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Antique Bathroom Information

About Vintage Tub & Bath

Common Tub Cleaning Questions

  • How Do I Clean My Tub?
  • If the tub has a PORCELAIN interior we recommend using a mild cleaner for routine cleaning and cleaners like Bon Ami or ZUD for tougher stains. Never use abrasive cleaners on REFINISHED tubs – mild soap and water should do the trick. Clean your refinished tub with the same care you would use to wash the hood of a new car.

    Bon Ami

  • How Do I Remove Rust Stains?
  • This answer is for PORCELAIN TUBS only - do NOT use this cleaning method on a refinished tub. Surface rust should come off with a mild cleaner. You can use more abrasive cleaners like Bon Ami or ZUD for tougher surface stains. For rust that has come through the porcelain, we recommend rubbing the problem area with a damp terry cloth using a solution of 1 part muriatic acid to 1 part water. Muriatic acid is available at most hardware stores. Remember: always add the acid to water, never add water to acid. Wear clothing that covers exposed skin areas. Use gauntlet-style acid-resistant gloves and eye protection. The acid/water solution will start to dissolve the rust as well as a bit of the porcelain. When the rust is gone, apply baking soda to the area to stop the reaction, wash the area with soap and water, and dry. Then prime the exposed cast iron with a metal primer and paint with a waterproof epoxy paint (like Krylon).

    For more information about the safe handling and the disposal of muriatic acid Click Here.

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    Purchasing and Selling Antique Plumbing Items

    Vintage Tub and Bath no longer sells, purchases or appraises antique plumbing parts or fixtures. We can, however, offer some advice on how to buy and sell these items.

  • Resources
  • If you are looking to purchase or sell an antique plumbing fixture, we recommend that you search SalvageWeb or Old House Web for architectural salvage yards in your area. For your convenience, we also list some of the major national architectural salvage yards. You might try searching for or offering a tub for sale in a classified advertisement magazine (like the Paper Shop in Pennsylvania for instance) or even on an on-line auction like eBay.

    If you are purchasing or selling a faucet that needs repair, you can contact the sellers in our Hard to Find Parts section – many of them offer antique faucet repair services.

  • Advice for Buying and Selling
  • If you are purchasing a antique bathtub or pedestal sink, we strongly recommend that you get one with an original porcelain / china interior in good condition (no cast iron showing through, no major chips to the china and / or no significant rust). Although the exterior of an antique clawfoot tub can be restored (Tub Refinishers) with a bit of effort, the interior is another story. Interior refinishing jobs just don’t seem to last as long as many folks would like – especially for tubs and sinks in heavy use.

    If you are selling these fixtures, clean them well and photograph them in good light. Take the time to describe them accurately and completely. If you need to get a rough estimate of value, you can search the completed auctions section of eBay for the item you are selling. Chances are someone has listed a similar item recently.

  • Estimated Wholesale Values
  • We are often asked what vintage tubs are worth. Although prices vary widely by area and condition, the following guide might help you. Prices are estimated wholesale – triple these estimates for retail prices:

    4’ (needs refinishing) $175
    4’ (original) $350

    4.5’ (needs refinishing) $100
    4.5’ (original) $200

    5’ (needs refinishing) $50-$100
    5’ (original) $100-$200

    5.5’ (needs refinishing) $50
    5.5’ (original) $100

    6’ (needs refinishing) $250
    6’ (original) $400

    Prices assume that all tubs are 30" wide and have all four decorated feet. Tubs narrower than 30” tend not to be worth as much as the same 30” wide tub. Again, these prices are going to vary quite a bit – your mileage may vary.

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    Need Hard to Find Parts or a Antique Faucet Repaired?

    If you need hard-to-find parts or repairs for your vintage plumbing, we suggest checking out these companies:

    L.A.S. Replacement Parts
    L.A.S. Replacement Parts Inc., founded as Replacement Parts Co. in 1946, manufactures "Brass" product replacement parts for every major fittings manufacturer in the plumbing industry. Most parts made in the USA.

    American Standard Parts
    Stocking Genuine Parts for all American Standard Products.

    Di Napoli Plumbing Parts
    Founded in 1954, Di Napoli now stocks parts for over 300 manufacturers. They stock genuine plumbing repair parts for most manufacturers, and can repair or rebuild any faucet, regardless of its age. An excellent resource for locating hard-to-find plumbing parts.

    Northeast Plumbing Specialties
    Northeast Plumbing Specialties has in stock plumbing faucets, fixtures, and replacement parts for: American Kitchen, American Standard, Briggs, Central, Chicago, Crane, Delta, Dick Bros., Eyer, Elkay, Gerber, Halsey-Taylor, Indiana Brass, Kohler, Lawler, Mansfield, Moen, Price Pfister, Power Regulator, Savoy, Sayco, Sterling, Schiable, Speakman, Symmons, T & S Brass, Union Brass, Universal Rundle, Valley, and Zurn. They also carry Flush-o-meter complete values and repair parts for Aqua-Flush, Cayne-Delaney, Hedyes & Brothers, and Sloan & Zurn. has over 30 years of Service and Knowledge in the plumbing and repair industry. They specialize in recognizing and duplicating every possible type of plumbing part - especially faucets and faucet parts.

    Alfano Replacement Plumbing Parts
    founded in 1928, they carry over 50,000 hard-to-find plumbing parts in stock and can rebuild antique faucets.

