How to clean a radiator

how to clean a radiator

by Elena Angelides |
Updated on

With gas prices rising across the UK, there’s never been a more important time to cut energy bills. And there’s one way to bring costs down, that you might not even know about: cleaning your radiator.

Heating and Technology Specialist Jess Steele at BestHeating, says that “dust settles on radiators easily, but keeping it clean can help lower heating costs, as the build-up can prevent heat from escaping, therefore making your radiators work harder and longer to keep a room warm.”

That ever forgotten task tends to slip down the to do list, but incorporating it into your cleaning routine at least once a month could make a difference to how much you need to turn the heating on. Not to mention, a cleaner radiator will give the entire room that new, fresh feel.

In just five easy steps, take your radiator from dirty to dust-free.

What do I need to clean a radiator - inside and out?


• Radiator brush (or self-fashioned device, using metal coat hanger and microfibre cloth) 
• Vacuum cleaner (and useful attachments, including a long, thin one and a brush head) 
• Bucket of soapy water 
• Sponge or cloth

Hair dryer 
• Large towel 
• Metal coat hanger
• Multiple microfibre towels

Optional, for rust:

• Soft bristle toothbrush 
• Metal primer 
• Light sandpaper 
• Paint 
• Paint stripper 
• White vinegar 
• Lemon 
• Aluminium foil

Step 1 - Turn off your central heating 
Spring cleans are all too common: everyone does a thorough revamp of their homes after the dust has settled during the long, colder months of autumn and winter. But it’s just as important to have a deep clean at the end of summer, to prepare your home and radiators for that all too familiar extensive stretch of cold. This is because you must switch off your entire central heating system before cleaning your radiator, and therefore it is important to prioritise this task when it isn’t too freezing cold outside.

Touching a switched-on radiator can cause harm, and even burns to your skin. To be on the safe side, wait half-an-half after turning the heating off to begin. And practically speaking, a hot radiator will be tougher to clean - given that it will attract dust you’re trying to get rid of!

Step 2 - Start with a radiator brush 
Now that you’re ready to begin, let’s start with how to clean inside a radiator. Although some may think the first step is to tackle it with a vacuum, Cleaning Expert Nicola Rodriguez, has a top-hack. “Use a radiator brush first, or you'll end up having to hoover again otherwise, after you dust.”

And for those who don’t own a radiator brush already, Nicola has a top tip for a DIY option you can create with a few bits at home. “You can make your own radiator brush using a metal coat hanger. Take it apart, wrap around a microfibre cloth and easily push any dust downwards, and out of the radiator.”

Step 3 -  Bring out the vacuum After you’ve forced the dust down and out, you’ll want to remove the large, trapped chunks using a vacuum cleaner. Getting into those nooks and crannies can be difficult, especially if you have a panel or column radiator. Thankfully, vacuum cleaners often come with useful attachments and you’ll want to get these out from under the stairs, and dust them off, too.

The long, thin attachment can fit into crevices that the larger hoover head just can’t - and the brush attachments are great for removing dirt from surface areas, panels and grooves.

In the instance you don’t have these attachments, never fear, there is another hack in sight. After vacuuming, find your trusty hair dryer and a towel you have lying around the house. Place the towel under the radiator and use the hair dryer - on a cold setting - to blow these bits of dust out onto the towel.

You’ll also want to pick up all the dust pushed out by the radiator brush, and don’t forget to check behind the radiator, to get all sides covered.

**Step 4 - Clean and wipe down
**Now, all the pieces of dirt and dust - small and large - should be removed from the radiator and surrounding area: it’s time to tackle the stains, marks and fingerprints.

The great benefit of this is you can use washing up liquid to make a bowl of soapy water, and then a soft cloth or sponge: all cheap items you’re likely to already have at home. Avoid using a scourer or bleach, which may cause scratches or damage the paintwork.

“When deciding which cleaning products to use, make sure not to use anything too abrasive,’ says Heating and Technology Specialist Jess Steele, “brillo pads for example may scratch and damage the surface of your radiator.”

If you have the budget to buy a few products, Cleaning Expert Nicola has two top tips on how to clean and add a great smell to your home: “I personally recommend using The Pink Stuff washing up spray - as it’s all in the bottle ready to spray. This solution also lifts marks too, and you can use it to clean the skirting boards after.”

“When you have finished the clean, wipe it over with Zoflora disinfectant. When you turn on your heating, the product will instantly smell and it’s a lovely fragrance for a room,” Nicola adds.

Another top tip is not to have the cloth or sponge too drenched, or you’ll risk getting water into small crevices and a potential for rust. For the wipe down, Jess advises to “use a microfibre cloth to dry the exteriors, making sure to not miss any corners or connectors so that the radiator doesn’t get rusty.”

You might be wondering how to clean rust off a radiator. Although chrome radiators are more susceptible to rust, painted radiators can rust too. To remove rust, target the areas using a soft bristle toothbrush dipped in soapy water. Wipe again with clean water and dry with a microfibre cloth. If the rust is in a larger area, this is a large job using a metal primer, light sandpaper and a repaint of the radiator.

And in terms of how to clean a chrome radiator, it’s advisable to still use mild cleaning products such as soapy water, but there are some other top tips. You can wipe down your chrome radiator using a homemade cleaning product such as white vinegar or lemon water to help get rid of rust. Also, aluminium foil can be used on chrome as it won't damage it. Begin by tearing strips of foil to make loose balls. Then, dip the crumpled-up foil in a bowl of clean water, and rub on rusted spots. The chemical reaction it causes stops the radiator from rusting in the future.

Step five - Don’t forget the skirting boards

As Nicola mentioned, an important part of the radiator cleaning process is checking the skirting boards. Heat emitted by radiators attracts dust, and so the areas around it are like a magnet to those pesky fluffballs too.

It’s all well and good having a sparklingly clean radiator, but if the wall below is looking grubby, you’ll soon realise there is something you’ve overlooked. As eager as you are to move onto radiator two - in the next room - stop and check the skirting boards first.

Make a fresh, clean bucket of soapy water to commence the wipe down with a soft sponge or cloth, or follow Nicola’s option and use The Pink Stuff washing up spray. Again, be mindful not to use a scourer or any products which could damage the paint.

Elena Angelides is a freelance journalist who has written across a broad range of subjects, with articles published by National Geographic, The Guardian, VICE, Refinery29, iNews, Reader’s Digest, GLAMOUR, Paste Magazine, heat and Closer.

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