How to Clean Your Radiators and Baseboard Heaters

clean baseboard heater

How often do you clean your heating appliances? A clean heater doesn’t just look nice it also works more efficiently. And if it works more efficiently it’s using less fuel.
But how do you clean a radiator or baseboard? It’s easy…

Tips for Cleaning Your Radiator

  • Put newspaper on the floor beneath the radiator and against the wall behind it – this will protect those surfaces while you’re cleaning.
  • If you have an air compressor (perhaps for inflating your car tires or air bed) you can use it to blow out the dust from hard-to-reach corners. If you don’t have a compressor, try using a hair-dryer, or ‘compressed air in a can’ from any office supply store.
  • Once the dust has been loosened, vaccuum it out using a narrow nozzle or radiator brush.
  • If necessary, clean the radiator (and the wall and floor) with warm soapy water. Don’t use an abrasive cleaner as you may damage the radiator’s surface finish.
  • Turn the radiator back on.

Tips for Cleaning Your Baseboard Heater

  • Turn your thermostat down to its lowest setting or ‘off.’
  • Remove the front cover of the baseboard.
  • Make sure you have good air flow beneath the fin tubing  – is it free of carpet edging, kids’ toys, etc?
  • Using a brush nozzle vaccuum the fin tubing along its entire length and on all sides.
  • Inspect the fin tubing. If any of it is damaged it won’t be working properly. But you don’t have replace it – just gently straighten out the damaged aluminum fins with a putty knife or similar flat tool. The aim is to re-establish uniform spacing between the fins.
  • Re-attach the front cover making sure the louver vents on the top of the baseboard are open.
  • Reset the thermostat.

For maximum efficiency both radiators and baseboards should be cleaned at least once at the beginning of the season and then again mid season, more often if you have dogs or cats.

Comments 10

  1. Darlene

    Just purchased a home with baseboard heaters and when we turned the heat on my eyes burned very badly. Could this just be a cleaning issue?

    1. Jenny Marshall

      Hi Darlene
      Yes, usually cleaning the baseboards will sort this problem. However, if there is antifreeze in the system a leak can also cause irritation to the eyes. We would suggest you start by cleaning the heaters but if the problem persists you may want to get the lines tested for leaks. We hope you’re enjoying your new home.

  2. Jeanmarie Skurka

    I have old baseboard electric heating attached permanently on the walls . There is no way to get them apart. I have had horrendous smell. I’ve tried everything for 2 yrs.. I dread turning the heat on this yr. . I would appreciate any tips to clean them without removing the covers. I’m totally out of idea’s.

    1. Jenny Marshall

      Hi Jeanmarie
      Yes, it’s frustrating when you have a heater that cannot be taken apart for cleaning. Unfortunately there is no perfect solution but if you haven’t done so already you could give this a try:
      Turn off the power (this is important!).
      Get a radiator brush (available at Home Depot or other hardware stores… choose one that will fit under the cover of your heater) and brush as much of the dust off the fins etc as possible. If you can, work from below the heater as air is drawn into it through the bottom and thus this will be the dirtiest area. Some dust and other dirt will fall out, some will merely be loosened. Once you have dislodged as much as you can with the brush vacuum out any residual dust using a hose attachment. Good luck!

  3. Annette Maffeo

    Yes having problems with pet hair and dander on baseboard heating element. Can I wash down the heating element with soap and water after I vacuum it. I know the outside of baseboard can be washed but where the fins are can I wash that too?

    1. Jenny Marshall

      Yes! You can surely wash the fins as well. After removing the cover, carefully vacuum out the heater and then you can wash the fins with soap and water. HOWEVER, when you do this, exercise caution as the fins are extremely sharp AND will bend under pressure.

  4. Linda

    I have a smell coming from the baseboard heater in the bathroom. Can it be from the dampness in the room? And any ideas on how to get rid of the smell?

  5. Dee

    I have recently moved into an apartment where the basesboards were never cleaned. I also need to install new baseboards so have broken covers. Is there someone I can hire to do that. Can we just get all new baseboards

  6. Rich Conrad

    Water Boiler System. Does anyone know if I am supposed to do anything before turning this furnace on? Am I supposed to drain the water? Any info will help

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