How to Clean Baseboard Heaters?

Carolina Evans
Carolina Evans
Research Writer
Holds a Master’s degree in Engineering and is keen on her own home’s climate. Sometimes we think that Carolina owns every single product she writes about – that’s ho read more
Reviewed By
Richard Powell
Richard Powell
Expert Consultant
For 8 years, Richard had been working as an HVAC specialist and AC unit installer since his student years. Now, he’s our main consultant on every technical aspect that may read more
Last updated: August 16, 2023 is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

While it is true that central heating is the most popular method of warming a living space, there are still many homes and living spaces that use electric or hot water radiators. These might be old, but they are still highly efficient. If you have these appliances in your home, you need to ensure that they are running very efficiently once the weather gets cold.

Now, dirty electric baseboard heaters not only make your space look ugly, but the dirt and debris will affect how well it works. In this post, we will see how to clean baseboard heaters. Fortunately, the process of cleaning is quite easy and straightforward; hence anyone can do it regardless of previous knowledge or know-how.

Why it is important to clean baseboard heaters

How to Clean Baseboard Heaters?

No one really enjoys cleaning baseboard heaters, especially if these come with grooves that are hard to reach to clean. However, this article contains tricks and tips that can make it easier. Why should you know how to clean baseboard heaters?

Well, it is important to have clean baseboard heaters because a dirty baseboard can affect the appearance of a room. Clean baseboards offer the illusion of a cleaner space, and a dirty baseboard offers quite the opposite effect.

Aside from the cleanliness of the room or apartment, dust is a big problem in heaters. If your baseboard heaters are not clean, you will find yourself cleaning your room more often than usual. Additionally, the accumulated dust can reduce the amount of heat that passes through the grooves of the baseboard heater, which invariably will affect the comfort of your home in the winter.

Another reason to clean the baseboard heater is that it can cause black marks on the walls. This phenomenon is referred to as thermal tracking. It appears in the form of dirty streaks above the wall of the baseboard heater. In most cases, it is caused by dirt, dust or soot from pets, smoke and other things. These are spread by the heating cycle of a dirty baseboard heater.

You can see, therefore, that keeping your baseboard heater clean is very important. It is a matter of cleanliness and can affect your comfort.

Before we delve into how to clean a dirty baseboard heater, it is important to consider how often you should clean out your baseboard heater.

How Baseboard Heaters work

Before you know how to clean and maintain your baseboard heater, it is important that you realize the way this appliance works.

These appliances produce quite a fair amount of heat; however, despite all their fluster, they are quite simple and have a simple working principle.

First, you should note that these appliances don’t have any moving parts. This definitely makes your cleaning more straightforward. If you remove the outer panel of the appliance, you will discover that it has a heating element coiled all around the shaft.

This heating element is what produces the heat. When the heater is switched on, the electric current passes through this element and is transformed from electrical energy to heat energy. This current leads to a heating of the cold air entering the unit, and as hot air is lighter than cold air, it rises and spreads around the room.

Convection current is the term for this process in which the hot air rises across the room.

As the working principle shows, there are no moving parts; hence, if you are allergic to dust and other airborne particles, you will likely love using a baseboard heater.

The appliance is called a baseboard heater because it lies close to the baseboards of your apartment.

Since these appliances lie pretty close to the floor, you can be sure that cold air that settles to the floor will be sucked in and heated, thus warming up the room very efficiently.

How often should a baseboard radiator be cleaned?

How to Clean Baseboard Heaters?

An electric baseboard heater comes with an electrical heating element enclosed in a metal pipe. When the heater is switched on, an electric current passes through the aforementioned heating element. Now, the electric current will always result in heat, but the dust and dirt in the heating system can affect the amount that circulates through the space. This results in different problems, including having to run the heater for longer to release enough heat to warm the room.

We recommend regular cleaning. If you do not have the time to clean every month, we advise that you carry out thorough cleaning at least once a year. The best time to do this is usually in the fall. Remove as much dust as possible using a vacuum or a brush attachment.

By following this advice of thoroughly cleaning at least once a year, your baseboard heater will work better and last longer, enhancing the appearance of the room and your personal comfort.

What will you need to clean a dirty baseboard heater?

There are several things that you will need to clean your baseboard heater effectively. These include:

  • A vacuum
  • Soft brush attachment
  • A soft cloth
  • Pliers ( needle nose)
  • Soft paintbrush

Before you begin cleaning, it is important to realize that there are different types of baseboard heaters, and each one will require different cleaning methods.

How to clean your Baseboard Heater

In this section, we will take a systematic look at how you can clean the baseboard heater. 

