What's the easiest way to get flaking old paint off radiators? What paint should I use when I repaint them?
—Margie, Richmond, Virginia
Old-style radiators are in your face, so homeowners often paint them to match the decor—with the same paint they used on the walls. Wall paint is not only incompatible with the radiator's metal but also unable to withstand its high heat, leading to the problem you describe.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to scrape off the old paint. Here are the options: You can do some superficial scraping and re-paint with wall paint, just like the previous owners did. Or you can remove the radiator and have it stripped or sandblasted, then prime and paint with high-temperature enamel. Or you can invest in some metal or wood radiator covers that will hide the beasts and that can be painted to match your current decor.
Check out Take a Good Look at Vintage Radiators
and How to Build a Radiator Cover