While there are several types of bathtubs, but the obvious connection is that they’re all containers designed to hold water for bathing. Bathtubs were first introduced in the market in the 1800s thanks to the ingenuity of John Michael Kohler. The first models were made of cast iron which was coated with porcelain enamel. This made the tubs not only expensive but heavy too.
Over the years, other materials were used for producing bathtubs, currently one of the most popular options is acrylic.
Acrylic tubs are lightweight and cheaper compared to their cast-iron counterparts, which made it a popular option among homeowners who want to enjoy the luxury and benefits of soaking in the tub without breaking the bank. Acrylic bathtubs are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors to suit any bathroom size and style too.
Acrylic Tubs Pros and Cons
Acrylic is a sturdy kind of plastic that is resistant to shattering and weighs 50% less than glass, making it a popular alternative to the former when it comes to a variety of applications such as windows and bath enclosures. Acrylic tubs are a popular option because of their durability and flexibility which allows tub manufacturers to produce bathtubs in different sizes, shapes, and styles.
Acrylic bathtubs have a smooth surface that makes it easy to maintain and clean. The non-porous surface also allows acrylic tubs to maintain water heat for longer periods of time. Cost-wise, these kinds of bathtubs are considered affordable and cheaper than cast irons tubs, but a bit more expensive than fiberglass tubs. Any damage to the surface of the tub can also be easily remedied by polishing it or by filling out any scratches with acrylic. Acrylic tubs are lightweight which is a huge advantage when it comes to installing and moving it around the house.
Because of the soft and pliable nature of acrylic, its surface can easily get scratched. However, it is also easy to fix it. Acrylic is a sturdy material; however, it is less secure compared to cast iron and steel, which makes it essential to put in additional support especially on stress points in the bathtub. Acrylic bathtubs combined with fiberglass material are sturdier but are also more expensive.
How Long Do Acrylic Tubs Last?
Acrylic is a man-made plastic derived from acrylic acid. Most commonly known under the brand names Plexiglas, Lucite, Perspex, and Acrylite, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is the best-known kind of acrylic. Heating acrylic sheets to 100 degrees allowing it to be molded into different shapes and once it cools, the acrylic holds its form well. It has a tensile strength of over 10,000 pounds per square inch and can be processed in a machine, sawed, and drilled like soft metals.
Compared to other clear plastics, it has superior resistance to weathering and wear-and-tear. It features stiffness and strength with several times the impact resistance of glass combined with versatility and ease of fabrication which makes it ideal for outdoor use too.
While acrylic bathtubs are among the least expensive options in the market, it also has a shorter lifespan compared to bathtubs made of other materials. Tubs made of acrylic are expected to last about 10 to 15 years before it needs to be replaced, which is quite short compared to cast iron bathtubs which can last for several decades. When your bathtub becomes discolored or develops too many cracks, these are signs that indicate it is probably time to replace your bathtub.
Do Acrylic Bathtubs Scratch Easily?
Acrylic plastic is used in a variety of applications, including display products, fashion accessories, and lenses. It is lighter than glass and is cheaper than polycarbonate, making it a viable option for products that do not require resistance to high impact force. Acrylic has a higher level of resistance to scratches compared to other kinds of clear plastic, although it is quite brittle and low on the strength scale compared to other materials. It also has a high level of optical clarity and can be colored to suit various purposes.
Acrylic is made by distilling hydrocarbon fuels and breaking them down into fractions, a lighter group of compounds that are then combined with catalysts to make plastic in a process called polymerization. It is soft and malleable in nature, making it susceptible to scratches compared to harder materials, but it can be repaired.
You can expect your acrylic bathtub to eventually get scratched with normal use and it will definitely scratch if you use harsh scouring pads or other similar abrasive cleaners on the surface. Dropping items on the tub can also cause scratches to form on the surface. While acrylic retains heat quite well, it is important to keep in mind that exposing the material to water temperatures of more than 167 degrees Fahrenheit can cause softening of the material and cause loss of shape.
Do Acrylic Tubs Crack?
Acrylic tubs are a good option for budget-conscious homeowners who want a cheap bathtub that is also durable. Acrylic bathtubs offer both affordability and sturdiness and are easy to install too, however, it does have a shorter lifespan compared to other bathtub materials. It is also softer compared to cast iron and steel, making it easy to get scratches, dents, or cracks.
The longer you use an acrylic tub, the more likely it is to get cracks and scratches as part of normal wear and tear. Sharp blows to the bathtub can also cause denting and cracking. Luckily, repairing cracks in acrylic tubs isn’t that difficult.
Acrylic repair kits, similar to the ones used in repairing the body of automobiles, contain epoxy-like materials that can be used to fills in any cracks, holes, or scratches in the bathtub. Such kits are not only suitable for bathtubs but can also be used for sinks and toilets. Some kits also come with tinted filler paste to allow color-matching with colored bathtubs. You might need to even out the surface of the tub with sandpaper or a rubbing compound before and after applying the filler to ensure the surface stays smooth.
Are Acrylic Bathtubs Toxic?
