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How Do You Remove Green Corrosion from Copper Pipes?

When you look at your plumbing, you may wonder, “How do you remove green corrosion from copper pipes?” Of course, pipes are an integral part of any plumbing system, but most people don’t think much about their pipes until something goes wrong. And when you finally take a look at your pipes, you may notice a color change. But what causes green corrosion on copper pipes? Is it dangerous? And how do you remove green corrosion from copper pipes? Read on to learn more about the origin of green corrosion and how to handle it.

plumber checks for green corrosion on pipes

What Causes Green Corrosion on Copper Pipes?

Copper is the most common material in construction because it’s lightweight, durable, and easy to use. In addition, copper conducts heat exceptionally well for heating systems, radiating warmth and warming up a room. However, copper pipes are prone to corrosion, changing from a warm reddish-brown color to green.

If your copper pipes have a green or green-blue sheen, that’s a sign of oxidation. Oxidation happens when copper is exposed to moisture and air. It forms a green compound called patina. This mixing of metal and oxygen produces copper oxide.

Often, this discoloration occurs in places where a pipe passes through a brick or concrete wall. Structures like these retain moisture, creating a damp environment that oxidizes the pipe. In these instances, the pipe may not be the problem, but the dampness in the walls may need further attention.

Is Green Corrosion Dangerous?

While copper oxide itself is not harmful to humans, heavy oxidization can compromise the structural integrity of your pipes. Similar to rust on steel, green oxidation is corrosive, so it can cause structural damage if not dealt with properly.

Additionally, green corrosion can signify a leak in your pipes, and the oxidization process can sometimes exacerbate these issues and cause more damage in the long run. It’s also important to note that the water that moves through heavily oxidized copper pipes is not good for your health, causing health problems and damaging your hair and skin.

How Do You Remove Green Corrosion from Copper Pipes?

Because patina is usually a sign of a leak, you first need to solve the root of the issue. Even a leak the size of a pinhole can become a significant plumbing hazard when oxidization is involved, so try to remedy the matter as soon as possible. If you suspect you may have a leak, call a professional plumber. They can help you determine the root of the problem, discovering whether the oxidation is due to a leak in the pipe, faulty join, or moisture within the wall. The plumber can solder the hole closed if possible. However, you may need to replace the pipes entirely if the situation’s damage is irreversible. Installing a new set of pipes is expensive, but it gives you a clean slate, saving you from even pricier fixes later on. If you leave the heavily oxidized pipe in the wall, the weak metal could lead to further leaks, burst pipes, 

If you can repair the oxidized pipe without replacing it entirely, you can focus on removing the green corrosion. While this process improves the pipe’s appearance more than the functionality, it’s still essential. But to prevent damaging oxidation, you must clean your pipes regularly.

Baking Soda, Salt, Vinegar, & Flour Paste

While there are several different concoctions you can use for cleaning oxidation, a light solvent or gentle acidic solution with an abrasive or coarse agent is best for removing oxidation. Thankfully, removing green corrosion from copper pipes uses materials in your kitchen pantry rather than dangerous chemicals. One of the best corrosion-stripping concoctions requires:

  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • White Vinegar
  • Flour

To create the mixture, combine equal amounts of baking soda, salt, white vinegar, and flour until it forms a paste. Then, smear the paste over the oxidized area of the pipe. Let it sit and dry for about 30 minutes. Then, use warm soapy water to clean the paste off of the pipe, allowing the alkaline nature of the soap to neutralize the acidic vinegar. Be sure to dry off the pipe extremely well after rinsing, removing every drop of water. If you leave any moisture behind, the oxidation process will begin again, recreating the water and oxygen conditions that cause green corrosion.

Salt Scrub

It is also worth noting that salt on its own is an effective method for shining up copper and stripping oxidation. If you don’t have the baking soda, white vinegar, and flour needed to create the paste, simply sprinkle salt onto a wet washcloth and scrub the green corrosion with the rag. Afterward, use a clean section of the damp washcloth to remove the excess salt before drying the pipe.

