We have them in every room at home. We use them all the time. We even stand and rub our hands against them when coming in from the cold. Radiators are ubiquitous in keeping homes up and down the country toasty, but when it comes to cleaning the house, do they ever get a look in?
You might hoover every weekend and mop the floor when it needs it. You may even get the duster out to freshen up hard to reach places, but would you even know where to start when cleaning a radiator?
A lot of us fear trying it because we don’t really know what to do. If you try and hoover inside, will it cause problems? If you go to scrub the front, will the paint fall off? And is it ok to clean around the valves?
Thanks to some great advice from the folks at Trade Radiators, who know a thing or two about clean radiators, let’s make things easier with some tips on how to clean a radiator, and why it’s important to do so regularly, starting with the problem hidden deep inside your radiator; dust.
You don’t want dust involved
The majority of radiators will have fins which run along the inside. You don’t notice them or pay much attention to them, but they carry out an important job every time you turn a radiator on. The innocuous-looking feature dramatically increases the surface area available for air to enter and heat up as it rises through your radiator. When there’s dust all in and around your fins, you’re limited in efficiency as air is trapped.
You can deal with this by using a vacuum cleaner to pick up as much dust as possible. If your attachment doesn’t help you get in there, a duster should be able to do the job. You can buy dedicated radiator brushes, but you’d only need one if you were working somewhere that needed radiators cleaned regularly (e.g. a hotel). If you find yourself without any of these things, a hackable way of thoroughly cleaning fins is to get a tea towel and run it through each fin, just like flossing teeth.
In the rare case where you don’t have access to any of these things, using a hairdryer with a nozzle can sometimes knock dust away with enough force, and I promise your radiator won’t end up with a stunning blowdry.
You don’t want to attack stains head on
Most radiators are finished with a coat of paint that should see it staving off any immediate stains. For example, if someone spilt wine, you would expect to be able to wipe it off immediately and not have any red markings left behind. But what do you do when you walk by and see a random stain on the radiator?
Grab yourself cleaning spray, a sponge, and some warm water. Spray the area and leave the spray to do its magic for a few minutes. Wipe it away with the warm water and pat it dry. Don’t scrub at the stain or you could ruin the paint or end up forcing the stain to sit in the paint.
You don’t want rusty valves
Radiators are a watertight unit, but even at that, you’re still at some risk of your valves showing signs of oxidisation and rust. Unless your radiators are showing problems and you think it is worth taking the valve off entirely, the simplest way to clean around your valves is to use the same process as washing away stains. If you find that after that first wash there are still signs of rust, get a toothbrush, some vinegar and baking soda. Make a quick slurry with the soda and vinegar, before scrubbing it around the valves and pipes with the brush. If you leave it for a minute or so and then wash away, not only should your valve be clean again, but your pipes should look shiny too.
You have a mysterious yellow ring
It can be rare, but some people may find that they have a yellow or discoloured ring on the wall around their radiator. If your home is like this, and you think the radiator has somehow caused it, you’ll be surprised to learn that there’s someone else to blame, the smokers of the house.
Yes, it can be the case that if you have a room where people smoke, the circulation created from central heating will see some smoke drawn into the bottom of the radiator and pull up before sticking to the wall. If you have walls like this, clean them with soapy water, and it should hopefully minimise the staining.
Now get to cleaning
Hopefully, you found the cleaning tips in this post helpful. If you’re interested in becoming the radiator expert at home, I recommend reading this post on the Guide to the Ultimate Home Radiator Performance and keeping up to date with the latest interior posts on the site.