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How to remove rust from a white radiator

Rust on white radiators not only ruins the look of your stylish heaters, but it can also cause problems with how they work! In this guide we will explain what causes rusty radiators, how to remove rust on a white radiator and how to prevent radiators rusting in the future. 

Yes, it is perfectly safe to remove rust from your white radiators as long as you do it carefully. All you need to do is follow the methods in this guide and avoid using any harsh chemicals. To prolong the surface finish of a white radiator, you should also avoid using shard or abrasive tools or materials to remove rust. 

We would also advise keeping on top of cleaning your white radiators to keep them looking their best! Regularly wipe the surface with a damp soft cloth to remove any spills, marks and dust. Just remember to dry the radiator completely after cleaning or the remaining moisture may lead to rust on the radiator.

Does it matter which type of white radiator I have?

Whether you have a white column radiator, white designer radiator or a white cast iron radiator, we would recommend the same methods to remove rust. We use the same radiator care guide for each of our white radiator ranges.

Why is my white radiator rusting on the outside?

Radiator leaks and sludge are the two common causes of radiator rust on the outside surface. Here’s how the rust forms:

  • Radiator sludge – This thick black substance is a mixture of central heating water, dirt and metal particles from inside the radiator which causes a chemical reaction and forms rust over time. If sludge is not removed, the radiator will not heat up properly. Plus, the rust will corrode the metal interior and create small holes and leaks. Particularly at the bottom of the radiator where the heavy sludge settles. This is why the rust starts to appear on the outside of the radiator and ruins the appearance. Find out more about how to remove radiator sludge to prevent rust.


  • Radiator leaks – As we mentioned, leaks caused by sludge and radiator corrosion create rust when the water reacts with the metal. But leaks can also cause rust if a radiator is leaking around a valve or column section that needs to be tightened. Find out how to fix pinhole leaks in your radiator that are causing rust.

How to remove rust on a white radiator

If you do have a rusty white radiator, there are a couple of household items and top tips that you can try to remove the rust. The great thing about these methods is that you probably already have them at home to save you spending a fortune on cleaning products!

White vinegar

Take a bottle of white vinegar and pour it directly onto the rusty radiator. Wait a while for it to soak in, stubborn areas may take longer. Once the rust starts to dissolve, wipe it away with a microfiber cloth. If you still notice leftover rust, apply more white vinegar to the cloth and rub it down the radiator. 

Tin foil

If you have tried the white vinegar method on its own and the radiator rust will not dissolve, there is an extra top tip to try! Cut up strips of aluminium foil, dip them in white vinegar or water and place the strips on top of the radiator rust. 

Rub the tin foil gently over the corroded radiator then leave them in position. Use several strips if you need to cover a large area. Leave the strips on for as long as possible to allow the foil to chemically dissolve the iron oxide.

You will start to notice brown drips on the radiator as the rust becomes liquid. Make sure to catch these drips and clean the radiator with a microfibre cloth when this happens.

After a while, lift a strip of tin foil and check if most of the rust on your white radiator has dissolved. If you think the foil has done its job, remove the strips and wipe away the rest of the rust with your cloth.

Or, if you find that some of the rust still won’t come off, take a new piece of aluminum foil. Then scrunch it into a ball, dip it into more white vinegar and rub the rust in a circular motion. Clean any excess away with a cloth and soapy water.

rusty white radiator

Baking soda

Create a thick paste by combining baking soda and water. Spread the mixture onto the rust on the radiator and wait for it to set and dry. Then take a cloth or soft toothbrush and remove the mixture. As you clean the radiator, the rust should wipe away at the same time.

Lemon and salt

Citric acid and salt combined creates an ideal natural cleaner to remove rust from your white radiator. Simply sprinkle household salt over rusty areas. Then squeeze the juice of a lemon over the salt. Use extra salt and citrus juice for badly affected areas. 

The longer you leave the mixture to work its magic and dissolve the rust the better! Wait a couple of hours if the rust is very thick. After a while you might even be able to see the rust breaking down. At this point, use a cloth or soft toothbrush to gently clean the rust and leftover mixture off the radiator. 