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    Architectural Salvage Yards

    Nationally known salvage yards:

    ReStore Home Improvement Center – Restore Home Improvement Center is a community-based, non-profit store located in Springfield, Massachusetts that accepts donations of home improvement materials from homeowners, contractors, manufacturers, retailers and municipal collection centers. In turn, ReStore recycles the materials by selling the items to the public at affordable prices. A great idea worth investigating! Check out their links page to find a reuse-type store near you. (Canonsburg, PA) (Louisville, KY) (Burlington, VT) (Roanoke, VA) (Deland, FL) (Rochester, NY) (New York, NY & Scranton, PA) (Exeter, NH) (Richmond, VA) (Barnegat, NJ) (Chicago, IL) (Los Angeles, CA) (Seattle & Everett, WA) (non-profit organization in Baltimore, MD) (Orange, CA)

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    Tub Refinishers

    Vintage Tub & Bath no longer refinishes claw foot tubs, however if you are in need of having an antique tub or pedestal sink restored, you can try contacting one of the places below. Some companies are able to come to your home to refinish your bathtub, while others can require you to bring the tub to them. We strongly recommend you inquire about the particular process each company uses and obtain information on the warranty provided.

    KS Rountree is located in Livermore, CA and serves all of Northern California. 100 color options available to match virtually any decor. 10 year warranty on tub refinishing services.

    Permaglaze has refinishers throughout the U.S. Search their site to find the closest technician to you, and then email them for a quote.

    A Brief History of Bathing in General and the Clawfoot Bathtub in Particular

    The earliest plumbing systems ever discovered date back nearly 6000 years to the Indus River Valley in India where copper water pipes were excavated from the ruins of a palace. Fast forward 3000 years to the island of Crete where the ancestor of a pedestal tub was unearthed – five feet long, made of hard pottery, its shape resembling the 19th century clawfoot tub.

    The Roman Empire from 500 BC through AD 455 championed the daily ritual of bathing and raised the bar for acceptable sanitation. They used lead and bronze pipes, marble fixtures, and created a comprehensive sewerage system. During this period, public baths were most common, and private baths resembled indoor pools usually encompassing an entire room.

    After the collapse of the Roman Empire and descent into the Dark Ages, sanitation virtually disappeared. Bathing was replaced by the use of perfume. Waste was thrown out into streets or emptied directly into rivers that also served as the drinking water supply. In fact, the slang term for toilet, loo, is reported to have derived from the practice of the French yelling out the warning, “Gardez l'eau!” (pronounced gardy loo – meaning “mind the water”), before emptying the chamber pot from an upper level onto the street below.

    Following the devastation of the Bubonic Plague, some areas of Europe attempted to improve sanitation by outlawing the practice of discarding waste on public streets. However, widespread installation of underground sewerage systems in European cities did not occur until the early 19th century.

    In 1596, the first flushing toilet was invented by Sir John Harrington. He made one for himself and one for his godmother Queen Elizabeth. These were the only two ever produced. After Sir John published a book describing his invention, he was mocked into retirement for his foolish creation. It took almost 200 years before anyone else attempted to create a flushing toilet. In 1775 and 1777, Alexander Cummings and Samuel Prosser each made strides in the reemergence of the water closet.

    In 1885, a revolution in toilet making occurred: Thomas Twyford created the first valveless toilet made of china. Until then, water closets were more commonly made of metal and wood. It is widely reported that Thomas Crapper invented the toilet. Not true. He did own a plumbing supply store in England and bought the rights to a patent for a “Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer,” but he should not be credited with inventing the toilet.

    Up until the 1800s in the US, most water pipes were made of hollowed trees. Cast iron pipe imported from England had one of its first installations in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. By the early 1800s, cast iron production began domestically in New Jersey. In 1848, the National Public Health Act was passed creating a plumbing code for the US.

    Almost simultaneously in 1883, both the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company (now American Standard) and Kohler began the process of enameling cast iron bathtubs to form a smooth interior surface. Kohler’s first clawfoot tub was advertised as a “horse trough/hog scalder, when furnished with four legs will serve as a bathtub.” These tubs soon became mass-produced as they were recognized as having an extremely sanitary surface that was easy to clean, thus preventing the spread of bacteria and diseases.

    Many media sources publish as fact a completely false account of bathing and bathtub history written by H.L. Mencken in 1917. In his story titled, “A Neglected Anniversary,” Mencken writes of laws prohibiting bathing, the first bathtub in America, and the first installation of a bathtub in the White House by Millard Fillmore. He wrote the article as a light-hearted farce during a time of war. None of it is true, yet it is often quoted in reputable publications.

    The end of World War I brought with it a construction boom in the US. Bathrooms were fitted with a toilet, sink, and bathtub – mostly clawfoot bathtubs. But even in 1921, only one percent of homes in the US had indoor plumbing. Outhouses were still the norm in rural America. The Sears catalog, with its uncoated, absorbent pages, was a popular form of toilet paper often found hanging inside the outhouse.

    Over time, the once popular clawfoot tub morphed into a built-in tub with apron front. This enclosed style afforded much easier maintenance of the bathroom and with the emergence of colored sanitary ware, more design options for the homeowner. It was Crane Company that introduced colored bathroom fixtures to the US market in 1928.

    The trend today, though, is shifting back to the elegant style and luxury of a soaking clawfoot tub. Homeowners are tearing out their dime-a-dozen built-in tubs and replacing them with reproduction roll rim footed tubs. Now available in both the classic cast iron or lighter weight acrylic styles, clawfoot bathtubs are produced in a variety of styles and foot finish options.


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