Acrylic vs Porcelain Tub, Which Is Best?

Acrylic vs Porcelain Tub, Which Is Best

Anthony Barnes

Need to Hire a Plumber?
Get a free estimate online from top local home service pros in your area.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

Thinking about getting a new bathtub?

Well, you’re in good hands! There are a plethora of choices when it comes to bathtubs on the market, with the most popular two being a porcelain bathtub or an acrylic one.

Given that these two are both very popular bathtub choices, it can be difficult to decide which one is best for you. 

You must understand the difference between the two types of bathtubs so you can make an informed decision, and we are here to help!

In this article, we will discuss the main differences and comparisons between acrylic and porcelain tubs so you can make the choice that suits you, and your bathroom, the best. 

So, if this is something that interests you, then read on for more! 

Acrylic vs Porcelain Tub, Which Is Best?

There are many things to consider when it comes to choosing a bathtub. Some people first consider the cost of the bathtub and try to factor that into their search.

Others prefer to look into the style of the tub, wanting something that suits their bathroom and style the best.

Some people will want their tub to be easy to install, and not consider much else, while others will believe the material is the most important thing to decide before all else.

  So, let’s dive right into comparing these two bathtub types, and see which of them comes out on top! 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Material

Safety is important, and with that in mind, it is important to pick a bathtub that is made from the safest material. 

However, this presents us with a major problem. It is perfectly legal for most manufacturers to guard their fabrication process, and most of them do. This provides a challenge when trying to determine the safest material for a bathtub. 

In this case, it is good to note that products of the bathtub have to meet a minimum government-official standard here in the US.

So, if you are purchasing your bathtub from a local US manufacturer, then you should feel confident that the tub meets the necessary safety requirements and is safe to use. 

With all this in mind, let’s check out the construction of the two types of tubs!

How Are Porcelain Tubs Constructed?

Porcelain tubs are made from stamped steel or cast iron (see also ‘How To Remove A Cast Iron Tub‘), and are usually coated with a porcelain enamel layer. 

But what exactly is porcelain? Well, it is the direct result of using a heating process to fuse powdered glass into a thin substrate.

Once this step has been completed, (the powdered glass has melted), then it will become a hard, durable coating. From here, it can be used as a finish for the bathtub. 

How Are Acrylic Tubs Constructed?

Meanwhile, acrylic tubs are made from acrylic sheets (vacuum-formed.) These vacuum-formed sheets are usually reinforced with fibreglass, which helps to enhance their durability.

Additionally, they can be formed into a plethora of tub sizes and shapes, thanks to it being a soft and supple material.

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Weight 

When it comes to weight, then acrylic is a lot lighter than porcelain, meaning it is far more flexible to install. Additionally, because it is so light, acrylic will be easy to manipulate.

So, there are various bathtubs of all shapes and sizes made from acrylic on the market. If your main aim for your bathtub is style, then acrylic may be the way to go. 

On the other hand, porcelain is much harder which means it is very limited in terms of shape and size. Additionally, it is a lot harder to install if the shape of the tub you have selected does not fit your bathroom. 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Heat Retention 

Acrylic tubs are great at heat retention. This is because the fiberglass in them creates a bond with the other materials that is very difficult to break. 

However, porcelain tubs are not so great at retaining heat. This is because they are made from a metal or iron base with a porcelain coating on top, which means that there is separation between structural material and coating that causes heat to be released very quickly. 

Although, there are some porcelain tubs that come complete with a foam insulation that will help to retain heat for a longer period of time. 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Cost 

Porcelain tubs are generally more expensive than acrylic tubs. Porcelain tubs will cost more to install, maintain, and have a higher retail price in general. 

The opposite is then true for acrylic tubs. They are easy to maintain and install, so they are a lot cheaper. 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Durability 

Acrylic tubs are able to withstand impact well. Even if you think porcelain tubs would be more durable because of their hard surface, they are a lot more susceptible to chipping and cracks when faced with any heavy impact. 