Accessing the Unit

Before cleaning commences, you need to first access the parts to clean. 

Step 1: Switch off the radiator

Before you even begin anything, it is important that you shut down the heater. Turn down your thermostat too just to ensure that the temperature remains low. Some heaters use hot water to produce heat; hence you should be careful with the water.

  • Ensure the heater is cool before you open it
  • If it has water in it, ensure that the water isn’t circulating hot water anymore 

Step 2: Remove obstacles

Before you begin work, you should make your environment free from obstacles. Remove obstacles like furniture, curtains or any other things that can get in the way of your cleaning. 

Step 3: Remove the cover

Now we are getting to the main part. You need to remove the faceplate or front panel of the baseboard heater. You can remove it by pulling the cover from the bottom. Ensure it is cool before removal so as not to burn yourself. 

Step 4: Look for the heater fins

Check inside the baseboard heater to find the grooves or fins. These are essential parts that diffuse the heat the unit produces. When these are dirty, it will affect the amount of heat transmitted across the room. 

Step 5: Clean the interior of the baseboard heater

Remember the vacuum we mentioned earlier? Now is its time to shine. After opening the heater, use the vacuum cleaner to remove the dust and debris trapped in the unit. On it own the vacuum might not be completely effective, especially if the interior has a complex and irregular construction. In such cases, you can add a brush attachment to remove the dust and debris for the vacuum to suck up.

If you do not have a vacuum available, you can use a regular brush, although this will be more cumbersome than using the vacuum. 

Step 6: Clean the exterior

Use the vacuum to clean the external parts of the heater. Clean the pipes, fins and other parts. Go over all these parts until you are satisfied with the result. 

Step 7: Use a paintbrush for hard-to-reach areas

You might need the paintbrush to reach spots that the bristles of the brush cannot reach. 

Step 8: Clean the cover

The cover should not be neglected. Therefore, you should scrub the insides of the cover, removing dirt and debris.

You might be tempted to use water to clean, but don’t. It can cause the cover to rust. 

Step 9: Replace the cover

When done, replace the cover.

Maintaining your Baseboard Heater

In this section, we will consider the ways that you can maintain your heater to make it last for a long time.

From what we have discussed above, it is quite clear that these appliances are simple to clean. Let’s see some of the ways you can maintain your appliance.

Dust & Debris

It goes without saying that keeping your baseboard heater free from dirt and debris is an important way of maintaining it.

The best thing you can do to keep the dust and dirt away is by keeping the environment of the appliance clean and free from dust.

It might not appear so, but you might be shocked by how easy it is for debris to find its way into the heater. If you have kids or pets, you should be prepared for such an eventuality. Children are notoriously curious and will enjoy playing with holes, hiding places and strange things: all of which baseboard heaters serve as. Therefore, if you cannot keep your kids or pets away from the appliance, you should check every day for debris.

Now dust isn’t particularly dangerous or harmful to the baseboard heater, except it is in large quantities. Furthermore, if you haven’t used the appliance in a long time and you switch it on without cleaning, you might be greeted with a burning smell.

Some steps to take in reducing dust and debris include:

  • Make sure your unit is flush against the wall
  • Ensure that the space between the wall and the unit is small. Small spaces will reduce the chances of debris entering the unit.


Can curtains affect the working of your unit? Yes!

One way to make sure that nothing affects the safe working of your unit is by ensuring it is free from objects lying over it.

Curtains are especially dangerous because they can catch fire easily and can disturb the efficiency of the heater. When you have such an obstacle on the heater, it will affect the ability of the heater to distribute hot air around the room.

Regular Maintenance

Now, we don’t expect you to use the heater all year long. When not in use, you shouldn’t just abandon the appliance without cleaning it. What should you do? Maintain it! Your appliance must be maintained all year long, even when not in use. What should you then do when it isn’t in use?

Here are practical things to do:

  • Clean and vacuum the baseboard heater at the end of winter or whenever you stop using it. You must also clean it before you resume using it when the cold months arrive.
  • Some have bought a cover for the unit, and we recommend this as well. A cover will prevent dust and debris from getting into the appliance.

How to Clean Baseboard Heaters?

Other Maintenance

Aside from cleaning, you can maintain the heater aesthetically by repainting it.

When repainting, we recommend that you choose a paint that is heat resistant. If the paint isn’t heat-resistant, it will become flaky and start to peel when it suffers from the heat of the unit.

In Conclusion

We have so far seen the reasons why you should keep your baseboard heater clean. It will ensure that performance is optimized. After cleaning, you should ensure to carry out regular maintenance on the unit to prevent breakdown.

We hope that this review will help you know how to clean baseboard heaters and keep them working efficiently.

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