How to Clean Baseboard Heaters

  • 01 of 05

    A Dusty Mess Might Be Lurking Behind Your Heater

    Corner of a baseboard heater
    Thinkstock Images / Getty Images

    Dust is an enormous problem in old apartments and houses. And you might find yourself dusting and vacuuming even more often throughout the colder months if you have baseboard heaters that aren't properly cleaned and sealed. Here's how to keep your baseboard heaters running efficiently.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Dusting a Baseboard Heater

    Dirty baseboard heater
    Deirdre Sullivan

    Behind most baseboard heater covers are thin metal fins coated in dusty muck. This dirt can reduce the amount of heat the fins radiate, so it's important to give them a thorough cleaning at least a couple times a year.

    For cleaning, shut off power to the heater, and make sure it's cool to the touch before you start working. Then, carefully remove the heater cover. Using your vacuum's crevice tool or dusting brush attachment, vacuum the inside of the unit, taking care not to bend any fins. Take your time cleaning between the fins, as that is what will make the unit run more efficiently.

    If you accidentally bend any fins, you can gently straighten them back out with needle-nose pliers. And if you spot any rust on the metal, apply a little rust remover. Finally, wipe any remaining dirt by hand with a slightly damp microfiber cloth, and don't forget to clean the heater cover before replacing it.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Sealing Gaps

    radiator pipes in wall
    Deirdre Sullivan

    Gaps around your baseboard heater—including around the steam pipe—allow dirt and dust to sneak into your home. One common way to fill large gaps is with heat-resistant spray foam insulation. You can find this expanding product at most home improvement stores.

    Fill smaller openings using a high-heat silicone sealant. To avoid shrinking and warping, apply the sealant when the unit is cool. It's also a good idea to wear gloves whenever you're working with these products.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Using Aluminum Tape for Sealing

    Baseboard sealed with metal tape
    Deirdre Sullivan

    Aluminum foil tape is another great material for sealing leaks. It can also be used like steel wool to fill small gaps around pipes.

    Aluminum tape has numerous benefits:

    • It can be used in a wide temperature range.
    • It is chemical-resistant.
    • It is heat-reflective.
    • It is moisture-resistant.
    • It is flame-retardant.

    Consider sealing the gap under each radiator grill with aluminum foil tape as an extra dust-busting precaution. When applying, it's easiest to work with small pieces of tape. Place each piece as far back as you can, so it’s not visible once you replace the heater cover. You also can stuff the tape into small gaps. And you can easily remove the tape if necessary.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Ensuring a Heater's Efficiency

    Close-up of baseboard heater
    Frank Bean / Getty Images

    Most people aim to clean their baseboard heaters at least twice a year—once before they turn on the heat for the colder months and again when the weather gets warm. But if your home gets especially dusty or you have pets whose fur and dander can get trapped in the heaters, consider cleaning your heaters more frequently. Clean heaters use less energy, so keeping up on their maintenance will almost certainly save you some money.

    In addition, keep the area around a baseboard heater clean, as any dust and dirt there can be sucked into the unit. And allow the unit to circulate air efficiently by leaving space between it and any furniture, curtains, or other nearby items.