how to paint a radiator

How to Paint a Radiator in 2022 (Step-by-Step DIY Guide) – UK Edition

Do your radiators complement your home decor, or have they gone rusty? If so, transform your radiators and your room by following this simple but effective guide on how to paint a radiator.

Don’t fancy doing this job yourself? Find top-rated painters in your area by clicking the button below:

Tools & Materials


  • Cleaning materials – old cloth and washing up liquid
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Standard paintbrush
  • Angled paintbrush
  • Face mask and gloves (optional – recommended if using spray paint)


  • Dust sheets
  • Masking tape
  • Metal or radiator primer
  • Anti-corrosive primer (if you have rust spots)
  • Topcoat

How to Paint a Radiator – Step-by-Step Instructions

radiator painted in white paint

Prepare for Painting

As with all DIY projects, preparation is key!

1. Pre-Preparation Tips

If you have a new radiator, your prep work will be much easier. If you want a new radiator, check out this article from

You first need to ensure the radiator is cold and that it’ll remain off until you have finished the job. If the radiator comes on and warms up in the middle of the job, it may ruin the finish.

2. Remove Radiator from Wall if Possible

man removing a radiator

If you can remove the radiator from the wall, you’ll find it much easier to paint, but if you can’t remove it, don’t worry.

3. Clean Radiator

man with surgical gloves cleaning a radiator

You need to thoroughly clean the radiator before you start so you can see any issues, e.g. rust spots. Use an old rag, hot water, and washing up liquid. You can also use a small brush to get to harder-to-reach areas.

4. Smooth Radiator Surface

sanding a radiator with wire brush drill attachment

Take a good look at your radiator. Check for areas of rust, flaky paint and any lumps or runs from previous paint jobs. Smooth these areas with fine sandpaper (FEPA grit of around P100). Sanding also provides a rough surface for the new paint to stick to.

Pay attention to any areas of rust. As radiators are metal, rust is a common problem, but all you need to do at this stage is give it a good sanding back and remove what you can.

Spending time on this step will prevent rust from spreading and ruining your finish.

Pro Tip: To speed up this process, we recommend buying wire brush attachments for your combi drill.

5. Clean Radiator Again

Once you are done smoothing it off and prepping the surface, give it another clean and thoroughly dry it to remove fine dust from step 4.

Pro Tip: Ensure all the surrounding area is cleaned from dust as it’s easy for it to get stuck to the wet paint and ruin your finish. Get your vacuum out and clean the room after sanding as the dust gets everywhere.

6. Protect Surrounding Areas

Before priming, we must protect the area around your radiator. You can use dust sheets or flattened cardboard boxes.

If your radiator is staying on the wall, use masking tape to protect the wall behind it. If you have a large surface area to protect, get a few sheets of newspaper and use masking tape to secure them to the wall behind the radiator.

Now is a good time to open the windows and start ventilating the area.

Prime like a Pro

Don’t skip this crucial step! Priming protects the metal and provides a solid surface for the top coat.

7. Apply Primer to Radiator

Before applying the topcoat, you must prep the radiator with a primer. You should use a metal primer or specialist radiator primer to protect any bare metal and give the new paint a good surface to stick to.

You can use a standard paintbrush to apply this or an angled radiator brush to get in those awkward gaps.

If you have rust, you might want to prime with an anti-corrosive primer, as this prevents that pesky rust from getting worse.

8. Allow Primer to Dry and then Clean Radiator

Leave the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next stage. Once dry, give the radiator another good clean with a damp cloth.

Top Coat – Finishing Touch

painting a radiator with a paint brush

9. Ventilate

Before you start painting, ensure your room is well vented as fumes can get a little overpowering at this stage – we don’t want you passing out when there is a radiator to finish painting!

10. Which Top-Coat?

You can choose from a few different paints – see my handy guide below. Whichever one you select, shake the can before you open it. Once open, mix, mix and mix again – trust me on this!

These are your topcoat options;

  • Radiator Paint– limited colours available, but perfect for this job.
  • Solvent-based Paints (non-drip gloss or satinwood) – a wide range of colours available.
  • Clear Radiator Overcoat – you paint the radiator with ordinary emulsion paint, then cover this with an overcoat to protect the emulsion.
  • Spray Paint – use one specifically for radiators; limited colours available. Ensure you vent the room and protect the surrounding area as it goes everywhere. Use a face mask and gloves to protect yourself.

11. Paint Away

You want to get nice coverage, but not too thick as you’ll find it runs and you get unsightly drip marks in the finish.

You can use a standard paintbrush for this job, or an angled one will help you hit those hard-to-reach spots. If you are unsure which paintbrush to use, check out this guide.

Pro Tip: Paint the top and bottom of the radiator first (or around 1 metre across if it’s a particularly long radiator), then fill in the middle. This is how the professionals do it to keep a “wet edge” whilst working, and it helps prevent drips. Work across the radiator horizontally.

12. Repeat for a Good Finish

Typically you’re going to need at least two coats. Let the first coat dry, ideally giving it at least 24 hours, then repeat steps 1-3 in the top-coat section. Let it completely dry before deciding if it needs another coat. Remember to keep the radiators off.

13. Replace Radiator and Remove Protection

When you are 100% happy with the finish, pop it back on the wall if you removed it, or simply remove any protection from your walls if the radiators stayed in situ.

When your radiator heats up, you’ll probably find it smells of paint, but this will fade. Just keep the room well vented to reduce smell until it’s gone.

Don’t fancy doing this job yourself? Find top-rated painters in your area by clicking the button below:

How to Paint a Radiator – Final Thoughts

cat sleeping on a radiator

That’s it, you’ve done it. Congratulations! You should be left with a radiator that perfectly matches your room and a sense of pride at a well-done job!

If you want to see how the pros do it, check out the video below by the Ultimate Handyman:

YouTube player