hassle than a brush or roller. However, spray guns are also very expensive and notoriously messy. Using a spray gun requires extensive coverings and masking tape to be laid down across your entire bathroom, unless you want to end up with an interior that would make Jackson Pollock cringe.

Brushes and rollers, on the other hand, are far cheaper and less messy to use. They also make for slower work and don’t provide quite the same level of factory-standard finish, but you can get very close if you take your time and paint carefully. If choosing this route, then it is recommended that a roller or a smaller paintbrush is used, as these will allow you to apply your paint without leaving any lines.


Close up image of a roll of sandpaper

We will explain this in more depth later, but painting your freestanding bath actually involves just as much sanding as it does painting. For the best results, you should try and get hold of both medium-rough and superfine sandpaper for different stages of the process.

Safety Gear & Bathroom Protection

Whichever paints and primers you use, they’re going to be full of tasty chemicals that might not agree with your brain or respiratory system if inhaled too readily. A functioning face mask is an absolute necessity, as are sturdy gloves and eye goggles. Ensure your bathroom is well ventilated before getting started, either by opening any windows or running an electric fan, and keep any kids and pets far, far away while you are working.

Whichever way you swing it, painting is a messy job. To keep the rest of your bathroom clean, you’ll need a large supply of old newspaper and masking tape to lay down while you’re painting your bath. You can also use old blankets, towels or sheets to cover anything you don’t want painted, and it’s a good idea to wear old clothing you’re not fussed about ruining.

Painting Your Bathtub: A Step-by-step Guide

Now that we’ve assembled our gear, made sure everyone else is safely away from the room, and got plenty of fresh air circulating, it’s time to get cracking! Simply work through the steps below, and we’ll have your freestanding bath refreshed and revitalised before you know it.

Step 1: Prepare Your Space

As mentioned above, painting is not exactly a clean job. Every inch of your bathroom must be covered in newspaper, sheets or whatever else you’re using to protect it from splatter, especially if you’re using a spray gun. If your bathtub has finer features like a roll top or ornate bath feet, tape these up so you can go at them more delicately once the tub’s main body has been painted. Finally, make sure all your painting and safety equipment is in fine working order before you really get started.

Step 2: Washing, Rust Removal and Sanding

There’s no point in painting a dirty bath. Any traces of grime or muck could well show up later through your paint job, resulting in maddening blemishes that will undermine all your hard work. Before you do anything else, you need to clean the outside of the bath and thoroughly dry it down. After that, it’s time to break out the sandpaper.

Lifestyle image of a smiling woman cleaning a bath

The reason you need to sand (or ‘key’) your bath down before painting is to create a porous surface. This allows both the paint and the primer to adhere better. Use medium-rough sandpaper, working away until the surface of the bath feels rough to the touch. While this can be hard going, it will result in a longer-lasting, professional-looking finish. If you’re painting a cast-iron enamel tub, you’ll need to remove any traces of rust before you start sanding. You can do this easily with white spirit and an old cloth.

When your bath is sufficiently rough ‘n’ ready, clean it down again to get rid of any grit or dirt left over from the sanding. Once it’s dried off and absolutely spotless, we’re ready to move on.

Step 3: Primer

Both acrylic and cast-iron tubs need at least one coat of primer before you get down to the main painting. This undercoat will provide better adhesion for your paint, resulting in a more resilient finish. The type of primer you use depends on what material your bath is made from, but the fundamentals are always the same. Two or three thin, even layers of primer work best, applied with care and diligence to prevent drips. As with your main paint, any drips of primer will be annoyingly visible once dry.

Step 4: Paint, Sand, Paint, Repeat!

Right. we’ve laid the groundwork and set the stage. Now it’s time for the proper stuff. To paint your bath to a professional standard, you’ll want at least two thin layers that will combine to create a flawless finish. If you’re using a brush or roller, we’d advise keeping the application random and using a range of directions to ensure even coverage. When the first layer of pain is dry, grab your superfine sandpaper and carefully remove any brush marks and streaks. Apply another thin layer of paint and see how things are looking. If you think it needs a final going over, sand it down and paint it again. Just remember, there’s no need to sand after the final layer of paint, be that be the second or the third.

Step 5: Leave Things Well Alone

Now that your bath is finally painted, we can move onto our favourite part of the process: going away and forgetting about it for a couple of days. You should leave your bath well alone for 48 hours to give it ample time to dry. After this, you may want to apply a coat of oil or water-based matt varnish to seal in the paint and provide additional protection, but always check with the manufacturer of both the bath and the paint before doing so. Not all sealants can be safely used on acrylic.

And there we are! Your freestanding bath is transformed into a gleaming beacon of tasteful colour. Wasn’t so bad, was it?

Step 6: Aftercare

If you’ve done a careful job with high-quality materials, you shouldn’t have any issues with your paint flaking or peeling. However, this doesn’t mean you should be reckless when cleaning. Don’t whack away at it with excessive force, and don’t use any products containing harsh, potentially paint-stripping chemicals. There are plenty of gentle, paint-friendly cleaning products available, designed to work with soft cloths and sponges that won’t damage your finish. A tried-and-tested option is baking soda and white vinegar, which takes down grime whilst respectfully steering clear of paint.

Product Lifestyle image of the BC Designs Painted Boat Bath

As you can see, you don’t have to be some kind of flannel-shirted, utility belt-rocking DIY maestro to paint your own bathtub. Still, if you really don’t feel like getting your hands dirty, you might want to check out the stylish range of freestanding baths on our website.