Can You Paint A Radiator With Emulsion?

Written By: Edward Bailey | Updated:
painting radiator with emulsion
Edward Bailey/DIY Works

Whether you’ve got a standard, designer or cast-iron radiator, giving it a fresh lick of paint can make a huge difference. Although using a dedicated radiator paint is recommended, it is possible to use an emulsion if needs be.

Why Using Emulsion To Paint A Radiator Isn’t Advised?

When it comes to painting a radiator, emulsion paint may not be the best choice. This is primarily because it isn’t heat resistant, which means that when the radiator heats up, the paint may blister and peel. If the emulsion upon your radiator begins to do this, it’ll eventually chip or flake off and you’ll find yourself frequently cleaning the area near the radiator.

Another issue with using emulsion paint on a radiator is that it isn’t durable enough. This is an important factor because radiators are often located in high-traffic areas and are frequently touched, which can cause the paint to chip or flake.

Is It Possible To Paint A Radiator With Emulsion?

Although using emulsion has its complications, it is still possible to use it if you really want to. Therefore, if you decide to use emulsion paint on a radiator, we would recommend using the best quality emulsion paint you can get your hands on and follow our steps below which are based on my own experience:

1. Prep The Surface

The first step in painting a radiator with emulsion paint is to prepare the surface. This includes cleaning the radiator thoroughly and removing any old paint or rust. The best way of doing this is to use a wire brush or sandpaper and finishing up by wiping the radiator down with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris.

2. Prime The Radiator

Once the radiator is clean, you’ll need to prime it because this’ll help the emulsion paint to adhere better and also help to prevent rust from forming. Ideally, you’ll want to use a primer that’s specifically designed for use on metal surfaces.

3. Apply The Emulsion Paint

After the radiator is primed, you can then apply the emulsion paint with either a small paint brush or paint roller. To apply the paint to the radiator, ensure that you work in small sections and use light, even strokes to avoid drips or runs.

4. Allow The Paint To Dry

Allow the radiator to dry completely after the paint is applied, which will usually take around 24 hours.

5. Apply A Second Coat & Let It Dry Again

After the first coat of paint is dry, you can apply a second coat. This will help to ensure a more even coverage and a better finish. You’ll then want to let it completely dry before using the radiator, which again will take around 24 hours.

6. Reinstall The Radiator (If Taken Off)

If you took the radiator off to paint it, you can proceed to reinstalling it as long as the paint has fully dried out.

can you paint radiator with emulsion
Edward Bailey/DIY Works

What’s The Recommend Paint For Radiators?

If you want to paint a radiator and achieve a great, durable finish, we would recommend using an alternative paint to emulsion. Ideally, you should use a paint that’s dedicated for radiators but if not, other options include the following:

  • High temperature paint: This type of paint is specifically designed for use on high-temperature surfaces and will be able to withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees (in most cases).
  • Epoxy paint: Although epoxy is a two part paint that requires mixing beforehand, it’s extremely durable and resistant to chipping and flaking.
  • Enamel paint: Enamel paint is also suitable for use on radiators because its heat resistant and durable. It can also provide a similar finish to gloss paint as it’ll dry to a hard, glossy finish.
  • Heat-resistant aerosol spray paint: If you want to quickly and easily paint your radiator, a heat-resistant aerosol may also be an option.

It’s important to note that before applying any paint to a radiator, it should be completely cleaned, sanded and primed to ensure the new paint adheres properly and lasts longer.


Hopefully the above guide has walked you through everything you need to know regarding the use of emulsion on radiators. However, if you require further information, feel free to get in touch and we will try to help out where possible.

When it comes to painting radiators, personally I wouldn’t use emulsion but instead a dedicated radiator paint. However, if you have an emulsion that you really want to use, our step-by-step guide should help you to achieve a good finish.

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