How to clean inside a radiator

17 January 2023
How to clean inside a radiator
The convector fins inside a white radiator being cleaned with a radiator core brushThe convector fins inside a white radiator being cleaned with a radiator core brush

From time to time, many of us get the urge to do a deep clean. We can often become 'dirt blind,' whereby something has been so dirty for so long that we just accept it as normal. Sometimes we're well aware of the existance of the grime but simply procrastinate and put it off for another day. However, there are also the odd moments of clarity, where everything slips into focus and we're suddenly aware we need to take action and get things sparkling again. One such target of our deep cleaning frenzy is the inside of our radiators.

Cleaning a radiator is generally not part of a regular cleaning routine and so are often overlooked in favour of more obvious areas of the room. Radiators get hot though and therefore are like a magnet for attracting dust. Even in warmer months, radiators will still collect dust and dirt and if left uncleaned, the build-up can be quite substantial. Not only is it unsightly, but it can actually cause a smell in your room when the radiator come on as the grime caught in the middle of your radiator gets heated up. Particularly dirty radiators can be slightly less efficient than clean radiators, making your system use more energy in order to heat your room, which will be reflected in higher energy bills.

Givng your radiator a clean needn't be time-consuming and it doesn't even need to be done every week, but being mindful that your rads need a good dusting every now and then will keep them in great shape and heating your room efficiently exactly when you need them to. In this article, we'll look at some ways you can clean your dirty radiator.

Cleaning inside convector fins

The worst culprits for collecting dust are standard convector radiators, which are the most familiar type of radiator in the UK. These are the conventional white-panelled radiators with a grooved frontage and one or two rows of zig-zagged convector fins running down the back (if it's single panel) or the middle (if it's double panel) of the radiator. 

Convector fins are a really important component of a radiator as they increase the surface area and enable the radiator to emit as much heat as possible for its size. However, they are definitely dust traps and are often left uncleaned due to the awkwardness of reaching them and the fact that they are mostly out of sight.

In order to clean into convector fins properly and get rid of the dust (and whatever else) properly, there are a couple of superb tools you can choose from to help. They aren't expensive and they make an annoying job much less annoying.

Radiator brush

A radiator brush is a long thin brush that has a handle to grip at one end with 360° bristles running down the length of the stem. Many of them are also flexible, which means you can poke the brush right the way down into all the nooks and crannies of your radiator and get rid of all the grime. 

Also known as a 'radiator core brush', you'll find having one of these on hand will make keeping the inside of your radiator clean really easy and you might find you make it part of your regular cleaning routine.

Long flat duster

Another option you can turn to to get the inside of your radiator back to its best is by using a long flat duster. These are normally made of soft microfibre nd are fantastic into reaching into narrow spaces. The material helps to ensure that the dust is dislodged or sticks to the surface of the duster and you can bash it out the window or on an outside wall just like you would with a normally duster.

The long flat duster works on exactly the same principle as the radiator brush but you might also find it useful for other purposes like cleaning the tops of door frames, curtain rails or framed pictures. It slots into narrow spaces and is reat for reaching up high. A really good cleaning tool to have in your arsenal.

Vacuum cleaner

Though the head of a vacuum cleaner is unlikely to be narrow enough to fit down inside the radiator, you'll still need it when all the trapped dust and debris gets pushed out the bottom. If it's been a long time since you've cleaned the inside of your radiator (or if you've never done it) then there could years worth of dirt in there, so the subsequent mess could be quite substantial. Have a vacuum cleaner ready to immediately suck up the dust and this will help minimise it circulating into the rest of the room.

Removing radiator top grills

Some convector radiators have open access to convector fins. You'll typically see these with rads that have a rounded or seamed top to the front panel. With these types of convector radiator you can just reach in with your cleaning implement and freely poke out the dust.

However, many convector radiators have side panels and a top grill which look smart but actually make the convector fins more difficult to access. These are known as 'compact' convector radiators. Though there are several diffrent types of compact radiator, you'll normally need to remove the side panels first before you can remove the top grill and access the convector fins.

Some side panels are connected by a screw underneath at each end and will lift away once you loosen the screws. Others will need to be prised off by a flathead screwdriver, while others can be popped off by grabbing the top of the side panel with one hand and giving a short, sharp push to the bottom of the panel with the other. Have a good look at your radiator to see which is applicable. Once the side panels are off, it should be easy to take off the top grill and clean the fins.

It's a bit more fiddly if you have a compact convector radiator but no less satisfying once you gain access to the fins inside and give them a thorough clean.

Powerflushing a radiator

A powerflush is a more serious internal clean of a radiator as it involves delving into the inner chamber where the hot water flows in and out of the rad. 

Over time, the constant flowing of water through your pipes, radiators and central heating system can cause internal corrosion. This is where oxygen reacts with the metal, causing tiny rust particles to flake off and settle at the bottom of radiators in a nasty brown sludge. A common way you can tell that you're suffering from a case of radiator sludge is if one of your radiators feels warm at the top but cooler at the bottom. The rust sludge is stopping the hot water from reaching the very bottom of the radiator and is preventing it from heating up to maximum capacity.

The best way to remove the sludge is to call in a plumber and get them to give your radiator a powerflush. The trade professional will remove the radiator take it outside and give it a clean with a powerful flow-through of water. The clean water pumped through the radiator will help to remove the sludge and get it fully functional again. The plumber will also top up your chemical inhibitor levels in your central heating system to minimise the internal corroion from getting as bad agaiin in future.

If the radiator is too corroded internally, the plumber will probably recommend that you get a brand new radiator.

Convector radiators at Trade Radiators

At Trade Radiators, we believe our selection of convector radiators is unsurpassed. With many styles and sizes available from several choice manufacturers, we are sure to have one to suit your converter heating needs. 

Convector radiators require a low water content to run on a low-temperature heating system using ground source heat pumps. We know that an energy-efficient heater is important to you, which is why we try to be as elaborate as possible about each unit's energy efficiency. 

When considering convector heaters as an option, people often ask, are convector heaters expensive to run? We've chosen models whose technology best capitalises on heat and reduces heat loss. The general answer is that, when adjusted correctly, convector heaters are a cost-effective form of heating, considering their ability to generate instant heat.

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