Have you ever noticed a greenish tint on your copper water pipes? It’s not mold, yet it can be just as unattractive. This effect is called patina, and it’s a natural process that happens to copper when it’s exposed to air and water.
While some people might think that the patina makes the copper look antique and beautiful, others might want to know how to remove it. Keep reading to learn more about why copper pipes turn green and what you can do about it!
Why Do Copper Pipes Turn Green?
Copper pipes have been used for plumbing since the days of the Roman Empire. In fact, some of the oldest surviving copper pipes date back to around 2700 BC.
For centuries, copper was the material of choice for plumbing due to its durability. Even though most newly built homes use PVC, copper is still used in many commercial and residential plumbing systems.
The main cause of green copper pipes is oxidation. When your pipes have a leak or are in an area with a lot of moisture in the air, the reaction causes your copper pipes to oxidize, and they create a green substance called patina.
Even pinhole leaks can cause this oxidation. Copper pipes in basements, brick walls, and concrete walls are especially at risk as these areas retain more moisture than other places. Even though copper pipes are durable, the green patina, along with other minerals and conditions, on your copper pipes can eventually lead to corrosion and be problematic for your plumbing.
Copper pipe corrosion is the deterioration of the metal, due to a reaction with its environment. Corrosion can cause pipes to become clogged with rust or other debris, reducing the flow of water and making it difficult to clean.
Left unchecked, corrosion can eventually destroy a pipe completely.
Methods Of Removing Green From Copper Pipes
Although plumbers know how to clean the pipes and remove the green discoloration, it is possible to do this yourself. However, it may be impossible to remove the oxidation, and your pipes may need to be replaced if the oxidization leads to corrosion. If that is the case, it is best to hire a professional. Here are a few methods for how to remove green from a copper pipe.
1. Salt, vinegar, baking soda, and flour
Using just a few household ingredients, you can solve this issue with a cleaning solution made from salt, white vinegar, baking soda, and flour.
To make the mixture, simply combine equal parts of each ingredient and apply it to the area with a toothbrush or sponge.
Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, then rinse it away with a rag and soapy water. This cleaning method is effective because the salt helps to break down the built-up materials, while the vinegar and baking soda work together to create a mild abrasive action.
As a result, this simple cleaning solution can quickly and easily remove even stubborn stains from copper pipes. This mixture will also work to clean your copper cookware such as pots and pans and even your copper jewelry.
2. lemon juice and salt
This method will take more work than using other methods, but it is more gentle on the pipes. Start by mixing together a tablespoon of salt and 1/2 cup of lemon juice in a bowl.
Dip a cotton rag into the mixture and then rub it onto the affected areas. Allow the mixture to sit for several minutes before rinsing it away with warm water. You may need to repeat this process several times to remove all of the oxidation.
This solution is also helpful with the daily maintenance of your pipes. You can use it for polishing, as well as removing grime and tarnish. If you routinely clean your pipes, it will help prevent damage and corrosion.
Alternatively, if you only have salt, this method will work as well. Simply mix the salt with water until the paste forms, and apply it to your pipes. Let it sit for 10 minutes and rinse them with warm water.
Many people are familiar with the use of acetone as a fingernail polish remover. What they may not know is that this common household product can also be used to remove green oxidation from copper pipes.
Acetone is a powerful ph neutral solvent that can dissolve many types of deposits, including the patina that forms on copper surfaces.
To remove green oxidation from copper pipes, simply apply a small amount of the chemical to a cloth and rub the affected areas. For best results, wear gloves and avoid getting the acetone on your skin.
It is also important to rinse the area well after using acetone, as it can be harmful if ingested. You should also only use acetone if you are in a ventilated area because the fumes from acetone are quite strong.
While most people think of ketchup as a delicious condiment, it actually has a long history of being used for cleaning purposes.
The acidity in ketchup helps to break down build-up on surfaces, and it can even be used to remove the green patina from copper pipes.
To clean copper pipes with ketchup, simply apply a generous amount of ketchup to the affected area and let it sit for several minutes. Then, use a rag or brush to scrub the area.
Rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth. With regular use, ketchup can help keep your copper pipes looking like new.
5. Emery cloth
This method can be the most damaging to your pipes, so I recommend only using this as a last resort. Emery cloth is a type of sandpaper that is often used to buff and polish materials.
It has a wide range of uses, from removing rust from metal to buffing out scratches in wood. Emery cloth is also an effective way to remove green oxidation from your pipes.
To use an emery cloth to remove oxidation, simply rub the affected area with the cloth until the oxidation is gone. You may need to apply some pressure but be careful not to damage the pipe. When you are done, use a soft cloth and water to rinse the pipes
6. Vinegar Soak
Although it is more time-consuming, another way to remove the green color is to soak the pipes in vinegar. Vinegar is particularly effective at removing patina. Simply fill a bowl with vinegar and submerge the affected pipe.
Let it soak for several hours, then scrub the pipe with a soft brush. If the green Patina is resistant, you may need to let the pipe soak overnight.
Once the green color has been removed, rinse the pipe with water and dry it with a soft cloth. Apple cider vinegar is equally effective if you don’t have any white vinegar.
How To Prevent Copper Pipes From Turning Green?
There are several ways to prevent clean copper pipes from turning green.
- One is to clean the pipes regularly with mild detergent. This will remove any build-up of contaminants that could cause the patina to form.
- Another way to prevent copper pipes from turning green is to make sure your water’s ph level isn’t too low or high, as this can lead to discoloration of your pipes. Ideally, your water’s ph level should be neutral. You can neutralize your water’s ph level by adding a water softener to the system.
- It is also recommended to flush your pipes with a mild acid solution regularly. This will help to remove any mineral deposits that have already formed and prevent new ones from forming.
- Additionally, it is important to ensure that the pipes are properly insulated, as this will help to keep moisture levels down and reduce the risk of oxidation.
By taking these simple steps, you can keep your copper pipes looking like new for years to come.
If you’re concerned about your copper pipes turning green, you can always opt for a different material altogether. Stainless steel or PVC pipes are both good alternatives that won’t turn green over time.
There are a lot of ways to clean up your copper pipes if they’ve already turned green. But as with most things in life, it’s easier to prevent the problem than to fix it. That’s why we urge you to take the necessary steps to protect your pipes from the beginning. Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to share it with a friend who might need some tips on preventing their own green copper pipe problems!