Do Green Copper Pipes Need to Be Replaced?

It can be scary to see your copper pipe have a green color from its natural reddish-brown color. When you see the pipes change color, you should check and determine whether you need to change the pipes.

You do not need to replace green copper pipes immediately. The green color is a natural condition that will occur when copper oxidizes, forming a patina. However, your copper pipes do need some attention because the green color indicates rust.

In this article, I’ll explain what you need to do when you notice the green color in your copper pipes.

The green color in copper pipes.

Reasons Copper Pipes Change Color

Copper is not the hardest metal but possesses the properties necessary for safe pipe usage. Copper has a strong resistance against corrosion, and you can reuse copper multiple times.

However, under extended exposure to air, the copper reacts with oxygen and forms a patina. Patina is not just a mix of copper and oxygen; it has other compounds, including hydroxosulfate and hydroxocarbonate.

The shade of the copper reaction may also have other colors. It can be green, blue, or purple. The color depends on the chemicals available during the copper’s reaction.

The patina formation on your copper pipes will not harm you, especially if you are not drinking the water. Instead, the patina acts as a form of protection for the copper pipes. However, the patina can affect water quality by giving it a green shade over time.

What You Should Do When Copper Pipes Turn Green

Copper turning green has more of a structural effect than a physical one. It could cause your pipes to grow weak and require complete replacement if the cause was a leak.

Here is what you should do when you notice the green color in your copper pipes;

  1. Confirm if the cause is a leak.
  2. Clean the green color reaction.

Let’s examine each step:

1. Confirm If the Cause Is a Leak

A leakage as small as a pin can cause your copper pipes to oxidize. If this is the case, the patina will not act as protection for the copper. Instead, the leak on the copper will keep expanding, causing your pipes to become weak.

You do not need the help of an expert to confirm if your copper pipes are leaking. You can follow these steps;

  • Be vigilant. Check your walls, ceilings, and other paths of pipes for any water stains. Also, these stains may come as a damp smell in affected areas.
  • Keep an eye on your water bill for any increase. You will use more water when your pipes leak, which is a good sign.
  • Check the outer parts of the pipe. Copper pipes should convey water conveniently without any signs on the outside. If you notice these signs, they indicate that there is a leak at that point or close by.
  • Confirm readings on the water meter. Your water meter should read only when you are using water. Turn off all water flow and check if the meter still reads. If there’s a reading, there’s a leak somewhere.
  • Listen to sounds when everywhere is quiet. It may be perplexing to find the leakage if it is tiny. However, you will hear the sound of the water dropping during quiet times.,

If you notice a hole in your copper pipes, the best solution is to call an expert to fix it. Before the plumber comes, however, you can have a temporary fix with rubber and a jubilee clip.

Watch this video to see how you can temporarily fix your pipes:

2. Clean the Green Color Reaction

Cleaning the patina formed from the copper reaction with oxygen is the best way to care for the pipes. However, if you have confirmed a leak, ensure you sort it out first. Cleaning the patina with a leak present is a waste of time as the copper will develop patina faster than you can clean it. 

Luckily, you can clean the green color from your copper pipes with regular products easily found in every home. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you probably know some of these materials.

Patina is a mixture of compounds, so an introduction of acid to the mix will cause a reaction.

Some of the items that will clean your copper pipes ideally include:

  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Acetone

Using Vinegar

Vinegar in all forms and colors contains a reasonable amount of acid to remove the patina. However, it tends to dry up very quickly, even before it can react with the patina in the pipes.

That is why many pros advise that we mix the vinegar with baking soda and salt, then scrub the pipe. Be careful to use a soft fabric, as copper scratches very easily.

Using Salt

Salt is another important ingredient to remove the patina from copper pipes. You will usually need to mix the salt with other materials, including ammonia, vinegar, lemon juice, etc. You can also use salt naturally; remember to wash it off immediately, as it can damage the pipe.

Using Acetone

Acetone is a clear liquid used to remove paints and nail polish. However, it is strong enough to remove the patina from your copper pipes.

All you need to do is immerse a soft fabric into acetone and clean the green pipes. Rinse immediately and keep the acetone away from fire. Again, you need to carefully use it as it can cause a cough when inhaled.

See also: Can You Paint Copper Pipes?


The green color in copper pipes is an occurrence that occurs with time. However, confirm that this reaction is not due to leakage. If it’s not, the above steps should help you clean it.

If there is a leakage or the green stains remain after cleaning, you should contact an expert. A more complex problem may be the cause of the reaction.

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