How to Clean a Radiator the Right Way

Learn all of the essential steps to keep this home heating system looking—and functioning—its best.

Woman with a dust stick cleaning central heating gas radiator at home

In the thick of winter, your radiator works hard to keep your home cozy and warm. But like most appliances, it requires routine cleaning and maintenance to ensure that it's operating safely and efficiently. We asked home and cleaning experts for their best tips for cleaning a radiator, including how to know when it's time to consult a professional.

Why It's Important to Clean Your Radiator

Simply put, cleaning your radiator is an essential practice to make sure that it stays running smoothly, which will actually save you money at the end of the day, says Mallory Micetich, a home expert at Angi. "When dust builds up on your radiator, the unit has to work harder to keep your home warm, causing an increase in your energy bills," she says. "A clean radiator will work properly and help lower your bills over time."

Cleaning Routine

Micetich recommends thoroughly cleaning the inside and outside of the radiator at least once every year to keep it in its best condition. "I recommend cleaning it before you turn it on for the first time each year, giving it a fresh start before the long, cold season," she says. "However, if you've never cleaned your radiator, it's a good idea to clean it as soon as possible."

During the seasons when your radiator is running more regularly, you should increase the cleaning cadence, says Kathy Cohoon, the director of franchise operations of Two Maids & A Mop. "The months you are running a radiator can be the dustiest of the year with windows closed up and air circulation at a low," she says. "To keep your radiator running well, keep your home toasty, and reduce airborne dust and allergy-inducing particles, be sure to give your radiator a quick, outside clean at least bi-weekly when you clean the rest of your home."

How to Clean Your Radiator

Micetich recommends covering any household items you have nearby to prepare for cleaning, since it can get dusty and messy once you get to work.

What You'll Need

  • Vacuum
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Radiator brush
  • Straw brush or toothbrush
  • Gentle dish soap

Follow our experts' tips to clean the radiators in your home:

  1. Turn off the radiator and let it cool down completely as a safety precaution.
  2. Begin by gently vacuuming in and around the radiator to get rid of dust and debris.
  3. Use a radiator brush to clean the interior and exterior of the fins and other small areas. (Although Micetich highly suggests using this tool, she says that you can use a microfiber cloth and a long stick if you don't have access to a radiator brush.)
  4. For stubborn, stuck-on debris inside the radiator, Micetich says to use a straw brush dampened with water to get it out. If you don't have one, you can use a toothbrush. Only clean as far as your hand can reach to prevent injury to yourself or damage to the radiator, says Cohoon.
  5. Target stains with a sponge or microfiber cloth dipped in warm water mixed with gentle dish soap. Cohoon warns against using harsher chemicals like bleach, which can cause fumes or damage to the radiator.
  6. Vacuum up excess dirt around the radiator and on the floor.
  7. Wipe down the radiator with a cloth lightly dampened with water and pat it dry.

When to Call in a Professional

If you have difficulty with any part of the radiator cleaning process, you should consider asking a professional for help. "If you don't have the time, tools, or talent to clean the radiator thoroughly, bring in a pro who can get the job done quickly and easily," says Micetich. "You should also bring in a pro if you've cleaned the radiator but it still isn't working properly."

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