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3 Remedies for Yellow Bathtubs in Mobile Homes

If you own an older mobile home there’s a good chance you already have a yellow bathtub. Yellow bathtubs in mobile homes is a popular complaint with homeowners.

I’m not just talking about tubs with stains or grime buildup but the entire tub, or the material it is comprised of, actually turns 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.


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

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 sit 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 an 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 stubborn.


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 restores 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.

Yellow Mobile Home Bathtub

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 are 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 aren’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 is 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.

Master Bathroom In Mobile Home

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

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

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 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.

Crystal Adkins

Crystal Adkins

Crystal Adkins created Mobile Home Living in 2011 after buying a 1978 single wide and searching online for mobile home remodeling ideas but finding very little. Today, it's the most popular resource in America for mobile home information and inspiration and has been visited over 40 million times.View Author posts

Join the conversation!

  1. I’ve been reading about this again lately and FINALLY have actual answers, remedies and options!!! I was told 15+ years ago that it couldn’t be painted because it would just peel off (and I’ve seen this happen to other people’s homes a lot). I was told I had to buy a new insert and back then, it was either another cheap one ($150-200 minus installation) or a higher quality one up to $700 (minus installation). 😳🙄🙄🙄

    So…I did nothing because who can afford to?

    I’m SO HAPPY I can across your webpage as it’s the 2nd or 3rd one that has suggested the Rustoleum brand AND it’s affordable! Thank you SOOO MUCH and if I can manage to find my way back to here, I’ll post pics of before and after (if that’s possible). Thanks again! Sincerely tired of yellow, Amber😉

  2. I have a similar issue (if I’m not mistaken). My bathtub is a Jacuzzi fiberglass and the inserts must’ve been a cheaper plastic/acrylic mix of some sort because the UV lights coming through my window turned yellow is yellow can be. However, I noticed where the bottom of the shower inserts and the bathtub meet there is zero caulk. Caulking was done everywhere else in the bathroom before I bought it but not there because the lip is at least one inch high. I found it strange that they wouldn’t caulk but apparently the lip of the tub and shower insert are both an inch or more tall. So strange…. But I rarely ever get any muck/gross stuff except for that light pink/peach colored stuff that wipes off with no problem. I worry ALL the time though that it’s getting wet back there and causing mold (God forbid black mold or any other dangerous and deadly kind).
    Sigh…it literally took me YEARS to get any answer to why my insert had turned yellow while the rest remained while (clearly the Jacuzzi tub is fiberglass and of better quality than the liner… but not THAT great as it’s cracking on the ledge and looks tacky.

  3. Wait…what??? You sat your yellowed garden tub outside and the sun actually bleached it back to white??? HOW??? It just doesn’t make any sense at all after reading about this (for years now) and never being able to find any answers as to why my shower/tub insert turned a dirty, mustard (smoker’s house yellow) while my Jacuzzi tub remained white as can be (but crackling the older it gets). I’m FLOORED to hear this story! I had lit a bunch of candles for a nice, relaxing bath years ago and dripped candle wax down the insert. I thought I had removed it all but I don’t know HOW long it was later, I saw I had missed a drip and when I picked it off? It was white as could be underneath the wax! I couldn’t believe it was so upset so that was prove to me that it was, indeed, the sunlight causing all this discoloration, and that the wax actually protected it!

    So very strange to me that your tub seemed to do the exact opposite. Especially after reading UV light is the enemy. Crazy.

  4. We have a white acrylic (I think) garden tub. Someone had fixed cracks or ? With fiberglass. The tub is white but the fiber glass patches are yellowish. Will the Rust-Oleum paint cover the spots?

  5. Our shower pan (32 x 32) was very yellow with a black repair in one corner. We refinished it with the Rustoleum product and were very happy with the result. The prep is very important for proper adhesion. After two years, it still looks like we just did it.

  6. We bought a 1999 doublewide 7 years ago. The garden tub had already started to yellow at the time. Over the years, it had turned into a deep mustard yellow. I’ve tried every suggestion above except painting it. Nothing worked and I didn’t have enough confidence to attempt to paint it.

    We removed it and installed a claw foot tub and shower combination so I can put a stackable washer/dryer unit where the shower is. We set the garden tub out by the side of the house so I could clean it again and give it away on craigslist. The next morning I was sick with the virus and forgot about the tub for 2 weeks. When I was well enough to go out and tackle the clean up, I was shocked to see a pure white garden tub that looked brand new! The covers for the access panels were laying on the bottom of the tub. I took them out and the tub had 2 mustard yellow rectangles where they had blocked the sunlight. Two days later, the rectangles were white too.

