Experts share their tips on how to clean a radiator properly

The often-forgotten chore prevents that burnt dust smell, and will even make a difference to your heating bill

radiator in white room with plants
(Image credit: Future PLC / Anna Stathaki)

When we're doing a weekly clean, radiators are one of those things we all know, in our hearts, that we haven't given our all. Tight angles and fiddly fins put radiators up there with oven racks as some of the most longwinded and unappealing things to clean.

But you can actually lower your gas bill if you know how to clean a radiator properly, as a dust-free radiator will work more efficiently. And, obviously, it helps your whole home environment feel clean and healthy.

How to clean a radiator

If you're guilty of neglecting yours – rest assured, we are with you – there are a few simple tips to help you tackle the task with ease. Andrew Collinge, a heating product expert at BestHeating explains that we should be removing the dust from our radiators on a weekly basis, whether it's winter and they're on full blast or summer and they're barely used at all.

'The majority of dust, about 60 per cent, comes from the outdoors and things we bring inside,' explains Andrew Collinge. 'Dust settles on radiators easily.' The heating expert says keeping radiators clean can help help you save energy at home and lower heating costs, as the build-up can prevent heat from being released into the room.

radiator in yellow bedroom

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

1.Turn off the heating

'Before you begin cleaning your radiators, it's important that they are turned off,' Andrew says. 'It is not only safer but prevents them from drawing up more dust while you clean.'

2. Start with a vacuum cleaner

Before you reach for a feather duster, Andrew recommends using your best vacuum cleaner to clean in, around and underneath the radiator. This will help to capture the dust, as opposed to unsettling it with a duster and pushing it back into the air.

'Use a vacuum to clear as much dust in and around the radiator as possible,' he explains. 'If your vacuum has them, use the smaller attachments to get inside down the fins.'

blue cloakroom with painted radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC / Matt Clayton)

3. Use a radiator brush

To reach the remaining bits of dust and dirt, after vacuuming the majority out, use a radiator cleaning brush, at Amazon. If you don't have one you can easily make your own. Remember to put down a towel under the radiator before embarking on this stage to protect your flooring.

'Take a stick or piece of wood and wrap a microfibre cloth or fluffy duster around it and secure with tape,' suggests Andrew. 'To get rid of the smaller pieces that get caught on the radiator fixings, use a hairdryer on a cold setting to blow these out down onto the towel.'

4. Wipe down with soap and water

'Fill a bucket with warm soapy water and using a sponge, wipe down the outside of the radiator,' says Andrew. 'Ensure you have a lot of soapy suds on your sponge and ring it out so that it is damp but not dripping.'

Dry your radiator thoroughly with a microfibre cloth, at Amazon to make sure the metal isn't left to rust. Don't use anything too abrasive as it could leave scratches. 

5. Give your skirting boards a final check

wooden dining table with white chairs in bright white dining room with gallery wall and radiators

(Image credit: Future PLC / Anna Stathaki)

After cleaning the radiator, give the surrounding wall and skirting boards a check to see if any of the radiator dust has fallen down. 'These may need wiping down too,' says the expert. 'As sometimes the heat can cause dirt and dust to stick to the wall. Give any marks a rub with the soapy sponge being careful not to damage any paintwork.'

Andrew concludes by saying, 'A few minutes spent dusting your radiators every time you do a weekly clean could result in a large cost saving over time.' Worth the effort we say. 

Go a step further and learn how to bleed a radiator to keep your heating in good working order, as this too can save you money in the long term. If there are yellow marks or rust, you may have to take it off the wall and speakto a professional.

How do you clean sludge out of a radiator?

'If your radiators still have cold spots after you’ve bled them, particularly if those cold spots are at the bottom, it could be a sign that the system needs flushing,' says Nick Duggan, Director at The Radiator Centre. 'Over time, rust and dirt – aka sludge – will accumulate in your radiators and pipes, which can block the flow of your central heating.'

Nick says that this causes your heating system to work harder to heat your home, costing you more money, and if the problem is left unsolved it can damage the entire system. 'If you think there may be sludge in your radiators, book a plumber in to flush the system sooner rather than later!'

Can I pour water down my radiator to clean it?

Despite what CleanTok might say, you shouldn't pour water from the kettle down the back of a radiator to clean it. There are various hot water radiator cleaning hack videos out there but not only can it damage the paint, you also need to be careful of sockets and your flooring. 

'You can wipe a radiator down with a damp cloth, but I have never heard of anyone recommending pouring water down the back of it (make sure it’s not electric!)' says Nick Duggan.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.