Copper Corrosion: Everything You Need to Know

Copper corrosion refers to the deterioration of substances created from copper/copper alloys.

Copper Corrosion: Everything You Need to Know

Charlie Hardcastle

When the substance gets exposed to the surrounding or atmosphere, copper begins to oxidize, producing naturally sparkling copper surfaces or facets to tarnish. In just some years, this tarnish becomes black or dark brown and then finally green.
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There exist two known kinds of copper corrosion, called non-uniform copper corrosion & uniform copper corrosion. Also, copper is vulnerable to a crevice/fissure corrosion attack. 

Copper can get toxic and even leach into the tap water in both new & old homes. This kind of leaching is often a product of adverse corrosion. A minor amount of consumption of copper is acceptable for humans as it caters to a crucial nutrient.

However, a lot of it may lead to gastrointestinal issues. Increased copper levels over some time can result in kidney and liver damage. In case testing of pipes ascertain that the level is higher than 1 mg/l, then its treatment is crucial.

What Causes Copper to Corrode?

For a long, copper piping was used in the water supply system for domestic purposes.

In actuality, copper piping was said to last for nearly 25 years. However, due to the changes in the water chemistry & various other environmental elements and factors, corrosion rate accelerated, and copper pipes’ longevity became a valid concern. 

Various theories and research have taken place about the primary or fundamental cause of copper corrosion in pipes and hence analyzed that it was tough to recognize a single cause.

Considering the scientific engineering jargon and media noise, it is clear that copper pitting corrosion is caused due to a combination of numerous factors such as improper pipe installation, electrical grounding, bacteria, soil acidity, water chemistry, pipe manufacture quality, the environment, and others. 

In a hotbed region such as Texas, Florida & California, where you can argue copper corrosion can get referred to as an epidemic, there are rising reports of various premature copper corrosions & leaking pipes frequently in buildings that were only a few years old.

However, it is not restricted to only those three states. Trends reveal that various states with relatively higher amounts of sulfites and chloramines create copper pitting issues that ultimately lead to ubiquitous pinhole leaks happening. 

Sudden Rise in Copper Corrosion

Ironically, it is an outcome of an elevated public health attempt to keep people safe.

Municipalities that follow federal & state standards for safe drinking water treat local water to eliminate bacteria, and other microorganisms, along with sulfite and chloramines to make it completely safe for drinking.

Chloramines are a chemical compound that consists of a mixture of ammonia & chlorine that extends the disinfecting power of the chlorine in the water.

Unfortunately, it reveals that such an unintended process makes the chemical attack the copper at the molecular ground, leading to pitting, corrosion, & leaks. 

With the enhancement in standards of safe drinking water over the past few years, there has been a considerable fall in the usable life of the copper supply pipe systems in various buildings across the country & various studies are presently underway, which tries to prove the correlation. 

What Is the Product of Corrosion of Copper in Air?

What Is the Product of Corrosion of Copper in Air?

Corrosion of copper in the presence of air, humidity, and hydrogen sulfide produces oxides or sulfides, corrosion results in pitting & pitting results in pinhole leaks. Very often, such leaks might sometimes go undetected for many months, which causes mildew and mold to grow.

Even worse, due to weakening at the pitting point, the pipe suddenly breaks, which leads to catastrophic damage & costly repairs. Despite various studies conducted on copper corrosion, completely understanding the issue still is a big challenge & remediation can get tough. 

So, what choices do you have to prevent such catastrophe from hitting the property?

Ideally, you are looking to discover corrosion & pitting much before pinhole leaks; a well-formulated and apt remediation plan can offer short-term help. 

All too often, pipes clamped with a specific piece of foam & radiator clamp proved to be efficient to stop pinhole leaks.

It might be an easy and instant fix for the short term but not a suitable option for the long term. Most of the time, a clamped pipe is an indication that a more catastrophic leak is about to happen soon. 

What Do We Recommend?

One of the prudent options for those with a single leak is to replace a specific portion of the compromised pipe to limit any further damage to the weakened areas. 

For those viewing repetitive leaks or even multiple failure points across their property, opting for the option to re-pipe the corroded copper along with PEX or CPVC piping is another best alternative. 

Unfortunately, there is an inevitable expense in any event where you find any copper pipe pitting and corrosion. However, over time, replacing the pipes saves on your property value compared to the high water damage cost and enhanced insurance premiums incurred due to repetitive leaks. 

Some Causes of Corrosion Issues Are as Follows: 

  • Low pH (where acid water is below 7)
  • High pH (where alkaline water is more than 8.5)
  • Higher levels of salts dissolved in water 
  • Higher levels of exceedingly dissolved oxygen
  • Electrochemical leads to improper grounding of the electrical appliances to copper piping or/and lightning strike via utility poles with grounding wires.
  • Corrosion leads to bacteria like iron bacteria or sulfate
  • High water velocity, relative to piping size, leads to hydraulic wear on piping. They are at times found in the circulating hot water systems utilizing pumps. 
  • Sediment, sand, or any other grit in water creates hydraulic wear on piping.
  • Improper copper piping installation leads to failure in proper functioning, which further reams the ends or deburrs the pipe or use of adequate acid flux at the time of soldering pipes. 

How to Get Rid of Corrosion from Copper?

If you have found a leak in the copper pipe in your business or home, it is recommended to call a plumbing expert immediately. Leaks can lead to pinholes, burst in pipes, or puncture holes.