Similar to other plastic bathtubs, acrylic tubs are created by heating petrochemicals. The resulting product is mixed with fillers, dyes, resins, and stabilizers to create a reaction that will turn the polymer composition into acrylic sheets. For acrylic bathtubs, glass is incorporated into the material to make it more durable. Small lengths of glass are cut and combined into a resin-paste bed on top of the sheet of acrylic, before an additional layer of filler is added to cover the glass. This reinforced acrylic sheet is processed through a series of rollers to ensure an even compression of the materials.
Once the sheet thickens, it will be cut into sections depending on the mold that will be used. The soft acrylic sheet is placed into a giant vacuum with thousands of small holes to suction the material into the shape required.
During the production of acrylic, it does not contain or release BPA, a synthetic compound used to make plastic stronger. Some studies show that BPA has negative effects on the body, mainly by causing infertility in both men and women although it’s now debated if BPA is really that toxic. Either way, Acrylic is BPA-free and does not pose a health risk from this compound.
Do Acrylic Bathtubs Leach Chemicals?
One of the concerns when it comes to production and use of plastic materials is the presence of some chemicals or compounds that can have some harmful effects on health. One of the most commonly used compounds in plastic products is Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic compound that is used in making plastic to make it sturdier and stiffer. It is more commonly found in epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics and not in acrylic. Some studies on BPA show that it can affect the brain and prostate glands of fetuses, babies, and children and can cause infertility in both male and female adults.
Acrylic production, however, also involves the use of several chemicals and substances that have the potential to leach. There are no studies to prove that acrylic bathtubs leach chemicals though and structure-wise, acrylic tubs have a nonporous gel coating that should seal in any chemicals used in acrylic production.
Some factors can affect the structural integrity of the tub, however, such as improper use, lack of maintenance, and exposure to sunlight can cause degradation of the surface of the bathtub, which can also lead to leaching of chemicals. Generally speaking, acrylic bathtubs are coated with a UV-resistant coating that should also minimize the potential of leaching.
Do Acrylic Bathtubs Stain?
Acrylic bathtubs have a lot of advantages over other bathtub materials including being lightweight and affordable. The light material does not cause undue stress on the bathroom floor and makes installment easy. Acrylic bathtubs also offer a cheap alternative that does not compromise quality and durability. These kinds of bathtubs are also versatile in terms of size, shape, and design, making it a popular option for different kinds of bathroom styles.
Despite the numerous advantages of acrylic bathtubs, these bathtubs are not impervious to the normal wear and tear one would expect from the regular use of plastic. Acrylic is more resistant to the effects of physical use compared to other kinds of plastic but it has a shorter life span compared to other kinds of bathtub materials. Just like other kinds of plastic, acrylic bathtubs can stain, especially in homes with hard water.
These stains can cause discoloration of the tub surface, affecting the appearance of the bathroom as a whole. Apart from staining, acrylic tubs are also prone to scratching and cracking. Regular maintenance and proper use of the bathtub can prevent stains from forming and can prolong the life of the acrylic tub.
Do Acrylic Tubs Turn Yellow?
Plastic tubs are easy to clean because of the smooth surface. Unlike tubs made of ceramic tiles, they do not have any grout where dirt and grime can get into. Despite the smoothness of the surface of acrylic tubs, plastic tubs are prone to yellowing over time and this can be aggravated with the use of chemical cleaners or poor maintenance.
It is recommended to clean the acrylic tub weekly to prevent stains and yellowing. Occasional application of stain removers and waxing several times per year can help whiten the plastic material so the yellowing process doesn’t become too obvious. Make sure you use a soft cloth when applying any whitener or waxing material so as not to damage the tub surface.
What Cleaners Are Safe for Acrylic Tubs?
Generally speaking, it is easy to maintain acrylic bathtubs but it is necessary to clean it consistently and regularly. Acrylic bathtubs have a soft surface which means they are more sensitive to the materials they come in contact with. Even dropping an item on the tub can cause scratching or cracks on the tub.
One of the things to keep in mind when cleaning an acrylic tub is not to use any abrasive cleaners. The best cleanser for acrylic bathtubs is a mixture of warm water and vinegar or warm water and soap. Use a soft cloth or brush with soft bristles to clean the surface to prevent scratching.
For water spots and yellow stains, a mixture of baking soda combined with just enough water to create a paste and then rubbing it over the stained area should help remove it. Leave the paste on the affected area for an hour before scrubbing with a brush. Rinse as normal and let dry. Lemon and any other naturally acidic product should also help remove discolorations. A whiting polish can also be applied on the bathtub to counter yellowing.
Does Acetone Damage Acrylic Tub?
Given the soft nature of acrylic, it is best to avoid any harsh chemicals when cleaning the bathtub. Abrasive products can also damage the surface of the acrylic, making it prone to scratches and cracking. It is best to use a combination of water and dishwashing liquid or water and vinegar to prevent mold from building up on the surface.
Acetone (used in nail polish remover), in particular, is very harmful to acrylic tubs. It causes damage to the structural integrity of the material, and any damage caused by acetone and other similar chemicals cannot be reversed or repaired. Scratches caused by normal use are easy to fix with the help of sanding with very fine sandpaper and applying a filler before applying a liquid polish to smoothen the surface. If you’ve never done this before it’s best to practice on a scrap piece of acrylic before trying to repair your tub. Signature Hardware, a well-known maker of bathtubs has a good explanation here.
Featured Image by Rene Asmussen