3 Remedies for Yellowing Bathtubs in a Mobile Home

yellow-bathtubs-in-mobile-home

If you own an older mobile home chances are you have a yellow bathtub. We’re not just talking about tubs with stains or grime buildup, we are talking about the bathtub itself, or the material it is comprised of, actually turning yellow. It can happen to bathtubs made of acrylic, ABS, and fiberglass to a varying degree though ABS tends to turn a deeper yellow than the others.

This article will help you understand what causes mobile home bathtubs to turn yellow and what your best options are to make the tub look new again.

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ABS Plastic

Most manufactured home bathtubs are made of ABS or fiberglass. ABS is the more affordable option which is why it’s used most often. It’s also the material that turns a drab mustard yellow color.

ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is a cheap plastic compound that’s easy to manufacture. ABS is also lightweight and stands up well against wear and tear.

What Causes Yellow Bathtubs in Mobile Homes?

ABS bathtubs tend to yellow more than other materials. The yellowing occurs to the entire tub, turning it into a uniform mustard mud yellow. Fortunately, there are several ways to handle the yellow mobile home bathtubs but it’s important to know what causes the yellowing of the tubs before you begin.

Polymers Solutions Incorporated, a materials science research & innovations company, states that UV exposure is always the first suspect whenever a plastic turns yellow over time because the “ultra-violet spectrum of light doesn’t play well with most polymers”. There are light stabilizers that can be added to the plastic during production but it can increases cost significantly.

Retrofixes, a blog about vintage computer and gaming equipment which turns yellow over time as well, claim it isn’t the ABS plastic itself that turns yellow but the bromine added to it. Bromine is added to act as a fire retardant. ABS, or the bromine in it, turn yellow because of the interaction with oxygen and light. The plastic oxidizes and turns into a darker color of itself.

“Over time, those (bromine) chemicals react to the plastic’s basic polymers and turn yellow. Sunlight and Heat accelerate this process.”-Retrofixes

yellow-bathtub-in-mobile-home-before-painting-with-rustoleum
Tub being prepped for Rustoleum Tile and Tub Refinishing

How to Clean a Mobile Home Bathtub

The following cleaning products and recipes will help clean your bathtub. These will work great if the bathtub is just stained and grimy but hasn’t turned yellow due to oxidation.

Many products on the market today have decent whitening properties. Try to avoid using abrasive cleaners like AJAX. Instead look for products that offer a degreaser ingredient, like Purple Power (can be found at your local dollar store or Wal-mart). Spot test all chemicals first.

Recommended Bathtub Cleaners

  • Dishwashing detergent: mix an ounce with a gallon of water and scrub with a sponge or plastic scrubbing pad.
  • Baking soda: create a paste with water and scrub the tub with a sponge.
  • White distilled vinegar: fill a spray bottle with full-strength vinegar; let it stay there for a few minutes, and then scrub it off.
  • Acetone:  wipe the acetone on the plastic with a soft cloth to remove stains caused by dye, paint or pigments.
  • Oven cleaner: let sit for one hour.
  • Lime Away
  • TSP
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: fill a spray bottle with 3-percent hydrogen peroxide. Let the solution set for 10-15 minutes and then wipe the tub down with a damp sponge. You can repeat these steps until the yellow staining disappears.

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Cleaning Fiberglass Bathtubs

If your bathtub is made of fiberglass you can use auto polish compound to make it shine again. Fiberglass doesn’t usually turn yellow because it has a special gel coating that protects it from elements.

Ameribath, the top supplier for manufactured home fiberglass tub and shower, recommends using a liquid cleaner. Abrasives dull the surface and can leave scratches. If your fiberglass has scratches, automotive white polishing compound applied with a soft cloth may help. Apply as directed. The manufacturer recommends using turpentine, paint thinner or acetone on stubborn stains if the stains are especially stubburn.

how-to-repair-yellow-bathtubs-in-mobile-homes

Using Hydrogen Peroxide to Reverse Yellowed ABS Plastic

Retrofixes, the retro electronics blog mentioned above, shared a method to reverse the yellowing on their favorite vintage computer and gaming systems. Unfortunately, their method doesn’t work as well on mobile home bathtubs because they can’t be completely submerged like smaller electronics but it’s certainly worth a try.

Their reversal process works using a combination of hydrogen peroxide and UV light:

“The process uses peroxide and UV light (either a UVA bulb, or simple sunlight) to activate the reaction. This causes hydrogen to bond with bromine free radicals and restore the color.”

