How to Paint an Iron Radiator

Written by samantha volz
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How to Paint an Iron Radiator
Painting a radiator can help it match your decor. (white radiator image by Ekaterina Sidorenko from

Many modern homes feature central heating units that spread warm air throughout the whole house. In the past, however, many houses relied on individual iron radiators, which provided radiant heating to the rooms in which they were installed. These heating installations are still found in homes, but they are often decades old, featuring chipping or peeling paint and finish that can ruin the look of a room. Repainting an iron radiator can bring even this old feature into modern times and keep your home looking stylish.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Scraper
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Lacquer thinner or paint stripper
  • Tack cloth or rag
  • Dropcloth and protective covering
  • Deglosser or solvent
  • Metal primer
  • Respirator

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  1. 1

    Peel away any loose, cracked or chipping paint. Scrape the surface with the flat edge of a plastic or razor scraper. Use only the flat edge, as the corners of the tool may scratch the iron radiator.

  2. 2

    Sand the radiator surface with medium-grit sandpaper to remove stuck-on areas of paint.

  3. 3

    Apply lacquer thinner or paint stripper approved for use on iron if scraping and sanding do not remove all old paint. Allow the stripper to sit on the iron surface for five minutes, unless otherwise instructed by the product's instructions.

  4. 4

    Scrape or sand away all remaining paint. Wipe down the radiator surface with a tack cloth or damp cotton cloth to remove residual sanding dust and any surface dirt.

  5. 5

    Ventilate your work area by opening doors and windows or installing fans. The chemicals and paint used for this project can create strong and potentially harmful fumes. Lay a dropcloth on the area surrounding your work space and hang protective plastic or paper sheeting across walls and ceilings to protect your surroundings from chemicals and paint.

  6. 6

    Clean the entire radiator with deglosser or a solvent cleaner such as white spirit or denatured alcohol. These products will remove built-up oils and other contaminants that can ruin the bond between the iron and the new paint.

  7. 7

    Sand the entire radiator surface with medium-grit sandpaper to create a rough, sticky surface for the new paint.

  8. 8

    Coat the radiator with a layer of metal primer. Keep the can moving at all times to ensure a smooth, even finish and to make sure you get paint into all crevices and detail work. Allow the primer to dry to the touch before continuing.

  9. 9

    Finish the painting with a layer of sprayed-on metal paint. Allow the paint to dry overnight, and apply a second coat the next day if necessary to achieve your desired colour or style. Allow all paint to dry completely before activating the heater.

Tips and warnings

  • Use only high-temperature aerosol spray paint. You must ensure that your paint and primer are approved for high-temperature situations, or the paint could be ruined the first time you use the heater.
  • Wear a respirator when working with spray paint.
  • Iron radiators from the 1970s and earlier may feature lead paint. Never sand these radiators, as the sanding dust will contain dangerous lead particles. If you are unsure about the paint on your radiator, contact a professional electrician, plumber or sandblaster.

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