    I realize the sun is supposed to cause the yellowing but instead it bleached it out. If you’re considering buying a new tub because of the discoloration, you’ll have to remove the tub anyway. I strongly suggest you set it out in the sun for a week or two before you pay the price for a new garden tub.

  7. Please make sure you have proper ventilation if you go on with the oven cleaner. Wear a mask and whatever you do, don’t inhale the fumes. It’s very dangerous.

  8. Good information but two important steps were missed in the tub painting process. You need to use something like Di-Aqua from RPM Technology to remove any silicone oils left over from the silicone caulk. After you clean the tub there is no reason to sand at all. What you need is a special wipe-on adhesion promoter. Most professional applicators use this stuff. You can get it from Napco, Topkote, Resurface Solutions or other online sellers of professional tub reglazing products. These steps will eliminate most of the problems people have with big box tub refinishing products.

  9. Hi John,

    I’m pretty sure acrylic is the better material since it is one single material instead of a bunch of smaller pieces glued together like fiberglass.

  10. Hi Mary,

    I’m not sure if you mean you have a plumbing leak or a leak from the roof/wall. If it’s a plumbing leak you’ll need to replace the pipe or fitting causing the leak. If it’s the wall or roof you’ll need to find exactly where water is entering the home and patch that with new material. Best of luck!

  11. can you tell me what would be the best product to use to fix a leak in the back of a shower 2001 friendship. we had to remove some of the wall to get into the back of the shower. We want to use 50 year old tongue and groove wall paneling that is treated to close the wall. But i have to stop the leak. Im disabled and working with 2 young sons

  12. Hi Ruby,

    You should always caulk around all tubs and sinks whether it has a lip or not. Water is sneaky. A standard tub caulk product should do just fine. Best of luck!

  13. I bought a 1990 Redman 14×76. The terrible caulk around the tub and connected surrounding wall was removed.
    Is there a lip on the tub that hooks with the wall? (So no caulking is needed)
    or that is a must to prevent water damage?
    What would be the best sealants?

  14. I had the exact same thing in my shower stall. It turned orange and I thought I was going to have to chisel it off. I tried everything to remove it and nothing worked. One day I spilled some WORKS toilet cleaner in the shower and lo and behold, it took the gook right off. I now have a shiny, new looking shower stall. I’m not sure if it will do any damage to your tub so test it first.

  15. The suction type bars are absolutely the best and you can place them, and reposition them all around your shower. They are about $15 on Amazon if I remember right. I’ve never put all my weight on them, but they seem to be very strong. Are handy as all get out!!! Bed, Bath, and Beyond has really nice ones for $30.

  16. Hi Carolyn,

    I have bars attached to my fiberglass tub. As long as you drill pilot holes first, screw both ends of the bars into a stud behind the surround, and seal the holes very well (and do so regularly) you should have no issues. I also had one of those suction type bars on my tub when my leg was still healing and it held much better than I thought it would. I was still scared to put my entire weight on it so we went ahead and drilled through the surround with no problem.

    Best of luck!

  17. Can I install bars or something to help me get out of the tub easily.
    I have been told I can’t install grab bars on the the fiberglass walls around the tub They will not hold the weight.
    We all need help getting out of the bath tub……Any suggestions would be welcomed.

  18. Hi Judy,

    I think you’ve tried all the remedies I’ve heard about. The oven cleaner, CLR, and ammonia are powerful stuff so if that doesn’t work I doubt 3% Hydrogen Peroxide will but I guess it’s worth a try. Perhaps you could find a primer that can cover the gunk and hold the paint? The paint kits for tubs seem to have great reviews but a clean surface is the trick. I hope you find something that works! Best of luck!

  19. The tub in our smaller bathroom has a thick coating of what appears to be some kind of lime and just gunk. The tub is ABS and it’s actually causing it to turn orange! I have tried CLR, Ammonia, and several other ideas. I’m going to try oven cleaner and hope this gets it off. Nothing seems to remove it! Do you have any suggestions that I might try? I want to get this gook off of the tub (seems like it might take a jackhammer) so I can refinish it. I’m willing to try just about anything but think I may have to save the money and replace the thing. It’s horrible.

  20. Good luck, Julie! Thank you so much! Let me know how it turns out (or if you can, please take photos). Best of luck!

  21. 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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