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Can you paint a radiator with gloss?

Painting your radiators is a great way to brighten up any room. Even just going over with a fresh coat of white paint can really help to transform your room.

But can you use good old gloss to paint your radiators? Or do you need a specialist paint? Read on to find out.

Radiators painted in bright colours
Radiators painted in bright colours

Can you paint radiators with gloss?

Yes, you can, but specialist radiator paints exist for a few reasons. If you are just painting one or two radiators and you already have some gloss lying around then sure go ahead, but you could face issues down the line. If you are planning on painting a few radiators or need to go out and buy a new paint tin then I would recommend paying the premium for radiator paint.

What are the potential pitfalls?

While gloss will go onto a radiator just fine there are a few pitfalls you could run into down the line. If you are going to paint your radiator with gloss then you do need to be aware of these potential pitfalls.


If you do use gloss then you may notice that the radiator will start letting off a faint chemical smell when it gets hot. This doesn’t always happen and will vary depending on the gloss used. However, it is definitely something to be aware of and is one of the potential issues with using regular gloss on radiators.


Gloss will also tend to peel before you would expect dedicated radiator paint to do so. This doesn’t mean it will start peeling straight away and it can last many years before doing so, however, it is likely to happen at some point. You can delay this by properly prepping the radiator before you begin painting it, this is something we will jump into later in our how-to paint a radiator with gloss guide which you can find a little further into this article.


White gloss on a radiator will yellow, this much is certain. However depending on the gloss used it can happen quite quickly, i.e after only a few months. If you are planning on painting your radiators with gloss I would advise using a high-quality gloss.

How to paint a radiator with gloss

So we have ascertained that you can paint a radiator with gloss, but how do you paint a radiator with gloss? Follow the steps below and you will have no problems achieving a high level of finish.


The first step is to make sure the radiator is off and has had a chance to cool down!

You will want to give the radiator a good clean and sanding before you even think about painting it. I like to give the radiator a quick clean first to remove any of the worst dirt and grime. I will then go through and begin sanding the radiator.

With sanding, you are not trying to fully remove any old paint and take it back to metal. You just want to rough the surface up a little to give the paint a much better surface to stick to.

High Grit Sandpaper
High Grit Sandpaper

Using high grit sandpaper, somewhere around 240 grit, you will want to go over the entire radiator. Depending on your radiator design it may be tough to get into the troughs on the front of the radiator, I have found folding a piece of sandpaper to help you get into these dips can work really well.

Now I give the radiator a real clean, I like to do this proper clean after the sanding as it will remove all of the dust and debris from the sanding work. Use sugar soap and a cloth to clean the radiator here.

Sugar Soap
Sugar Soap

The last step before painting is to lay down some sort of cover over your flooring before beginning. Use some form of sheeting, it really doesn’t matter what, as long as you are not worried about it getting paint splatters on it. Gloss paint is incredibly hard to remove from carpet in particular so a little time spent here can save you a massive headache down the line.

Cover Everything With Dust Sheets
Cover Everything With Dust Sheets

Paint the radiator

Now it is finally time to paint the radiator with your gloss. With gloss, it is important to go slowly and build up layers. If you put too much paint on at once you will get runs, and once they have started runs are hard to keep on top of. So just put a little paint on the brush at a time and don’t worry if the paint doesn’t cover the radiator perfectly. Just do a few coats until you achieve the perfect finish.

With gloss paint, you will need special cleaners to clean your brushes and equipment. All DIY stores sell special paintbrush cleaners as well as turpentine.


What other paints can I use on a radiator?

There are specialist radiator paints specifically designed for this purpose. Apart from that, you can use metal paints, such as Hammerite, satinwood paint, or even regular emulsion. Please note that with emulsion you may need to also use a heat resistant sealer.

if you want to use proper radiator spray paint then check out our how to paint a radiator guide.

Can I re-paint a radiator?

Yes, you certainly can. If the old paint is flaking quite badly then remove as much as possible of the old paint before repainting. You can sand it down to remove the old paint.

Can I paint radiator pipes?

Again yes, and why not. If you are painting the radiator you might as well paint the pipes leading to it at the same time. This will be easier if they are copper, if they are the newer plastic pipes then you may struggle to get your paint to adhere well to these pipes. Whatever you do, don’t sand plastic pipes as you may cause a leak!

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