I'm trying to refurbish a radiator which is in pretty poor shape. The paint was all cracked and yellowing, and having sanded it, there's rust patches underneath.

Radiator 1 Radiator 2

It's been painted badly in the past as well, so thick layers of paint have pooled at the bottom and are proving very hard to remove with sandpaper. I've already used several applications of paint stripping gel, which also no longer appears to be having much of an effect.

Radiator 3

1) How can I tidy this up to get a nice smooth finish? As I say, sandpaper is proving hard. Is there some way I can more easily remove or smooth off the remaining paint, especially in the awkward fiddly areas?

2) I have some anti-rust primer - will that be OK to use over existing rust? Here's what I have: Radiator Primer & Paint Can I just use 1 coat of the primer, followed by 1 coat of the Hammerite on existing rust as in the pictures?


  • 1
    Does the can of primer say anything about painting over rust?
    – longneck
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 16:24
  • The only thing I can find is in the preparation it mentions "brush or sand to remove any loose rust", which of course suggests it's OK, but then in another section it mentions "ensure surface is free of oil, grease, dust, dirt or other contaminants". It almost looks like they're trying to suggest it could be used directly on rust without actually guaranteeing it'll work!
    – Octopoid
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 17:10
  • 1
    Standard reminder for and paint removal project: if you don't know otherwise, assume there's a risk of lead paint. Avoid ingesting paint dust; definitely avoid leaving it where small creatures (pets, kids...) can ingest it. Occasional exposure won't kill an adult -- my grandfather, who was a housepainter, developed a fine case of "painter's shakes" from lead poisoning but lived to old age in good health otherwise -- but lead does Bad Things to developing brains, and smaller critters are affected by smaller doses.
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 19:45
  • Thanks @keshlam, very good advice indeed - my last house was a 1800s cottage which had been renovated and extended many times over the decades. It was absolutely chock full of / coated in various terrible things, which made any renovation work both difficult and terrifying. I think in the current house the paint should be OK as it was built in the early 70s (although asbestos in the Artex is still a worrying possibility) - but I think as you suggest I'll stick with assuming it's all full of horror - closed door, open window, face mask, clean everything up when done!
    – Octopoid
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 20:15
  • @longneck - I've just noticed it says "Apply directly to rust" right on the front of the can! I went straight for the small print on the back..
    – Octopoid
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 20:20

2 Answers 2


I have used a wire-wheel on an electric drill to remove loose paint and rust from a radiator. It can be hard work but you can get down to bright clean steel using those tools. Your case looks extreme but I would try that to judge the effectiveness.

I would aim to remove all traces of rust. If there is too much rust for this to be practical, that might be a sign that it would be better to replace the radiator.

I note that many "Hammerite" products are designed to be painted onto rusty surfaces - I'd check the information on the tin.

I used aerosol cans of radiator primer and top-coat.

  • I know exactly the things - now you mention it, I think I might have one of those in a Dremel kit. I'll try that first. I can't find anything on the primer about painting directly to rust, so if this fails I think you're right - might have to be a new radiator. I guess glass half full - at least I can switch it for a double panel rad then if nothing else!
    – Octopoid
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 17:07

There are too many nooks and crannies there to get all of the paint and rust off by hand. There is bound to be paint drips on the backside where you can't reach, as well as on the inside. Radiators lose some efficiency once they are painted.

The proper way to restore it would be to disconnect it, and bring it to a shop that can blast off the remaining paint and scale and then powder coat it. This would be fairly expensive to do just one, but would be fairly cheap if you did several at a time. The good thing about powder coating is that it is resistant to heat, and won't crack or peel over time like most paints.

One other option is to get a replacement one. These type of radiators are fairly inexpensive, and may even be cheaper than having them restored. They come from the factory with a baked on finish, and most of them have guarantees that the paint won't come off. The newer one would also probably be more efficient. You might be able to get away with an even smaller unit.

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