If you are the owner of an older porcelain enamel bathtub or sinks — or are considering buying one — please see my May 2, 2016 story Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age; this article focuses on raising awareness around three other potential sources of lead dust exposure in your home – old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any era — and steps you can take to assess and, if required, address them.
If you are looking for mid-century bathroom fixtures — tubs, toilets, sinks, shower doors — the most likely places you are going to find them are on (1) your local craigslist, (2) Facebook Marketplace, or (2) your local Re-Store / Habitat for Humanity or other local salvage shop. The easiest and cheapest route is likely going to be to BUY LOCAL. You can see the stuff first-hand, so you know what you are getting, and you won’t pay shipping — you will haul your treasure away in your own car. Be sure to practice smart safety habits when buying from craigslist — see their recommendations.
One other idea that readers have been successful with: Ask the neighbors. Their houses originally had the same fixtures as yours, and they may have old ones in their basements, from previous remodels — or they may be about to remodel. Also: Watch the curb! Yes! We have had examples of readers deciding they needed, say, an old pink toilet — and a few days later they spotted on out on a neighbor’s curb waiting for the garbage truck. SERIOUSLY!
Tip: Another important reason to buy local is that you can be sure the color you are getting matches. There were many manufacturers back in the day — and their colors were all slightly different. If you buy locally, you can check the colors in person.
Also, try ebay. As interest in midcentury design has increased, more ebay pickers are listing sinks, tubs, etc. online — sometimes new old stock even!
The farther you get from home (craigslist, Re-Stores, or other local salvage places), the more expensive finding vintage bathroom fixtures is going to get. And that’s before you even have to think about shipping and crating. That’s because specialty places are likely to pick up only the best-of-the-best, and to do that, they also have overhead to cover. If you are on a serious search, though, you might also consider this list of potential sources. Two salvage places with online stock include:
There are surely other salvage places that will deal with you online, but these are the two that I am most familiar with.
Pam here. Since Jan. 1, I’ve been tenaciously focused on doing a lot of technical clean up of the blog. This has included going through stories in draft form. And ack! How did I not publish this one? It wasn’t a draft — it was finished and waiting for me! Kate completed it more than two years ago as part of our series about the history of various colors used in bathroom sinks, toilets and tubs. Hence, Kate gets the byline all these many months later! So let’s see her take us through the color lavender in bathroom sinks, bath tubs and toilets in the 20th Century. – Pam >> Heck yeah there is more →
Update in January 2019 — I added another source for vintage colored bathtubs that I discovered in 2018 along with additional information and streamlining.
Cindy wrote to ask: Where to buy pink bathtubs? My answer was not an “easy” one: Salvage. Vintage. That’s where you get color bathtubs. No one makes them new, that I know of. Heck yeah there is more →
Every Retro-Renovation-card carrying reader knows that pink bathrooms were wildly popular in midcentury America — thanks in part to First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, who popularized the color in the 1950s. When did we first see pink in bathrooms, though? And what were the different shades from the different manufacturers? I dove back into one of our favorite resources, The Building Techology Heritage Library on archive.org, to start tracking the history and see how many different pinks I could find in bathroom fixtures. Heck yeah there is more →