However, it is also important to note that acrylic is more prone to scratches than porcelain. 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Maintenance 

Both porcelain and acrylic need a similar amount of maintenance to ensure they stay in top condition. Both types of tub need to be cleaned carefully to avoid any unnecessary damage. 

However, it is good to note that the way these types of materials are cleaned is different.

Acrylic tubs can be cleaned with any commercial-based cleaner, but porcelain tubs need to be cleaned with a natural cleaning solution, preferably homemade. 

Porcelain tubs should also not be cleaned with abrasive cleaners, such as steel wool. 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Restoration 

Acrylic and porcelain tubs are almost the same when it comes to restoration. 

If trying to restore an acrylic tub, then you will need to reapply a coating over its surface, which will work to remove the initial blemishes. 

Porcelain tubs can also be restored with a refinishing kit. However, it may be more beneficial to higher a processional to ensure the tub is properly restored. 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: Re-sellability and Popularity 

Both of these materials are pretty popular when it comes to bathtubs. Both of them have a high resale value. 

When it comes to popularity, it’s all about taste! Porcelain tubs have a vintage look and feel, while acrylic tubs can fit into the majority of color schemes and look amazing in modern-style bathrooms. 

Acrylic vs Porcelain: A Summary 

Both acrylic and porcelain are popular, resellable bathtubs. Both are easy to restore and require the same amount of maintenance to remain in optimal condition. 

However, acrylic tubs are a lot more versatile than porcelain tubs. While they may scratch easily, they are less prone to cracking and chipping.

Acrylic tubs are lighter so they are much easier to install, they will retain heat much better, and can be incorporated into the majority of bathrooms no matter the style. 

How Do I Find Out What Material My Tub Is Made From?

Acrylic vs Porcelain Tub, Which Is Best

If you’re looking to refurbish your house and you’re unsure what your current tub is made from, then there are a few ways to tell.

It is important to find this out before you start the refurbishing process, because you will want to use the correct one. 

Let’s check out a few ways you can find out what material your tub is made from! 

Press On The Bathtub Sides 

One of the ways you should be able to tell what material your bathtub is made from is to press on the sides of it. If it flexes a little bit, then it is probably made from acrylic. If it does not flex, then it is made from porcelain. 

Surface Damage Checks 

If you see a lot of scratches on the tub, then chances are it is made from acrylic. However, if you see any chips or cracks, then the tub is made from porcelain. 

Additionally, if your bathtub is a different color to regular bathtubs, then look for any sides of fading. If you see any fading, then chances are your bathtub is made from acrylic. 

The Magnet Test

Another thing you can do is the magnet test. Here, you will need to hold a magnet to the wall of the bathtub.

If it sticks, then it is made from porcelain (think of the steel or metal interior.) If it does not stick, then the bathtub is likely made from acrylic or fiberglass. 

Check For Any Extra Supports 

Cast iron tubs are usually very heavy, and the heavier the tub, the more support they will need underneath.

So, check to see if there is any framing around the tub. You should be able to remove an access panel to look for the additional support. 

If you have a clawfoot tub, then it is usually made from cast iron, although it is important to note that some are made from fiberglass. 

Final Thoughts

Both of these types of tubs would make a great fit for your home. However, it appears that acrylic tubs are the best option overall – they are more versatile, cheaper, easier to install, and can retain heat. 

However, while porcelain falls slightly short compared to the overall qualities of acrylic tubs, it has a wonderfully classic look that acrylic tubs could never hope to match. 

Ultimately, the choice between an acrylic or a porcelain tub comes down to the individual and how they want their bathroom to look and feel.

No matter if you prioritise style and feel, or practicality and comfort, there is a bathtub out there for you! 

We hope this article helped you to understand the differences between acrylic and porcelain tubs and helped you to make an informed decision on which type is right for you. 

Need to Hire a Plumber?
Get a free estimate online from top local home service pros in your area.

Recent posts

Need help with a repair or install?

Free Online Quote

By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age