Can You Paint A Radiator With Emulsion?

If your radiator is an eyesore, painting it is a great option. This can help it blend in with your decor to be as inconspicuous as possible, or it can make it stand out as an accent or flair of colour to liven up a room. And if you’ve just finished painting your walls, you might be wondering whether you can paint a radiator with emulsion or not.

The aim of today’s article is to answer that question as well as provide some useful tips and tricks should you decide to paint your radiator with emulsion.

Can You Paint A Radiator With Emulsion?

Yes, painting a radiator with an emulsion is possible, but it can be tricky. The most important thing is to make sure you thoroughly prepare the surface before painting, so you get optimal adhesion from the paint.

What Happens If You Use Emulsion On Radiators

Whether you want your radiator to blend in or stand out, painting it with emulsion paint is an easy and affordable way to transform your heater and make it fit in with your space a bit better. You may be wondering if regular paint will work on your radiator. 

Many homeowners have extra paint leftover from putting a fresh coat on their walls or ceilings. It’s really tempting to use the same paint to freshen up your radiator, but are emulsions able to stand up to the functionality of a radiator? Generally speaking, yes, you can use emulsion on your radiator, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Heat Damage

One of the biggest downsides to using emulsion on a radiator is that the high heat levels may cause damage to the paint over time. The temperatures can lead to the paint drying out and eventually cracking, peeling, or chipping away.

The good news is, you may be able to prevent heat damage. In most cases, as long as you take the proper steps to prepare your radiator beforehand and seal the paint with a high-quality radiator sealant, you shouldn’t run into any problems.

Lead Exposure

Before repainting a radiator that’s in an older home, keep in mind that lead paint is common in older buildings, as lead paint wasn’t banned in the UK until 1992. If your home was constructed during the timeframe that lead paint was commonly used, you should be able to pick up a home test at your local hardware store or cheaply online to test your radiator for lead.

Alternatively, you can contact a professional to come in and do the test for you.

If your radiator does have lead paint, you will need to proceed with caution. Make sure you do not disturb the paint, meaning it should not be scraped, sanded, chipped, or anything else that can release harmful particles into the air.

The good news is that you can cover lead paint with emulsion, as long as you take proper safety precautions, including keeping children away from the worksite. Although, we would suggest avoiding emulsion entirely if you need to paint over lead paint as it’s simply not going to be durable in the long run.

Best Way to Paint Radiator With Emulsion 

If you are planning on using an emulsion coating to paint your radiator, follow this simple step-by-step process to ensure you get the most durable, lasting finish possible.

Step 1: Degrease

Oil, grease, dust, and grime of all sorts will stop any paint from adhering for long. There are commercial degreasers or cleaners you can buy just about anywhere, or you make your own. Use mild dish soap and warm water solution to be sure that the radiator has the years of gunk fully removed. 

Step 2: Sand

The next thing you need to do is roughen up the surface, and remove any loose paint or debris that may be hanging on. Work from coarse sandpaper to fine, and make sure you get all of the crevices that you can. Don’t try to use a sander, this is elbow grease time, your electric sander will probably not be able to get into the radiator’s contours as effectively as your hands and fingers. 

Step 3: Dust Down and Rinse

Once you have gotten the radiator sanded down smooth, and the surface is ready to be painted, you will need to get all of the debris and dust off. First, wipe the whole radiator down with a damp cloth. This will help remove larger dust deposits. Then give the whole radiator a good rinse, and let it completely dry.

Step 4: Prime

Now that the surface is prepped, you will need to prime it. Commercially available radiator primers will further prepare the surface and provide even more adhesion for the final coat of paint. If your radiator is an antique, the primer will also seal and stop rust. You can get primer either in a spray or a brush-on coating, depending on your preference. 

Step 5: Paint

Once the primer is completely dry, and the room is aired out of all those VOCs, wipe it down once more to remove any potential dust before your topcoat. If it’s a custom colour, be sure it is mixed well and the colour that you want before applying. For your top coat of paint, you should always take the time and effort to apply brush-on paint.

Be sure you do not overload the brush with paint, it will lead to a very thick and uneven coating consistency. However, try not to paint while the brush is not wet enough, as it will dig brush marks into your finish. You will want to run the brush in the same direction as the vanes or fins of the radiator, to avoid an uneven or drippy appearance on the dried surface.

Step 6: Seal

The final step is to cover your freshly painted, but fully dry, radiator with a sealant designed to withstand the heat that your radiator puts off. You can find a variety of high-temperature spray sealants that are designed to withstand temperatures of up to 1100 degrees celcius. You will likely find the sealant with automotive paint.

For a more specific breakdown of painting a radiator, visit our ‘How to Paint a Radiator‘ article.

Final words

Whether your goal is to have your radiator blend in with the rest of your room or have it reflect your personal style, using your leftover emulsion paint is a perfectly viable choice although our preference would be to use a specific radiator paint.