If you have tried all of the mild cleaning methods, the last resort is sandpaper. Just be careful to avoid damaging the radiator paint. Use fine sandpaper ranging from 120- to 220-grit for very thick rust on a white radiator. 

If you are concerned about scratching the radiator finish, use an extra-fine sandpaper such as 240-grit to 600-grit. Remove the rust on the radiator by applying a gentle amount of pressure to the sandpaper and moving it over the rust in a circular motion.

How to prevent rust on white radiators

Now you know how to get rust off a white radiator, let’s look at how to prevent rust on radiators to future-proof your heating system.

Book an annual boiler service

One of the best ways to prevent radiators rusting and the most important thing to do to protect your heating system in general is to book an annual boiler service. During the service, the heating engineer will test your boiler and radiators to spot any signs of potential problems. Find out more in our boiler service guide.

Flush your radiators

If your radiators are rusting and they feel cold at the bottom, it is likely that they have a build up of sludge inside the radiator. Flushing your radiators will push the sludge out of the radiator. Not only will this help with preventing rusting, but it will also make your radiators more efficient and reduce running costs as the radiators will start to heat up correctly. You can try and do this yourself by taking the radiator outside and using the hosepipe to blast water through each side. 

Or, you can seek advice from your plumber who will have the specialist tools to do the job for you. If you find there is a large build up of sludge in the system, your plumber will have the specialist tools to perform a power flush to completely clean the radiators and pipes. Find out more in our heating system flush guide.

Use radiator inhibitor

An essential task to remember to prevent new radiators going rusty is to dose the central heating system with a suitable central heating corrosion protector containing an inhibitor. The inhibitor stops any internal corrosion of the radiators, pipework, and boiler that could lead to rust. 

By doing so, the inhibitor extends the life of the heating system and significantly reduces the need for expensive repairs and replacements.The inhibitor concentration level must be tested annually and topped up especially after any radiator leaks or repairs. If not, it may invalidate the radiator’s guarantee. Find out more in our radiator inhibitor guide.

Can I repaint my white radiator?

Yes, you can repaint your white radiator if you notice that the rust has removed the original surface finish. Just make sure that all of the rust has been removed first before you apply any paint. 

If the radiator is accidentally damaged or knocked, this could crack the radiator paint and expose the metal underneath. If this happens you should repaint the area to protect the exposed metal with a suitable white touch-up paint or clear lacquer to prevent the radiator from rusting. Take a look at our how to paint a radiator guide for more advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a few typical household items that can be used to help remove rust from white radiators, many of which you might find already tucked away in your kitchen cupboard.

White vinegar, baking soda, lemon and salt, tin foil and sandpaper are all key items to be used in cleaning and removing rust from white radiators.

To find out how to use these items for rust-free white radiators, take a look at our dedicated blog, How to remove rust from a white radiator.

Essentially, you can clean each type of white radiator following the same guidelines and using the same process. No matter if you are looking to clean up a white designer radiator, white column radiator or white cast iron radiator, the same method is recommended as detailed in our radiator care guide.

To find out more, browse our dedicated blog, How to remove rust from a white radiator.

Yes, it is possible to safely remove rust from a white radiator if taking the sufficient care in doing so. Just make sure you don’t use any harsh chemicals, and also avoide the use of sharp or abrasive tools and materials when tackling rust.

What’s more, it is recommended to regularly clean white radiators to keep them looking sparkling. You should do so by wiping down the surface with a soft damp cloth to get rid of dust, marks and stains. Be sure to dry down the radiator properly after doing so, then remaining moisture doesn’t transform into rust or corrosion.

For a more detailed insight, explore our blog, How to remove rust from a white radiator.

Looking for a new white radiator?

If you have tried all of our top tips to remove rust from your white radiator but you have not had any luck, it might be time for a new one! Our white radiators are anything but boring. We have curated a collection in white to suit every style home including everything from modern designs, classic columns, vertical statement features and efficient electric options. Find your new favourite white radiator.

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