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Can steam radiators make you sick? How to clean out?

Can an old steam system that was neglected make you sick? The vented air passing through dirty pipes and into your room?

Also, how do you recommend cleaning the inside of a steam system?

This is a 1950 house with original piping.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,275
    No, they can't. There may be some smell for the first few cycles after a neglected system is started up, but that's it.

    How dirty are the pipes going to be? They are steam cleaned every time the boiler is fired up! Can't do much better than that.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
    Most of the smells associated with starting up an old steam system comes from the dust and cobwebs that tend to collect on the radiators over the summer getting cooked. It's not a bad idea to make the rounds with your vacuum cleaner and a crevice tool that fits between the radiator tubes and clean them all out. It even makes them work better.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,702
    or was some nastyness added to the boiler water to make up for a neglected system ?
    what color water do you see in the siteglass ?
    known to beat dead horses