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What are the Pros and Cons of Using a Plastic Bathtub?

Plastic bathtubs, often lightweight and affordable, offer easy installation and a myriad of design options. However, they may lack the durability and luxurious feel of materials like acrylic or cast iron. With proper care, a plastic tub can be a cost-effective choice, but will it suit your long-term needs? Consider the balance of quality and cost as you read on.
Rebecca Mecomber
Rebecca Mecomber

Bathtubs come in innumerable shapes, sizes and materials: cast iron, acrylic, fiberglass, large, round, small, garden and more. One of the most inexpensive types of bathtubs are plastic bathtubs. As with any product, plastic bathtubs have their pros and cons. Plastic tubs are less expensive but also less durable than their fancier and sturdier counterparts. Cleaning a plastic bathtub can be an arduous task, but plastic bathtubs are lightweight and very easy to set into place in a bathroom.

The modern plastic bathtub has undergone major improvements, and using a plastic bathtub can be more enjoyable with modern additions. Once the standard for inexpensive mobile home bathrooms, manufacturers have greatly improved the durability and appearance of plastic bathtubs. While still not as hardy as a stolid cast iron tub, the plastic models can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes with built-in soap dishes, grab bars, ledges and seats. Plastic bathtubs are one-piece units, so leaks — which are common with recessed tubs and fiberglass tub units — are nonexistent.

While abrasive cleaners cannot be used on a plastic tub, scrubbing with a sponge is usually effective.
While abrasive cleaners cannot be used on a plastic tub, scrubbing with a sponge is usually effective.

Despite improved durability and design, the plastic bathtub is difficult to clean. Abrasive cleaners should be avoided, because these products will scratch the sensitive and soft plastic finish. Soap scum readily adheres to the plastic bathtub. Usually, the only alternatives for removing tenacious dirt are expensive special cleaning products or old-fashioned elbow grease.

Plastic bathtubs are typically less expensive than those made of other materials.
Plastic bathtubs are typically less expensive than those made of other materials.

Installing a plastic bathtub is easy. The units are lightweight and generally are manufactured in one or more pieces that interlock together. Their light weight makes plastic bathtubs suitable for second floor bathrooms, mobile homes or buildings that can not otherwise tolerate extremely heavy tubs. A scratched, pitted or cracked plastic bathtub is difficult to repair, however. Small damage can be patched with epoxy or special adhesive tape, but larger cracks are unrepairable, and the bathtub must be replaced.

Despite the drawbacks to plastic bathtubs, they still can be good choices for budget-minded homeowners or landlords. For older homes or mobile homes that lack structural support for heavy loads, lightweight plastic bathtubs can be the perfect choice. With proper maintenance and care, a plastic bathtub can endure for 15 years or more.

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    • While abrasive cleaners cannot be used on a plastic tub, scrubbing with a sponge is usually effective.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      While abrasive cleaners cannot be used on a plastic tub, scrubbing with a sponge is usually effective.
    • Plastic bathtubs are typically less expensive than those made of other materials.
      By: david hughes
      Plastic bathtubs are typically less expensive than those made of other materials.