Tips for dealing with a slippery tub

Q: I have a repainted bathtub and am trying to find a mat to use when I take a shower. All mats I’ve found have suction cups, but when I read online reviews, I see comments saying the mats slip and are not safe. Where can I find a mat that works well in a refinished tub?

A: Whether a tub is recoated or still has its original finish, a mat usually isn’t the best way to keep someone from slipping. But if whoever refinished your tub failed to add anti-slip grit to the paint on the bottom, it might be the best option you have.

Alex Roman, sales manager for Tub Coaters (410-316-6243; tubcoaters.com), a Maryland company that works throughout the D.C. area, said mats with suction cups “could take away the finish over time.” But even a mat without suction cups might shorten the life of the finish, he said, especially if the mat is left in place for long periods. Persistent dampness and buildup of soap residue are not good for finishes.

What works better than a mat? Grit. Manufacturers of a variety of tub-coating systems offer anti-slip additives to improve traction. Roman says his company uses that type of formula on the base of tubs, eliminating the need for a mat. The company refinishes thousands of tubs each year, he said, and he has heard no complaints about the anti-slip feature not working or being too prickly. “It won’t stick out and hurt you when you want to take a bath,” he said.

Russ Kendzior, founder of the National Floor Safety Institute (nfsi.org) and president of Traction Experts (tractionexperts.com), a fall-prevention consulting firm in Southlake, Tex., also warns against using a mat — not because of the possible effects on the finish, but because of safety reasons. “Do not use a mat, period,” he said. A mat might not stay in place, or the edges might curl up because of the way a tub is shaped to make the transition from the floor to the sides.

Unless they are true antiques, from when people mostly took baths rather than showers, tubs that haven’t been refinished usually have some kind of anti-slip finish on the base. Over time, shampoo, soap, conditioners and other products can build up and make the tub slipperier than it used to be. In that case, rather than adding a mat, Kendzior recommends cleaning the tub with a traction product, such as Traction Plus’s bath traction treatment ($16.79 for an eight-ounce bottle on Amazon).

Eight ounces is sufficient for cleaning one tub or shower bottom, and the process is easy. Wearing rubber gloves, you close the drain, pour in the solution and scrub the bottom of the tub or shower for 30 seconds. Open the drain and rinse. Kendzior said the NFSI certified this product as a way to restore the anti-slip feature on old tubs.

The label says it’s safe to use on most bath surfaces, including porcelain, synthetic resin, fiberglass and ceramic tile. Asked whether it would be safe to use on a refinished tub, Kendzior suggested calling Brent Johnson, whose company, Traction Auditing (817-230-4004; tractionauditing.com), has tested numerous bathtubs and surfaces in commercial venues, such as hotels and gyms.

But Johnson said that, to his knowledge, he has never tested a refinished tub. Noting that a variety of finishes and recoating procedures could be involved, he said there are too many variables for him to offer an opinion about whether a traction product would be safe to use on a refinished tub.

For boosting traction on a tub with an original finish, Kendzior also recommends nonslip decals, such as Secopad’s anti-slip shower stickers ($15.99 for 24 pieces and a scraper on Amazon). Decals might seem like a solution from the 1970s, Kendzior said, but they work.

However, with a refinished tub, decals might also shorten the life of the finish. Some companies that specialize in tub refinishing warn with equal emphasis against using them and against using mats with suction cups.

If your refinished tub didn’t get a nonskid coating on the bottom, and you use it for showers, your best option might be to get a mat without suction cups and to hang it to dry after showering, rather than leaving it in the tub. Search online for “bath mat for refinished tub,” and you will find many options to choose from. One that doesn’t have suction cups but is designed to stay in place anyway: the original refinished bathtub mat from Refinished Bath Solutions ($44.95 on Amazon).

But read the details before you choose which mat to order. At least one mat that lacks suction cups makes no promise of staying in place: the foldable rubber bath mat for textured and reglazed surfaces from Sultan’s Linens ($19.99 on Amazon). In capital letters, the product description notes: “This mat is not claimed to be ‘non-slip.’ It does not have suction cups and will slide around if tub is full of water. It may be used in a shower while the water is draining properly.” But it does fold up for easy storage.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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