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Can you use rust-oleum paint on a bathtub?

Bathtubs take a lot of wear and tear over the years. The constant exposure to water can cause the original paint or finish to fade, peel, and chip away. This leaves behind an unsightly tub that feels rough and unfinished. While you may be tempted to use whatever paint you have on hand to touch up these areas, not all paints are created equal when it comes to bathrooms.

What is Rust-Oleum?

Rust-Oleum is a popular brand of protective paints and coatings. It’s best known for its line of rust-preventing enamels. Rust-Oleum makes paint designed for a variety of different uses, including automotive, craft, home interior, and exterior applications.

Some of Rust-Oleum’s key features:

  • Dries to a hard, protective finish
  • Resists chipping, scratching, and abrasions
  • Inhibits rust formation
  • Variety of sheens from matte to high gloss
  • Can be used on wood, metal, concrete, masonry, and more

With such tough performance claims, you may wonder if you can use Rust-Oleum to paint a porcelain, enameled steel, acrylic, or fiberglass bathtub. Let’s take a closer look at how suitable and effective Rust-Oleum really is for tub refinishing.

Advantages of Using Rust-Oleum on a Bathtub

There are a few potential advantages to using Rust-Oleum to paint a bathtub:

  • Adhesion: Rust-Oleum formulated their paints to adhere well to surfaces like metal and porcelain enamel. This can help the paint cling to slick tub surfaces.
  • Durability: With its hard, scratch-resistant finish, Rust-Oleum offers good protection against daily wear in a bathroom.
  • Ease of use: Brush-on Rust-Oleum requires fewer coats and less prep than other DIY tub paint options.
  • Variety: Rust-Oleum comes in many colors and finishes, allowing for lots of customization.
  • Cost: At $20-30 per quart, Rust-Oleum is an affordable DIY paint option compared to professional reglazing services.

For these reasons, Rust-Oleum at first glance seems like a great quick fix for a dingy tub. However, the question remains whether it can really hold up long-term in a wet bathroom environment.

Disadvantages of Using Rust-Oleum on a Bathtub

Using Rust-Oleum on a bathtub does come with some notable drawbacks:

  • Not designed for bathrooms: Rust-Oleum’s formulas are not made to withstand constant humidity, condensation, and water immersion.
  • Requires frequent touch-ups: The paint may peel, bubble, or discolor quickly with heavy usage of the tub.
  • Textured finish: Brush strokes will be visible, leaving an uneven surface.
  • Low moisture resistance: Moisture can seep under the paint over time and cause peeling.
  • Contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Rust-Oleum has high VOC levels and can release strong fumes.
  • Difficult to remove:you’ll have to sand extensively to take Rust-Oleum off a tub if it fails.

The cons of using Rust-Oleum revolve around moisture resistance and bath-specific performance. Rust-Oleum isn’t formulated to withstand the hot steam, splashes, and humidity inside a shower or tub enclosure. This can lead to premature breakdown of the paint.

How to Use Rust-Oleum on a Bathtub

If you decide to use Rust-Oleum on your tub, follow these steps:

  1. Clean and lightly sand surface – Remove any existing paint or finish with chemical stripper or sandpaper. Scuff the remaining tub surface with 120-220 grit sandpaper.
  2. Remove any gloss – Use denatured alcohol to wipe away gloss or residue after sanding.
  3. Apply primer – Opt for a primer designed for slick surfaces, like Rust-Oleum’s Tub & Tile Primer.
  4. Paint 2-3 coats – Wait 4+ hours between each thin coat of Rust-Oleum.
  5. Let cure 2-3 days – Avoid heavy water exposure during Rust-Oleum’s curing period.
  6. Seal with polyurethane – For added moisture protection, apply 1-2 coats of water-based polyurethane.

Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and drying times. Rushing the process can ruin the paint job and cause adherence issues.

How Long Does Rust-Oleum Last on a Bathtub?

With proper prep and application, Rust-Oleum may last 1-3 years on a bathtub before needing touch-ups. However, the paint can begin showing signs of damage in as little as 6 months if used heavily. Cracking, chipping, peeling, and discoloration around the drain are common failure points. Using a tub liner or professionally refinishing is a longer-lasting option.

What Kind of Rust-Oleum Should Be Used?

Go with an interior-rated, water-based Rust-Oleum formula meant for bathrooms. Recommended options include:

  • Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit – Comes with primer, paint, applicators for bathtub use.
  • Tub & Tile Aerosol Spray – Convenient spray-on application.
  • High Performance Enamel – Hard, glossy finish good for high traffic areas.
  • Universal All Surface Satin – Acrylic water-based paint for multiple indoor surfaces.

Avoid Rust-Oleum’s oil-based coatings, like hammered spray paint or Professional Enamel. These contain more VOCs and have lower moisture tolerance than water-based options.

What Are the Best Practices for Success?

To get the most out of Rust-Oleum on your tub, make sure to:

  • Degloss and roughen up the existing tub surface
  • Remove any caulk, soap scum, or dirt
  • Only use a high-quality primer made for tubs
  • Apply thin, even coats allowing proper drying times
  • Recaulk around the tub after painting
  • Limit tub use the first week to allow curing
  • Clean gently using non-abrasive products
  • Keep humidity and condensation under control in the bathroom
  • Be prepared to recoat high wear areas annually

Proper prep and application are key to maximizing the lifetime of Rust-Oleum on a bathtub.

What Precautions Should Be Taken?

Use these precautions when using Rust-Oleum paint for your tub:

  • Work in a well-ventilated area due to VOC fumes
  • Wear gloves and eye protection
  • Tape off any nearby surfaces not being painted
  • Follow the coverage guidance on the label
  • Sand gently by hand instead of power sanding
  • Wipe up spills immediatley with soap and water
  • Rinse thoroughly if paint gets on skin
  • Dispose of paint cans properly when finished
  • Keep paint stored safely out of reach of children and pets

Rust-Oleum contains chemicals like xylene, ethylbenzene, crystalline silica, and titanium dioxide that can be hazardous without the right precautions. Use common sense and read all warning labels before starting your project.

What Are the Best Alternatives to Rust-Oleum?

For a more durable DIY bathtub paint option, consider these top alternatives:

Brand Benefits
Rust-Oleum Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit Specifically designed for tubs. Longer lasting than regular Rust-Oleum.
Behr Premium Tub & Tile Refinish Kit Low VOC water-based acrylic formula. Kit includes everything needed.
Homax Tub & Tile Refinish Paint Contains antibacterial properties to inhibit mold and mildew.
Insl-x Tub & Tile Finishing Kit High bonding 100% acrylic enamel. Easy soap and water clean-up.
Professional reglazing services Get 15-20 years of protection from a new finish applied by experts.

Anything marketed specifically for tubs and high-humidity will outlast regular Rust-Oleum. Hiring professionals for reglazing also yields superior, long-lasting results.


While Rust-Oleum offers good value and convenience for DIY tub painting, it’s not the ideal choice in terms of durability. Formulas designed for bathrooms will last longer. Taking proper preparation and application steps can extend the lifetime of Rust-Oleum. But for a permanent tub makeover, professional reglazing is worth the extra investment.