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What are the Pros and Cons of Using an Acrylic Bathtub?

By Dale Marshall
Updated May 16, 2024
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An acrylic bathtub can be a beautiful addition to any bathroom, and since they are available in a wide variety of colors, styles and shapes, there is usually a "perfect" acrylic tub for any taste. Their price is usually moderate when compared to other tubs' prices, and they are relatively lightweight and easy to install. Their light weight can make the tub not feel solid, however, and acrylic can scratch and stain. While acrylic bathtubs do have their drawbacks, they are usually the result of improper installation, maintenance, or use.

One of the main advantages of an acrylic bathtub is evident upon installation. At 75 lbs. (34.02 kg), more or less, an acrylic bathtub is much easier to carry and maneuver than its cast iron counterpart, which usually weighs in excess of 350 lbs. (158.75 kg). This is a serious consideration for the homeowner considering installing a new tub on the upper floor of his house — getting a cast iron tub to its intended location can be difficult and can damage walls and corners along the way.

An acrylic tub's lightweight quality, however, translates into a sense of "hollowness" when the user steps in, unless the tub is set in mortar when installed. Cast iron tubs, by contrast, don't need any extra work done to make them feel more solid, but it is prudent to check the flooring and, if necessary, reinforce it for the cast iron tub's extra weight. Another quality to consider when installing an acrylic bathtub is heat retention; when insulated upon installation, they hold heat almost as well as cast iron.

An acrylic bathtub's smooth, shiny surface is not likely to chip, which is a decided disadvantage of enameled tubs, but they are much more likely to scratch, most often from cleaning with abrasive compounds and scrubbers. Polishing scratched acrylic surfaces to restore their shiny smoothness is a relatively easy process, though, in part because the acrylic is the same color throughout, not just on the surface. By contrast, a cast iron bathtub has a shallow enamel or porcelain surface which, if chipped or cracked, requires precise color-matching to repair. Scratching can be reduced by cleaning acrylic bathtubs only with soapy water or with cleaners that have no abrasives, solvents, or acetone.

Acrylic bathtubs are more durable than most other tubs in their price range, and their colors don’'t fade over time like those of fiberglass tubs. They are also generally more durable than other tubs, but they are susceptible to staining, especially from the dyes used on hair and clothing, which is perhaps their greatest drawback. These stains can be removed with a little work, though, and the acrylic surface restored to its original color. Overall, if installed and maintained properly, and used with intelligent awareness of their susceptibility to staining, acrylic bathtubs should give their owners a lifetime of satisfaction.

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Discussion Comments

By Glasis — On Feb 11, 2014

One thing many people may not realize is that vintage-looking claw foot bathtubs come in both cast iron and acrylic.

This means you can add this throwback piece to your bathroom without the extra weight associated with most old fashioned tubs.

Also, acrylic tubs can be refinished if scratched or discolored.

However, if you are going for the most authentic claw foot tub feel, you probably do not want to go acrylic.

Acrylic tubs, as the article says, are lighter and do not have the substantial feel of a cast iron tub.

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