Why Your Copper Pipes Are Turning Green

17 Aug

When it comes to taking care of things around your home, it isn’t always easy to remember your pipes. Unless there is a problem, like a leak or a clog, we don’t often think about the plumbing in our homes.

One problem that you may not even realize you have is when the material in your pipes starts to get old and damaged. In particular, copper pipes will turn green, which can be caused by several things.

Types of Pipe Material

Material that homebuilders use for the plumbing has changed over time. In older homes, it’s common to find pipes made from iron, steel, or even lead. However, more modern homes will be likely fitted with PVC or copper pipes. These materials are easier to use, lighter, and tend to last longer. PVC and copper are also less likely to corrode, and they can be recycled, which makes them a good fit for environmentally-friendly builders. In particular, copper is known to be a strong and tough metal.

When Your Copper Pipes Turn Green

Although copper is one of the best materials for your home plumbing system, it can sometimes turn green. This usually happens because of copper’s interaction with oxygen and other airborne material over time. The term used for this green colour on your copper pipes is patina.

Seeing this green colour in spots on your pipes means that something is not quite right. If you see a green tint, you should contact a professional plumber to come and assess the situation.

Causes of Patina

Patina, or the greenish colour that appears on copper pipes, happens from oxidation. Oxidation is common on copper when it is exposed to water and air over time. While this oxidized layer is not harmful, it does cause the copper to become corroded. This green colour is known as copper oxide and is basically a rusting of the metal.

One of the most famous examples of copper oxide is the Statue of Liberty in New York. Because the statue is covered in copper on the outside and has been there for a long time, the greenish colour is the oxidation of the copper.

It is important to remember that the patina itself isn’t the problem. A layer of oxidation can be good for your copper pipes. This is because it creates a more water-proof pipe that is less prone to any other reactions.

However, if you have seen patina on your copper pipes, it signifies that the plumbing job may not have been done correctly in the first place.

Impact of Patina on Your Plumbing

Patina can be a sign that there is a leak in your pipes. It can also create bigger leaks, which will be costly for you in the long run. Moreover, using water that has been through copper pipes with this green tint is not good for you. It can cause health problems and also damage your skin and hair.

The leaks that are causing patina on your copper pipes may not be very big. Rather, pinhole leaks in the pipe can be enough to cause the problem. There are three main reasons why this can be an issue:

  1. Well water. Water that comes from a well can damage the pipes if the pH level is too low. If your water is sourced from a well and you have patina on your copper pipes, it’s good to check the pH level of your well water. Anything under 6.5 can cause trouble in your pipes. It may be the cause of the tiny pinhole leaks. In addition, it can cause lead to seep into your water supply, which presents a serious health risk.
  2. Chloramines. This compound has chlorine and nitrogen and is often used in municipal water supplies to clean the water. However, they may be what is causing your copper pipes to get tiny holes and leak, which, in turn, causes patina and a bigger problem for you.
  3. Particle corrosion. Old pipes and water heaters may be corroded, bringing metallic pieces in contact with your copper pipes. These metallic pieces may be scraping the copper and causing these pinhole leaks.

Fixing the Patina Problem

Seeing a greenish colour on your copper pipes can be unsettling. By knowing that your home’s plumbing is not working as well as it could might have you feeling concerned. However, there are ways that you can seal off these small leaks in your copper pipes. The more important question is what to do about your copper pipes that already have patina on them. Because the cause of the damage to your pipes may not be anything you have control over, it may be best to consider installing new pipes. While this can seem like a daunting and expensive fix, it could save you from bigger expenses if your pipes continue to leak.

No matter what is causing the leaks, it is best to call in a professional plumber who can investigate the situation and help repair or replace your pipes, so the water that passes through them is safe to use in your home.


Your home’s plumbing may not be the first thing on your mind, but it is one of the important behind-the-scenes elements that make your home a happy and safe place. When you start to notice a green colour on your copper pipes, it can be concerning. While this is a natural reaction of the metal when it has been exposed to air or water over time, it is also a sign that you need to call a plumber.

For a long-term solution to your copper pipe discolouration problem, we recommend that you have your pipes replaced with newer ones. In order to keep your home’s water supply as safe as possible, it is good to have your pipes checked and maintained regularly. You can talk to one of our plumbers at Brothers Plumbing to find out what works best for your home.

For more information about preventing dishwasher leaks in your home, call Brothers Plumbing at 1-800-742-0018 or contact us here.

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