To reverse yellowing bathtubs, Retrofixes recommends using the purest hydrogen peroxide gel or cream you can find and then adding sunlight. Hair bleaching products, like the cream peroxide below (40Vol 12%), is the easiest way to find a higher strength than 3% in a cream form.

Some creams contain unwanted bleaching agents that may affect the bathtub so make sure you spot test.

Painting Yellowed Bathtubs in Mobile Homes

If cleaning and soaking the bathtub with hydrogen peroxide cream doesn’t work the next step is painting or refinishing. This will always give the bathtub a new look. The Rustoleum tub and tile refinishing kit is one of the most popular products on the market. It has 3.7 stars out of 5 with over 2100 reviews.

The Rustoleum kit includes a two-part epoxy paint that you mix together and apply. The company claims their product works best on ceramic tile, acrylic, cast iron, steel, porcelain, and fiberglass but many have reported success on ABS.

Jeff and Felicia French gave their garden tub a whole new look with Rustoleum Tile and Tub Refinishing Kit. You can see the rest of their fabulous farmhouse styled 1997 Buccaneer single wide here.

before and after mobile home bathtub restoration
The French’s Garden Tub was completely restored.

Learn how to remodel your manufactured home bathroom.

Step by Step to Refinishing a Bathtub with Rustoleum Tile and Tub Refinishing Kit

Painting yellow bathtubs in mobile homes isn’t too difficult. As with any painting project, the key to success is preparation.

Step 1

Fill in cracks and crevices using a product recommended for your bathtub material. For mobile home bathtubs made from ABS plastic, Plastimed appears to be the most recommended. It has a 3.8 out of 5-star rating with 68 reviews on Amazon. Plastimed is often used to repair RV holding tanks so a little water in a bathtub isn’t no problem.

Step 2

Once cracks are repaired it’s time to sand the bathtub to create the best bond between the paint and the bathtub. Epoxies do not bond well to smooth services. Rustoleum recommends a #400/600 grit wet/dry sandpaper.

Step 3

Once the tub is sanded you’ll need to clean it very well with a product like limeAway. Make sure the bathtub is dried very well.

Step 4

Tape off the bathtub with painter’s tape. Wipe with a tack cloth to remove dust and ensure the surface is dry.

Step 5

You can use a brush, roller or sprayer to apply the Rustoleum. If you are using a roller use tape on the roller to grab loose particles. Open windows.

Step 6

Mix the two cans together and apply the paint. Let dry at least one hour before applying a second coat. Let the tub dry and cure for at least 3 days before you use it.

This video shows also shows the steps needed to refinish a bathtub with the Rustoleum Tub & Tile kit:

Hiring Professionals

If you’re not into DIY you can always hire a professional to paint your yellow bathtub. It will cost a bit, estimates are between $350-700. Another option is to have a company create a new tub liner that they install over top your old tub. This will cost even more but the results are great.

Buying a New Mobile Home Bathtub

If a liner doesn’t appeal to you the last option is to buy a new bathtub for your mobile home and replace it.

Mobile home bathtubs are usually smaller than the tubs you can buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Unless you are prepared to remove a wall in your mobile home, you’ll need to order from a mobile home supply store. We always recommend buying from your local mobile home parts store, especially for bulky items since the shipping costs too much. Learn more about mobile home bathtubs in our Mobile Home Bathroom Guide here.

typical mobile home bathtub made of ABS plastic
This tub is available at Mobile Home Parts Store for $279 plus shipping.

Mobile Home Parts Store has a bathtub for $279 here. Shipping is additional. Click here and use coupon code AFFD110 for 10% off.

Luckily, You Don’t Have to Live with Yellow Bathtubs in Mobile Homes

Yellowing bathtubs are a common problem in mobile homes. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with it forever. If cleaning the tub with a high-powered cleaner doesn’t work try the hydrogen peroxide cream mentioned above. Refinishing or painting the tub is the next step. You can do the painting yourself and have a new lookin bathtub for less than $50.

Have you had success cleaning or using peroxide on a yellow bathtub? How about painting a tub with Rustoleum? We’d love to hear about your experience.

As always, thank you for reading Mobile Home Living.



2 thoughts on “3 Remedies for Yellowing Bathtubs in a Mobile Home”

  1. Our shower in our mobile home that we are restoring has turned yellow. Just read your page and planning to paint it today. Thanks for all your helpful info. We are tackling this remodel ourselves and your info is very helpful and appreciated!

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