Can you paint radiators with satinwood?

by Sam Wood | Last Updated: 23/02/2021

So you’re contemplating giving those old radiators a lick of paint to bring them back to life. Maybe you’ve seen the price of specialist radiator paints and are wondering if that tin of satinwood you have will do the job? Or perhaps you have found the perfect colour but only available in satinwood paint, either of these two options will have led you to wonder can you paint radiators with satinwood? Well, you’re a lucky sod, because we have done the research for you!

can you paint a radiator with satinwood

can you paint a radiator with satinwood

Yeah, yeah, enough of the fluff, can I paint them?

Yes, you can paint radiators with satinwood. Satinwood gives a reasonably tough finish making it great for use in high wear areas like radiators. It also handles changes in heat relatively well, making it great for use on radiators.

Oil or water-based satinwood?

Much like gloss, satinwood is available in both water and oil-based formats. So which one will make the best choice for you? Well, I will give you the pros and cons of water-based and oil-based paints so you can hopefully make the correct decision for you.

Pros of water-based paint

  • Easy to clean up brushes and equipment once done – just clean with water.
  • Less dangerous fumes

Cons of waterbased paint

  • Tends to be quite thin – meaning multiple coats are needed.
  • Can be harder to achieve a perfect finish

Pros of oil-based paints

  • More robust finish
  • Goes on thicker – meaning fewer coats needed overall

Cons of oil-based paints

  • Hard to clean up after – need turps or specialist cleaners
  • Yellows over time
  • more dangerous fumes when compared to water-based paints
  • Could give off a smell when your radiator heats up

How to paint your radiator with satinwood

So now you have decided that you will be using satinwood paint and maybe you have even decided whether to use oil-based or water-based satinwood. Your thoughts will no obviously turn to just exactly how to paint your radiators. Once again we are your saviours, after painting many radiators over the years we have laid out a step by step guide below. Follow this guide and you won’t go far wrong.


As always with DIY, preparation is king. Fail to prepare – prepare to fail and all that. To achieve a really good finish you need to do the boring work first, sanding, cleaning and all that other stuff.

Step 1 – Turn off the radiator

This may seem really simple but many people forget this step and inadvertently end up trying to paint hot radiators, this will severely hamper the paint as you apply it. So, first things first, turn off the radiator. Also while doing this ensure you have ample ventilation, maybe crack a window if this is possible.

Step 2 – Clean the radiator

Use sugar soap if you have some or if not warm water and washing up liquid will work fine. Use a sponge or cloth and give it a really good scrub. Elbow grease applied here will really show through in the end sop don’t be afraid to get stuck in. You want to get into every little nook and cranny you can and remove all dust, grease and grime.

Step 3 – Sanding

Now you will want to sand the surface of the radiator. We do this for a couple of reasons. one it roughens up the surface of the radiator giving a better surface for the paint to stick or “key” to. Second, it removes any blemishes or imperfections in the previous finish allowing for a perfectly flat surface to paint to.

You will want to use medium grit sandpaper for this, you don’t want a low grit which is going to be really rough, neither do you want a really high grit that will not remove enough material and just end up polishing the surface. Somewhere between 150 and 200 works well for me.

Step 4 – Clean (Again!)

Now you will have created a ton of dust, much of which will be sat on the surface of your radiator. So before you go cracking open that paint tin it is essential you give the radiator another clean. I know no-one likes to do this, but it is a really essential step. Use sugar soap and a damp cloth if available, if not then warm water will work fine.

Step 5 – Prime (possibly)

Now you may need to prime your radiator with a specialist primer. I really only advocate this if you have an older radiator that is showing signs of rust. An anti-rust primer will seal this rust in and help to stop it from getting any worse. If you have a rusted radiator and don’t do this then the rust will “beeld” through to the surface layers. If your radiator is in good condition then you can skip this step.

Step 6 – Paint

Now it is finally time to paint your radiator with satinwood paint! After all that prep work you don’t want to mess it up now. So to avoid disaster just go slow and steady. Don’t add too much paint to your brush and slap it all on at once, if you do you are just asking for runs in your finish.

Paint in the direction of the grooves on the face of your radiator as this will help to improve the finish. You may find you need more than one coat, don’t worry if so. Just let the paint dry properly before applying the second coat. One dry I like to give the radiator a quick rub down with some wire wool followed by a quick clean. This will give your next coat fo paint a better surface to stick to.

If you are going from a light finish to a dark finish or inversely a dark finish to light then you may find you need a good few coats before the radiator is finished.

Other radiator finishes

We are on YouTube!

Subscribe to The Bloke Cave on YouTube to get notified everytime a new video goes live!

Wood by name, wood by nature. I am a fully qualified, time-served, award-winning joiner with an NVQ Level 3 in Carpentry and Joinery as well as an HNC in Construction. Beyond my joinery qualifications, I have also earned a degree in building surveying. I believe these qualifications make me perfectly positioned to provide expert advice on many different areas of DIY as well as share all of the tips I have picked up in over a decade working on building sites!