How to Paint a Radiator

Painting radiators is becoming a popular DIY trend to give your room an update or refresh a little lacklustre radiator that use to gleam. You don’t need a lot of DIY experience to paint your radiators, so we’ve compiled a guide on how to paint a radiator and give them a fresh new look.

Can You Paint Radiators?

Before we guide you through how to paint a radiator, first we should answer the question ‘can you paint radiators? The short answer is yes! All you need to be able to paint your radiator is to grab a paintbrush and kneel down; if you can do these two things then you are good to go! Painting your radiator can be a cheap and easy way to freshen it up or create a new design feature in your room. When it comes to choosing the right paint for your radiator, you can choose radiator paint, or, for more cost-effective options, any old emulsion paint or satin paint will do the job! However, some cheaper paints may cause chipping and peeling over time, so make sure to use a clear radiator overcoat after you’ve applied the emulsion.

Why Should I Paint My Radiators?

If you can’t afford brand new coloured radiators right now, a great option until you can afford one is to paint your current radiators, making them a feature in the room or to blend them into the background. It’s also a great way to make your old radiators look fresh and less dull in your room. Maybe you’ve always fancied having black radiators, or even something more glistening like silver radiators. Whichever colour you want to go for, follow our steps on how to paint a radiator below to find out more.


Step 1: Turn off Your Radiators

As obvious as it may sound, turning off your single or double panel radiators is a must, and they should be completely cooled before you start painting. If it’s even just a little bit warm, the paint that you apply can start to drip on the surface and can even blister when it’s dry. It’s also important at this stage to ensure you have proper ventilation, so make sure you open up your windows and doors so that you aren’t breathing in paint fumes.

Step 2: Clean the Area & the Radiator

The next step is to remove any dust, debris, and furniture from around the radiator to reduce the risk of anything getting stuck to the wet paint. This includes pets as the hairs can easily get stuck on the paint! You should also grab a lot of old sheets, cardboard or newspaper and protect the floor and the area around as it’s extremely likely there will be some form of paint splatter.

Next, grab your cleaning supplies and give your metal radiators a deep clean. You may not realise it, but over the years, your radiator will have built up a great deal of dirt, grease, and grime over the years. If you don’t thoroughly clean it, this dirt can get trapped under the paint and cause an uneven texture. A quick wipe down with a damp sponge and mild detergent should do the trick.

Step 3: Sand Your Radiator

By sanding your radiator, you will roughen up the surface which will make it easier for the paint to stay in place. You will want to use both higher and lower grit sandpaper to get rid of any unwanted surface debris, paying close attention to any rough spots you come across. Take your time to sand the radiator down properly and ensure you have a nice, even surface to paint on. If you skip this step, you will have an uneven surface to work on which will increase the likelihood of rough-looking paintwork.

Once all the rough patches have gone, dust and wipe down the radiator once more and use a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust and debris before you apply the paint.

Step 4: Add Radiator Primer

Before adding your beautiful new topcoat of paint to your radiator, you must first need to apply a metal primer or special radiator primer. This will ensure that any bare or rusty parts of your radiator are protected and there will be a good solid base for the rest of the paint to cling to. If you spot a lot of rusty parts on your radiator, we recommend an anti-corrosive primer to prevent the rust from getting any worse over time.

Apply your primer coat with a standard paintbrush or angled paintbrush for any awkward, hard to reach areas. Glide the paintbrush along the radiator making sure you give an even coat without any drips and then leave to dry completely before moving on to the paint – you can check the can for drying instructions.

If using a primer spray, make sure you keep the nozzle 6 to 8 inches away from the surface of the radiator and glide the can in smooth, upwards, and downwards motions to prevent drips and to create an even finish.

Step 5: Apply Radiator Paint

Once your primer is completely dry and the room is well ventilated again, it’s time to add the topcoat of paint. But first of all, give your radiator another wipe down before you start.

If you’re using tinned paint, give it a good shake before starting and then give it a mix with a stick once opened. Then, take your brush and apply the paint to the surface being careful not to overload the brush as this can cause drips and uneven texture. For a super neat finish, ensure you paint in the direction of the grooves and paint the edges of the radiator first before moving onto the face. When moving from one side to the other painting with the direction of the grooves, make sure you overlap each section slightly to create a nice, even finish.

Step 6: Rest & Recover

Once you’ve fully painted your radiator, it’s time to let it dry completely and have a well-deserved rest. It’s likely your radiator will need another coat, but for now, you can leave it to dry overnight and be proud of the work you’ve done! Be sure your radiator is fully dry before the next coat as a tacky and damp base will lead to a disappointing result! Now you know how to paint a radiator, you can choose to update every radiator in your house to look like designer radiators, or leave this to certain rooms that need sprucing up.

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