Hot Topics: Removing Lead Paint from Radiators

Lead Image for Hot Topics: Removing Lead Paint from Radiators

Here on we enjoy providing a place where home improvement novices and experts can come together to share ideas and advice. Inside our Forums, users can browse threads to see what exchanges are taking place on a topic of interest or start their own dialogue by posting something for the community to take part in. With over 250,000 members and counting, this resource is quite active so each week we highlight one of the conversations that may just help you with that next DIY project.

When you paint your radiator, it can limit how much heat is emitted. The best thing to do is find a way to remove as much paint as possible to get back to the original structure. However, when dealing with lead paint, you have to be careful about how you go about the paint removal.

Here are the ideas of other DIYers to get your radiators back on track.

Original Post: Removing Paint from Radiators

Critical Mass Member

I'm building a nice radiator cover for our fixer-upper, but the problem is that the radiator (as well as others) has been painted numerous times, the last time this ugly light pinkish color, which has been peeling off.

We were able to pick off about 1/3 of the paint, and scrape off a little more, but the going is getting rough. We don't necessarily need to get it off the back, just enough so that the ugly pink doesn't show through.

Other than sandblasting, is there a better way? It's probably lead paint, so I'm thinking that maybe a heat gun with good ventilation and a respirator might be the best way.

The primary goal was to remove the peeling and chipping paint so that we could go over it with a silver paint. Then it was pointed out that paint on radiators inhibits the heat from getting out, so it's better to leave them unpainted. So, even if we paint it silver, we figure it would be better to get rid of as much of the old paint as possible.

Highlights from the Thread

stickshift Group Moderator

If it is lead paint, you cannot use a heat gun as that will aerosolize the lead.

cwbuff Member

I would look for an auto body shop to sandblast the radiators. You might even get a deal on getting them painted.

Furd Member

Sandblasting would NOT be my preference if they have leaded paint. If you are willing to remove the radiators (which you would have to do to sandblast) then finding a furniture refinisher or large auto repair (machine) shop that has a "hot tank" where the entire radiator is immersed in a hot, caustic bath would remove ALL the paint.

Problems that can arise include the physical work involved in removing and re-installing the radiators as well as finding a facility that has, and is willing to do, the hot tank. Leaded paint sludge/remains IS a hazardous waste and the cost of disposal is not trivial.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

While any non lead paint on top of the lead paint can be sanded - it's not a good idea to sand lead based paint!!! While a respirator would protect you while sanding, any lead dust that is left behind can still be toxic. The two main dangers of lead paint is ingesting chips and inhaling the dust!

Why have you discounted using chemical strippers?

Critical Mass Member

I haven't, sir :-) I just assumed that since you were the only one who recommended a "peel away stripper" it might not be a good answer.

What type? A gel?

stickshift Group Moderator

Even if he's the only one, anything Mark recommends is something I would put on my list to try.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Peel away strippers are preferred for lead paint removal because it's easier to contain the lead debris but any chemical stripper will work. The biggest issue with stripping radiators is all the angles and hard to get to areas. Personally I'm not sure I'd go to that much trouble. IMO removing the loose paint and apply a fresh coat is probably good enough.

Read more: