How To Make Old Hot Water Baseboard Radiators Look Brand New

If you've just moved into an older home with hot water baseboard radiators, you probably love the quiet heat these contraptions put out. However, many of these older baseboard heaters become rusty and dirty over time. With a certain amount of determined patience and few supplies, you can make them look brand new again. This guide explains how.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Supplies

To get started in making your baseboard heaters looking great again, turn off the heat and clear everything away from the area. Then gather these tools and supplies:

  • several towels
  • putty knife
  • old toothbrush
  • spray bottle
  • coarse sandpaper
  • anti-rust paint
  • paint brush

Step 2: Remove and Refinish the Covers

Take the covers off the baseboards and take them to a well-ventilated area. Inspect them for rust and use the putty knife to scrape it away. Use the sandpaper to sand the covers down, creating a smooth surface. Paint the covers with the anti-rust paint and let them sit to dry.  

Step 3: Cover the Floor

Place a couple layers of towels under the baseboard fins and pipes.

Step 4: Spray the Fins

Fill the spray bottle with water and set the nozzle to "stream" Then spray the fins and pipes. Use the toothbrush to scrub away stubborn dirt or debris. Wipe down the fins with a clean dry cloth, being careful not to bend them in the process. As the towels become too wet to soak up any more water, replace them with dry towels. Allow the fins and pipes to air dry.

Step 5: Repaint the Covers

Check the color of the covers and if you want the shade a little darker, apply another coat of paint and allow it to dry.

Step 6: Replace the Covers

Once the paint is dry and you are happy with the color, place them back over the fins and pipes. Clean up any remaining water from the floor. Turn the unit back on to ensure that it is still working properly. Keep in mind that hot water baseboard heaters take a while to heat up, so give it some time. 

Plan to spend several hours on this project depending on how rusty the covers are and how much dirt and debris is on the fins and pipes. Contact a plumber like Good Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning Inc. if you have any issues with this process or if you notice that the water is not flowing to the unit properly after you're finished cleaning them.