How to paint a radiator

27 July 2021
How to paint a radiator
Someone painting a white column radiator with a paintbrush.

Over time, old radiators can become tired and a bit scruffy. White paint can turn yellow with age and years and years of being situated in a busy household can also cause them to be chipped and scratched. If this is the case with the radiators in your home, you may well have looked at the dull paintwork and asked yourself the question 'can I paint my radiator?'

The good news is that it is possible to paint your radiators with relative ease. A freshly-painted radiator can make a huge difference in revitalising your decor and can even make your rad a talking point of the room.

Some things you might need to make this job easier are:

  • Radiator paint
  • Variety of sized paintbrushes
  • Brush cleaner
  • Newspaper, sheets or towels for protecting the floor
  • Cloth and soapy water
  • Sandpaper
  • Cold radiators

What paint to use on your radiator

When the heating is on full blast, radiators obviously get very hot, so it's important that you choose a paint that won't blister or melt due to the high heat outputs.

There are specific solvent-based paints for radiators that can cope with the heat so it's advisable to buy a couple of pots of these before you start.

Clean your radiator first

It's quite likely your radiator is dirty, covered by years worth of muck from dust, sticky fingers, pets or other general household grime, so give it a wipe down with a cloth and some warm soapy water.

Depending on the surface of your radiator, it might be worth sanding down previous coats of paint or removing any lumps and bumps to ensure you get a lovely smooth finish with your new coat.

Don't paint a hot radiator

In order for the paint to bond properly to your existing radiator, it's important you let the radiator cool down completely before attempting to paint it.

Switch off the central heating completely and ensure that the radiator is cold, otherwise you could get a smeary or flaky finish that looks worse than when you started.

Take your time

Choose good quality brushes. One chunky one for the majority of the radiator's tank and then have a smaller one for any harder to reach areas.

Additionally, don't be tempted to rush the job in order to get it over with quickly. It doesn't really take long to paint a radiator anyway, so taking an extra 10 or 15 minutes will give you a lovely finish and less likelihood of splattering paint everywhere.

Don't overload your brush with paint and paint slowly up and down in line with the grooves. Make your way across until you've covered the whole rad evenly.

Wait for it to dry and make a decision on whether you need to apply a second coat.

How to paint behind a radiator

Depending on the type of radiator you're painting, you might want to paint the back of it, especially if you're painting it a completely different colour. Alternatively, you might also decide to paint the wall on which the radiator is hanging and need to get behind it.

The gap between the back of a radiator and the wall is usually quite narrow and is therefore usually pretty difficult to paint. If you have small hands and a thin brush, you might be able to paint just enough wall that you can stand in the middle of the room and not see the previous colour.

However, whether it's the wall or the back of the radiator you're trying to paint, you'll know you haven't quite done the job properly unless you take the radiator off the wall.

The vide below shows a professional plumber removing a radiator from the wall in a safe, step-by-step manner which you can follow for yourself if necessary.

Do you need a new radiator?

While giving a radiator a fresh coat of paint can give it a new lease of life, there comes a point when you need to decide if it's worth sprucing up your old rad or if it's time to get a new one.

If your radiator is over 15 years old, the years of loyal service could mean that it has started to rust on the inside and is no longer emitting heat as efficiently as it once was.

This could particularly be the case if you haven't been regularly topping up your chemical inhibitor levels and radiator sludge has accumulated at the bottom of the rad. A classic symptom of this is a radiator that is cold at the bottom but hot at the top.

It's certainly possible to call out a plumber to remove and flush out the radiator, but it's often cheaper to replace the whole radiator with a new one.

Modern radiators are more efficient than they ever have been before and there are a vast array of styles, finishes and sizes to choose from.

Trade Radiators bespoke colour service

Custom colour radiators at

As much as we would love it to be true, not all radiators can aesthetically fit into a space. You could completely redecorate a room, get a new radiator and stand back to see it might not look as perfect as imagined.

Sometimes when this happens, it can be because the radiator colour you’ve got doesn’t match the interior or general design of the room. If you need a radiator to be vibrant and inject some personality, we can help.

Trade Radiators can provide you with a custom colour radiator in several finishes. We have lots of experience with customers requesting radiators finished in a custom colour. We’ve painted every colour of the rainbow on cast iron radiators and had primer finishes for customers who already have a colour in mind.

Pick a colour and there will be a very strong chance that we can give you a radiator painted that way. There are a lot of radiators we can custom paint. You’ll know which ones are adaptable as they will have a paint wheel logo and you can view them all via the link below.

View All Our Colour-Customisable Radiators


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