Acetone Solution

Another effective way to treat discoloration and remove oxidation is to rub the oxidation with a segment of light grit emery cloth, scrubbing until you can see the bright copper beneath.

First, wet a rag with acetone and wipe down the corroded green area for this method. Then, use a warm soapy washcloth to wipe the acetone off the pipe and dry the pipe extremely well.

It’s important to note that acetone is highly flammable, so stay away from open flames when using it. Breathing in acetone can also negatively affect your health, so use a respirator (if you have one), so you don’t breathe in the fumes. Additionally, wear a pair of gloves, preferably rubber, to protect your skin.

Lemon and Salt

Lemon juice combined with salt can act as a natural abrasive cleaner to remove green corrosion. Simply slice a lemon in half, sprinkle salt on the cut side, and rub the corroded area. The lemon’s acidity helps dissolve the corrosion, while the salt is a cleaning abrasive. Once done, rinse with water. 

Boiled Potato Method

While it may sound unusual, this method does work! Cut a potato in half, dip the cut side in a mild abrasive like baking soda or salt, and rub it over the green corrosion using gentle pressure. Similarly, with the lemon method above, the potato’s natural acids combined with the abrasive can help remove corrosion. Once complete, rinse thoroughly with water. 

Coca-Cola Soak

Coca-Cola’s acidity can help dissolve green corrosion from copper pipes. Pour some Coca-Cola into a container and submerge the corroded area of the pipe in the liquid. Leave it to soak for several hours or overnight. Scrub gently with a soft brush, then rinse thoroughly. 

Importance of Removing Green Corrosion 

Green corrosion on copper pipes may seem harmless, but it is crucial to address this issue promptly. Ignoring green corrosion can lead to various problems. 

Structural Damage

Copper oxide, formed due to corrosion, can compromise the structural integrity of your pipes over time. Similar to rust on steel, green oxidation weakens the overall pipe, making it more susceptible to leaks, cracks, and failure. If not promptly taken care of, this can result in costly repairs or replacement. 

Health Hazards

While copper oxide is not harmful to humans, green corrosion can indicate underlying issues, such as leaks in the greater plumbing system. Water passing through pipes that are oxidized may become contaminated, which can cause health problems and damage to the skin and hair. 

Continued Deterioration

Neglecting green corrosion can allow it to spread or worsen. The oxidation process can accelerate, causing more extensive damage to your pipes and plumbing system. Timely removal and preventive measures can help prevent further deterioration. 

Potential Hazards of Green Corrosion

Understanding the potential hazards associated with green corrosion is crucial for homeowners. 

Leak Risks

As noted above, green corrosion often accompanies pipe leaks or weak spots. Ignoring these issues can lead to water damage in your home, affecting walls, ceilings, and floors. Timely detection and repair are essential to prevent extensive (and expensive) water damage. 

Water Quality Concerns

Green corrosion on copper pipes can extend its impact beyond mere aesthetics and taste regarding the overall quality. While discolored and oddly-tasting water may be immediate concerns, there are more subtle yet significant aspects to consider, including hidden contaminants, heavy metals or other harmful substances, appliance damage, and the environmental impact of contaminants in wastewater. 

Costly Repairs

As we’ve discussed previously, delaying action on green corrosion can result in more significant plumbing problems over time. The cost of addressing these issues can increase substantially if not tackled promptly. Regular maintenance and addressing corrosion by contacting a professional as soon as possible can save you money in the long run. 

Remove Green Corrosion with the Help of Goodbee Plumbing

If you suspect that your pipes may have oxidized and you’re wondering, “How do you remove green corrosion from copper pipes,” contact the experts at Goodbee Plumbing today! Whether you need help replacing your pipes, soldering a leak, or removing green corrosion. Goodbee Plumbing is here to help. With nearly three decades of industry experience serving residential and commercial customers, our specialists are equipped to handle any plumbing need. So call your friendly neighborhood plumber today and let us know how to help!

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