How to paint behind a radiator - the secret to painting this tricky area like a pro

Get into all the nooks and crannies behind your radiator without removing it with this easy painting guide

A blue-painted hallway with a black radiator, a child's bicycle and geometric tiles
(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Painting the walls of our home tends to be a task most of us feel competent enough to do . But not every paint job is the same as the next. Some are more tricky than others. Enter painting behind a radiator. A dreaded chore that tends to be endlessly put off, if not passed onto a hired professional. But if you’re looking to save your penny and you’re feeling like doing some DIY, then this easy-to-follow guide to how to paint behind a radiator will come in handy.

Our DIY and decorating experts have shared some invaluable tips and tricks, as well as the necessary (and optional) tools, to make this unpopular task as easy as possible. You’re going to be a pro at painting behind radiators by the end of this.

Bedroom with a bed, geometric rug and a rattan lampshade

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

What you’ll need

The reason why everyone hates the idea of painting behind a radiator is because of the lack of space. It is a tight squeeze and some spots end up being inaccessible to a regular brush because of it or become very awkward to reach. That is why getting the right tools before you start doing anything else is the most important step.

How to paint behind a radiator  

A hallway with a white radiator and a handbag on the floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Now that you’ve got your tools in place, you can start tackling the actual radiator. But there are a few important steps before getting to any painting.

Prep before you do anything else

Firstly, you need to turn off the radiator and make sure it is completely cooled down.

Next up, knowing how to clean your radiator will come in handy as a thorough wipe-down of the radiator and the wall behind it is called for. You can use some sugar soap for this.

‘Start by giving the radiator and wall behind it a good clean,’ says Natalie White at Rated People. ‘You want to make sure it’s free of any dust, cobwebs or dirt to prevent these from mixing in with any paint you’re going to apply to the wall. Once it’s been dusted, make sure to give it a wipe down as best you can – to get the wall nice and clean.’

White-painted bedroom with a black radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jason Ingram)

Then, protect the surfaces that you don’t want to get paint on. The floor can be covered with a painting dust sheet, a plastic sheet or newspapers. A painting masking tape should be applied ‘to cover all of the edges of the radiator and adjacent walls to prevent paint from splattering or running where you don’t want it,’ advises Vlad Pihlakas, tasker at Taskrabbit. Any nozzles and or pipes that could get in the way should also be covered with the tape.

Jess Steele, heating technology expert at online heating specialists BestHeating, has a trick up her sleeve to protect your radiator from getting paint splatters, which might be annoying especially if you’ve mastered the technique of how to paint a radiator and your heating has a sleek coat of paint.

‘It’s important to protect the radiator but avoid using a dust sheet as this will get in the way. Saran wrap is a perfect solution to prevent splashback that won’t hamper you whilst painting. Keep a wet cloth close to mop any specs or splodges as they happen and use painter’s tape to protect pipes and skirting boards.’

But wiping any unwanted splashes with a damp cloth should also do the trick of protecting your radiator.

Painting behind radiator hack

A large dining table with pendant lights and a gallery wall in the background

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

Now that everything’s set up, you can start painting behind the radiator. The hack to do that is using an angled paint brush or a mini paint roller with an extra long handle.

‘It’s best to utilise your small angled paint brush or radiator brush for this to meticulously paint the areas that are tough to reach,’ Vlad says. ‘If there’s enough space, you can also use your mini roller to paint behind the radiator. If you have one, this is where you can use a specially designed extra long paint roller to get in behind the radiator.’

Natalie continues, ‘You might find you’ll have to try different angles to reach all the tricky spots, but the roller should be able to get to them. You might need to apply a couple of coats of paint, depending on your colour of choice – so repeat the process as many times as you need to.’

‘If you have designer radiators that do not project far from the wall, to reach difficult areas, cover a flat pad with paint and slide it behind the radiator,’ Jess chimes in with an extra tip.

How to paint around a radiator

Blue-painted living room with a large radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC/Oliver Gordon)

Once you’re done painting the surface behind the radiator with an angled brush or a roller, then you need to move onto carefully covering the spaces around the edges covered with the masking tape.

‘A slanted fitch brush and a pointed sash brush are handy for reaching around the pipes and cutting in neatly along the top of your skirting board,’ recommends Pat Gilham, painting and decorating expert at

‘It’s best to use a paint brush at first, as this is the best way to get the cutting in completed. Go slowly and carefully around the edges behind the radiator where it’s connected to the wall. It might take some peering in from different angles to ensure you’ve got it all,’ agrees Natalie.

Vlad of Taskrabbit recommends using long, even strokes and blending the new paint with the existing coat for a seamless finish.

When you’re finished, carefully remove the masking tape while the paint is still slightly wet resulting in cleaner edges.

Choosing your paint

Vanity with pink velvet chair and a large window

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Equipped with plenty of paint ideas, let’s focus on the actual paint for a second. While you are painting a wall so regular paint should work fine, you might find that a heat-resistant type of paint is needed if the previous coat is peeling off.

‘If your radiator’s previous paint job is looking slightly damaged or peeling, it’s worth considering using heat-resistant paint to repaint it. It’s important this paint is designed for high-temperature applications. The paint will come with specific manufacturer instructions for application and drying times so make sure these are followed,’ Vlad explains.

To remove or not to remove

A living room with a velvet sofa, graphic cushions, a wall print and a large radiator

(Image credit: Future PLC/Kasia Fiszer)

If you find it difficult to reach the wall behind your radiator, then you might consider removing the radiator for the duration of the task. While that is going to make the actual painting a lot easier, the actual removing and reinstalling is a lot of work that should not be underestimated.

‘Some think it would be better to remove the radiator to reach the wall, but whilst the painting would be easier, this would make the process much more difficult and can cause frustration. By removing a radiator you would need to note the pressure it works at, drain it and re-pressurise the system as well as remove and reattach it at the end,’ warns Jess of BestHeating.

Alternatively, Pat of suggests at least removing the radiator cover. ‘If you don’t want to go to the trouble of removing your radiator, you make it easier to reach behind it by removing the cover. Typically, this can be unhooked by twisting out any plastic fixings first and then pushing the side panels up carefully. You can then take off the top grille. The thermostat knobs should also unscrew.’

Even though that still sounds like a whole lot of effort. We think we’ll stick to our angled brushes and extra long-handled rollers.

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.