painting radiators

Painting Radiators – How The Pros Do It

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Radiators are an essential multi-use part of modern day living, keeping our homes toasty warm, drying our clothes and occasionally even a place for pet cats to have a snooze.

They also contribute to the overall look of a room, but have you looked at yours recently to see if they actually compliment the room? You might see that they don’t match the colour scheme, or they may have even gone rusty. Don’t worry though, all is not lost!

You can revamp the look of your radiators by giving them a simple makeover with a fresh lick of paint. You’ll find that it’s not a particularly tricky job or expensive to do, and if you follow our guide, you’ll be sure to get the best finish possible.




Tools & Materials


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


  • Dust sheets
  • Masking tape
  • Metal or radiator primer
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    Anti-corrosive primer (if you have rust spots)
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How To Paint Your Radiator For A Professional Finish

how to paint radiator

Preparation is key!

Begin your prep

If you have a new radiator your prep is going to be much easier. If you are looking to buy a new radiator, check out this article from

You need to make sure 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.

Remove from the wall if possible

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

Clean it down

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

Smooth the surface

Take a good look at your radiator. Check for areas of rust, flaky paint and any lumps or runs from previous paint jobs. Smooth them out by rubbing down 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.

Clean 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 give the room a good clean after sanding as the dust gets everywhere.

Protect surrounding areas

Before we move on to priming, we need to 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 get the windows open and start ventilating the area.

Prime like a pro

Apply primer

Before you apply the top coat you need to prep the radiator with a primer. You should use a metal primer or specialist radiator primer as this will protect any bare metal and gives 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 got rust, you might want to prime with an anti-corrosive primer as this prevents that pesky rust from getting worse.

Allow primer to dry and clean

Leave the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next stage. Once it’s dry you can give the radiator another good clean with a damp cloth.

Top Coat – the finishing touch


Before you start painting, make sure your room is really 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!

Which top-coat?

There are a few different paints you can choose from, see my handy guide below. Whichever one you select, I want you to shake the can before you open. Once open mix, mix and mix again - trust me on this!

These are your top coat 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 overcoat to protect the emulsion (Check out this Ronseal version which is perfect for the job according to Homebase)
  • Spray Paint – use one specifically for radiators, limited colours available. Make sure you vent the room, and protect the surrounding area as it goes everywhere. Use a face mask and gloves to protect yourself.

Paint away

You want to get a 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 paint brush for this job, or an angled one will help you hit those hard to reach spots. If you are unsure which paint brush to use, check out this guide from

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. You’ll find this is how the pro’s do it to keep a “wet edge” whilst working and it helps prevent drips. Work across the radiator horizontally.

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.

Replace radiator and remove protection

replace radiator

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.

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 job well done!

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

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below if you found this guide useful and managed to put these steps into action. As always, please remember to share if you think your family and friends will find this guide useful.

About the Author Hannah

I live in Manchester, UK with my young family, 2 cats and a crazy dog. I’m passionate about Victorian houses, Pinterest, Kevin McCloud and creating a home that’s beautiful yet practical for our family!

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