How to Clean Hot Water Baseboard Heaters

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Hot water baseboard heaters are an efficient way to keep your house or office warm during winter. However, dust, grime, and debris can cause trouble, especially when your heater gives an unpleasant odor or noise.

Although you never lack these equipment in many homes, many people don’t know how to maintain them. Today, you’ll learn how to clean hot water baseboard heaters.

Hot water or hydronic baseboard heaters are common due to their energy efficiency. Unfortunately, they don’t have air filters. For that reason, dust and grime build up quickly, and if not cleaned, the system suffers.

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In other cases, moisture build-up into the room can cause rusting by degrading the thin coating. And since the heaters are installed inside the room, you wouldn’t imagine the ugly look you come across once you get into the room.

How Hot Water Baseboard Heaters Work

Hot water baseboard heaters have boilers filled with water. Inside the boiler is an element that heats the water before flowing out. Once the water heats, it’s pumped through the pipe system around the room.

Around these aluminum pipes, there are hundreds of metal fins that transfer heat to the surrounding air. Once the water loses most of the heat, it flows back to the boiler to be reheated.

Usually, cool air is dense. When heated, kinetic energy increases in its particles, making it expand.

After expansion, the density decreases, making it easier to float over the cool air. As such, it moves on the room’s ceiling allowing the cold air to move in and gain some heat.

Once the warm air starts cooling down, it increases the density and again moves down, creating a cycle. This mechanism keeps the room warm.

On the other hand, the system is equipped with a thermostat that calculates the room temperature. Once the set temperature is achieved, the thermostat switches off the heater.

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How to Clean Hot Water Baseboard Heaters

To efficiently clean your baseboard heater, you need to follow the procedure below keenly;

1. Turn Your Baseboard Heater Off and Remove the covers

The best time to carry out this process is when the heaters are rarely used in summer. However, you can clean it during winter too.

First, turn off the heater to cool because the inner components may be too hot for you to touch.

Secondly, you’ll have to remove the covers. Surprisingly, many people don’t know how to remove baseboard heater covers. Most covers are mounted using screws or end caps. As such, you’ll only need a screwdriver to carry out the process.

If end caps support your heater cover, you’ll have to snap them off using needle-nose pliers.

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2. Clean Your Baseboard Heater Covers

Baseboard heater covers are usually filled with dust and grime that enters the room. To carry out the cleaning efficiently, you may need to take them outside.

Using a damp cloth, wipe off all the dust and grime and dry them.

3. Clean Your Heater Radiator

The radiator is the most crucial part of the heater and needs a lot of skills to clean. As that’s the case, you’ll need skills on how to clean between radiator fins. The fins are very fragile. And handling them with some force may lead to breakage.

If the fins are damaged beyond repair, you may need to replace the heater.

Using a soft brush, clean the dust and grime off the fins carefully to avoid bending. Most dust and debris settle between the fins and can cause noise when they expand.

If the fins accidentally bend, you can straighten them using your needle nose pliers.

Take your vacuum cleaner and dust the inside to remove all tiny dust particles. Ensure all inner components are free from dust for efficiency.

4. Inspect the Heater for Rust

High moisture in the room can slowly degrade the heater’s overcoat. Once the metal surface is exposed, rust forms and may fast spread if not treated.

As that’s the case, you need to learn how to clean rusted baseboard heaters because the process is not just like the regular cleaning exercise.

Thoroughly remove the rust using grit sandpapers and wipe the area using a clean rag.

Afterward, spray high heat metal primer to prevent further rusting and create a good base for the final paint. I recommend Rust-oleum enamel spray paint.

After the primer is dry, give your heater a final smooth coating with a high heat metal paint that will withstand the high temperatures.

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5. Replace the Covers

After the interior components are clean, replace the heater covers and properly secure them with screws or the end caps. Replace any rusted or missing screw to ensure the cover is tight enough to protect the inner components.

6. Clean the Exterior Surfaces

The final process is wiping the exterior surfaces with a microfiber cloth. The final cleaning is carried out to remove some dust that might have flown from the inner components when vacuuming.

After cleaning, test if your baseboard heater is fully functional and you’re good to enjoy a warm breeze during winter.

Hot Water Baseboard Heaters Preventive Maintenance

  • Regularly dust and vacuum the room for better baseboard heaters functionality.
  • Regularly clean your baseboard heater. Many homeowners clean before and after the winter seasons.
  • Ensure no furniture, toys, floor mats, or other objects near the heater for better air circulation.
  • Ensure the window curtain edges are five inches far from the heater top base.

FAQs on Cleaning Baseboard Heaters

Are Hot Water Baseboard Heaters a Fire Hazard?

According to the manufacturers, hot water baseboard heaters are safe. The heaters have front covers that protect the inner components. As such, if pipes leak, it might be hard for the hot water to reach you. However, you should carry out regular maintenance to ensure your baseboard heater runs smoothly.

Can Baseboard Heat Make You Sick?

Sometimes excessive heat from the baseboard heaters can irritate your skin, eyes, nose, and throat on you breathe in warm air. If that happens, your thermostat may be faulty. Troubleshoot or call a specialist to fix it.

Can I Put a Bed in Front of a Baseboard Heater?

Furniture and other objects should be placed at a distance of 12 inches or more from the baseboard heaters. However, practice tips on how to clean hot water baseboard heaters for better functionality and safety before enjoying the warmth. 

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