The best way to update ceramic tile in the bathroom without removing the tile

Updated February 21, 2017

Popular tile colours of the 1970s like pale yellow and olive green make a bathroom seem outdated. Remodelling can be hard work, and the idea of ripping down all of the ceramic tile may seem overwhelming. The best way to update ceramic tile in the bathroom without removing it is to paint it. A coat of paint over the old tile can bring your bathroom into the modern age.

Clean the entire surface of the tile to remove all dirt and grease. Tim Carter, a builder and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, recommends using oxygen bleach, which is a powder that mixes with water. Apply the solution and let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub the tiles and grout with a scrub brush.

Let the tiles and grout dry for at least 48 hours.

Prepare the area around the ceramic tile for painting. Place a dust sheet on the floor and use painter's tape to block off the border between the wall and the ceramic tile, if necessary.

Apply a coat of either oil-based or water-based paint. If using water-based paint, be sure it contains a urethane resin. Rollers provide the best way to apply the paint on a large surface area of ceramic tile.

Wait for the first coat to dry and apply a second coat if necessary.


For dark-coloured tiles, apply an adhesion primer first, before painting. To keep a tiled effect, run a thin brush along the grout lines to keep the area defined. Painting tiles is only recommended in an area that does not get wet such as ceramic tile walls or backsplashes. Do not paint tiled showers as it will not last very long.

Things You'll Need

  • Oxygen bleach
  • Scrub brush
  • Dust sheet
  • Painter's tape
  • Oil- or water-based paint
  • Roller
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About the Author

Sarah Schreiber has been writing since 2004, with professional experience in the nonprofit and educational sectors as well as small business. She now focuses on writing about travel, education and interior decorating and has been published on Trazzler and various other websites. Schreiber received a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications.