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How to Remove Rust From a Radiator


Chances are, they manufactured your radiator from mild steel. Now, mild steel is good for radiator manufacturing. However, it’s also prone to rust.

Indeed, mild steel is the main material for most radiators. However, you must have noticed that your radiator has a shiny look to it. The “shininess” is because of the protective chrome plating. Besides looks, it also helps protect the radiator from rust.

Over the years, even the chrome plating will fail, rust will take over, and the once shiny surface will become dull and lifeless. Rust is an enemy of all metal appliances. Not only does it spoil the overall integrity of the object, but it also makes it ugly.

Should you replace your rusty radiator? It depends.

Yes, if the rust has deeply penetrated the surface and dealt considerable damage to the radiator’s structure. Nonetheless, that rarely happens unless your unit is literally falling apart before your eyes. Today, we’ll try and explain to you how to remove rust from your radiator.

Using vinegar

Vinegar is a wonder cleaner. In case you didn’t know, it’s among the best and cleaners you can use for simple DIY projects like this.  Its special cleaning abilities give it compatibility with most home surfaces. Luckily for you, it also works on chrome-plated surfaces. Vinegar’s acidic property is perfect for breaking down rust.

Take a clean piece of cloth, soak it in some vinegar, and scrub your radiator’s infected parts. Be patient. With enough effort, you should start seeing positive results.

Using aluminium foil

 Aluminium foil is the other shiny tool use you can use for rust removal. It isn’t magical. Aluminium foil is famous in chrome and pipe works. Aluminium is perfect for this task since it’s much softer than mild steel. On top of that, it easily reacts with other elements.

In this scenario, when you rub aluminium on mild steel, you’ll trigger a chemical reaction that will irritate and remove the rust layer.

We’re not referring to some rare kind of aluminium foil. You can use the regular aluminium foil you use in the kitchen for food preservation.

First, cut a sizeable amount of aluminium. Deep in some water. It doesn’t have to be a lot of water, just enough to make it wet. Water is very important in this procedure. Other than acting as a lubricant, it will help in Aluminium Oxide formation. The Oxide is the agent responsible for unsettling rust on your radiator’s surface.

Once the foil is wet enough, slowly rub it on the infected sections. You don’t have to be too hard on your radiator. Slowly but surely, you’ll start seeing some results.

Cleaning and buffing

So you’ve now successfully scraped the rust from your radiator. However, something seems wrong. You might have noticed some brown streaks on the chrome-plating. You do not need to worry. We’ll now explain how to remove those stains, so your radiator looks new.

First, take a clean piece of microfibre cloth and gently go over the surface. Take your time with this, and make sure you cover all spots. In some cases, you might need several pieces of cloth. Finally, once you’re done, you can apply some baby oil or car wax on the surface for that extra shine. Additionally, these chemicals will help protect the surface from reacting with the oxygen in the atmosphere.

Vinegar and oil aren’t the only necessities for this task. There are dozens of agents you can use for radiator rust removal. We advise you to consult with a professional before buying “cleansing” chemicals off the market. Also, remember to wear protective clothing like gloves. Some of these chemicals are dangerous.

How to prevent radiator rust

We agree with you. Prevention is always better than cure. Now that you’ve cleaned your radiator, how can you prevent future rust formation?

To understand rust prevention, you need some understanding of what causes radiator rust. Below are the two most common reasons for radiator rusting:

  • We sometimes tend to forget that our radiators heat our homes using steam. Therefore, moisture is always a threat. Water reacts with mild steel to produce an oxide called rust. You can prevent rust by preventing leaks.
  • Damaged chrome-plating: Besides beauty, the chrome-plating is also responsible for protecting the radiator’s mild steel from moisture and oxygen in the atmosphere. If the chrome-plating is damaged, it will allow for the reaction that causes rust.

How to stop and prevent radiator leaks

How does radiator sludge cause leaks?

Once sludge forms in your radiator, it tends to build up very fast since it slows water movement. Slowly but surely, the sludge will react with the inside of your radiator and cause rusting. The rust will then slowly eat the radiator creating tiny holes that cause leaks.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do as far as leak repairing is concerned. You have no choice but to contact a certified professional. They will diagnose your system and get to the bottom of every leak.

Is there a way to prevent radiator leaks?


You should frequently flush your radiator. Flushing is the act of forcing water through the radiator using a water hose. The water will rinse the radiator and remove any obstructing substances. Also, it will remove any sludge that was trying to build up.


Radiator rust is scary and unsightly. It’s like a disease trying to ravage your radiator. There are several rust-removal agents you can use like vinegar and aluminium foil. However, if it’s that bad, then we advise you to contact a certified Gas Safe engineer.

Finally, it’s recommended that you schedule at least two annual radiator maintenance checkups. They will help preserve your radiator and protect it from rust and other problems.

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