How to restore cast-iron bath tubs

Written by jennifer wiginton
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How to restore cast-iron bath tubs
Your old bath tub may need some careful attention. (Getty Creative)

Cast-iron tubs have been popular since their introduction in the 1880s. Their owners admire the tubs' beauty, stability and resistance to wear. Your tub, however, may be showing its age. With some planning and effort you can restore your tub's finish and its former attractiveness.

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Things you need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Masking tape
  • Razor blade
  • Alkaline emulsifier
  • Acid-based citric cleanser
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Trowel
  • Fibreglass putty
  • Rotating sander
  • 36-grit sandpaper
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloths
  • Bonding agent for paint
  • Protective clothing -- long trousers, long-sleeved shirt, closed-toe shoes or Tyvek suit
  • Air mask
  • Respirator
  • Gloves
  • Acrylic urethane enamel paint
  • Spray gun, low pressure/high volume type
  • Heat lamp (optional)
  • Paper towels
  • 1,000-grit sandpaper
  • Power buffer with foam pad
  • Auto compound
  • Polymer glaze car wax

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Instructions

    Preparation

  1. 1

    Select a work area with very good ventilation, such as outdoors or in a garage. Proper air flow is vital during this project. Protect the work area with plastic sheeting and masking tape.

  2. 2

    Turn off the water main and remove the tub's valve and drain. Make sure the tub is completely dry.

  3. 3

    Remove or cover the tub's feet. Because of their ornate and detailed design, avoid damaging the feet during this project. If they also need repair or refinishing, send them to a professional.

  4. 4

    Enlist the help of family and friends to carefully move the tub to the work area. These tubs can weigh several hundred kg.

    Cleaning

  1. 1

    Ensure that the tub is completely clean and smooth. Scrape off soap scum and clean with a commercial or homemade cleanser.

  2. 2

    Wipe on alkaline emulsifier. Neutralise emulsifier with citric cleanser. Rinse and dry the tub and rub with alcohol.

  3. 3

    Repair any dings, nicks, scratches or holes. Trowel fibreglass putty into damaged spots. Wait for the putty to harden. Sand the filled spots, first with coarse paper and then finer paper.

  4. 4

    Wipe the tub with a tack cloth.

    Refinishing

  1. 1

    Use a clean cloth to apply the bonding agent. While the bonding agent sets, put on protective clothing and equipment.

  2. 2

    Spray on at least three coats of enamel, drying 10 to 15 minutes between coats. If desired, use a heat lamp to speed up the curing time.

  3. 3

    Wet-sand the dried tub with finest paper. Dry the surface with paper towels. Use a power buffer and auto compound to remove any scratches. Hand-buff the tub with car wax.

    Cleanup

  1. 1

    Clean all clothing, equipment and skin surfaces. Properly dispose of all rubbish and chemical products.

  2. 2

    Return the tub to the bathroom. Uncover or replace the tub feet. Reconnect the valve and drain, and turn on the water main.

  3. 3

    Allow the refinishing products to cure -- solidify and adhere completely -- for 24 to 48 hours before using the tub.

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