Irrespective of the cause, calling a plumber expert would know how to fix the copper pipe issue & can even answer your queries about disruption, cost & prevention of various future leaks. 

Still, you do have an idea regarding the basics of how to fix the copper pipe with a patch. Using the patchwork technique can stop the leak until a permanent water line repair is done. 

Procedure to Patch Copper Water Pipe

Patching of the copper pipe is just similar to first air for the pipe with a hole. It stops the leak and ensures you keep water flowing till the pipe gets repaired. Patching is particularly an effective temporary step for repairing the pinhole leak in the copper pipe. 

Before going for patching, turn off the water supply to leaky spots. Note, to drain the remaining water from pipes, which can be done by turning on all faucets on the floors above leaks till water stops the flow. 

Ensure to clean outside pipes near the leak. If there exists any external rust or build-up, remove it with a plain steel substance or wool.

You can use various copper restoration items to patch up the copper water pipe. Some of them are: 

  • Water pipe epoxy
  • Water pipe tape
  • Pipe patch kit

Supplies are solely available at most of the hardware & home amelioration stores. Ensure to utilize those products approved to patch the drinking water pipes. 

Product packaging generally proffers instructions on how to patch copper pipe. Well applied patch over holes in the copper pipe can last for a few weeks. Here the primary goal is to halt the leak till the plumber qualified in this field arrives to repair the copper pipeline. 

How To Clean Corroded Copper Pipelines

One of the most common causes of copper corrosion on pipes is excessive oxygen suspension in water, generally caused by hot water. The suspended oxygen gets attached to the copper & causes oxidation. An oxidized copper comes with a bluish-green patina. 

Corrosion caused inside the copper pipe also can be caused by very soft water, has high chlorine levels, or is too hard. Over the period, corrosion results in pinhole leaks. 

Indications Of Copper Corrosion 

  • Discolored water
  • Leaks
  • Sediment or particles in water
  • Water has a metallic odor

Those who suspect corrosion inside the copper pipes can get in touch with a qualified expert. In case of external corrosion, you can remove the small spots of the external corrosion on your own. Ensure to paste equal portions of white vinegar, salt, and baking soda & then apply it in the corrosion.

After 10 minutes, wipe off the paste mostly, if not all, but some part of the corrosion is sure to get wiped off. It is a temporary solution. Corrosion is likely to appear again & continue to weaken the copper pipeline.

Ultimately, you require to get in touch with someone experienced in copper corrosion pipe repair to cater to you with a permanent fix. 

Post Corrosion Problems

Severe impacts of corrosion procedure can generate issues of major global significance. Many industries or factories like automotive, energy, chemical, food, brewery, household appliances undergo drastic economic losses owing to corrosion damages. 

Corrosion does harm various life aspects that form pits & lowers mechanical properties of the water rotating cavitation of propellers, leaks into the pipelines that transport the fluids such as petroleum or water, the corrosive effect of the acid rains on the non-metallic or metallic surfaces, and others.

Few of the corrosion effects involve considerable deterioration of the historical and natural monuments and an enhancement in the risk of various catastrophic equipment damages/failures. Air pollution results in corrosion, and it is becoming even worse worldwide.

Corrosion impacts public health. Various pollutants accelerate corrosion & corrosion products like rust, polluting water bodies. It is a pernicious procedure that impairs the environment quality, industry efficiency, and infrastructure assets’ durability. 

Industry Effects

Industry Effects

Corrosion Issues in The Course of Gas and Oil Production

Corrosion of metal in water substance presence is one of the most common issues across various industries.

Age & presence of corrosive material like hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide exacerbate the issue. 

Corrosion in The Electronic Industry

When the electronic models or devices are in severe environments like subtropical, tropical, contaminated deserts, and others, they have relatively higher failure rates.

Issues, owing to the aggressiveness of medium in the electronic tool/equipment for the military utilization have even happened in submarine and aircraft guidance systems.

The next common issue is corrosion damage caused by components of music players at times when exposed to humid weather contaminated with elements like chlorides. For instance, at times of transporting the ship from the manufacturing area to the consumer area. 

Corrosion in The Water

The industrial water supply systems are of high interest to assess minerals present in particular salts. This spoils massive industry equipment. 

Corrosion in Automotive Industry

Corrosion in cars is a phenomenon that most of us must be familiar with & perhaps because of it. We take certain precautions to avoid this issue of deterioration.

Corrosion issues in metal car external bodies have serious issues that generally arise mostly in coastal surroundings, contaminated with high levels of chlorides, and in rural regions with specific contaminants & high humidity.

Various countries utilize salts such as sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride to keep the roads completely free from ice. Under such conditions, the salts in thorough combination with dust blown by vehicles provide a condition for accelerated corrosion. 

Corrosion in Cooling System

A cooling system of vehicle combustion engines contains various components constructed with various metals, radiators made of aluminum and copper, solder, and bronze couplings with the tin water pumps. Motors are created from steel, aluminum, or cast iron. If the system is sordid, the water must be drained & filling the overall system with a cleaning solution. 

Corrosion in Batteries & Exhaust Pipes

Acidic surroundings, which get generated on the surface of the accumulators that supply the required energy for beginning the engine, help conduct corrosion procedures in lead terminals, where cables get connected by steel clamps or bronze. 

Corrosion on Copper Water Pipes

Corrosion of copper water pipes is one of the common issues that impact the domestic water supply system. Chemical procedures slowly and entirely dissolve the metal that leads to plumbing pipes, water using tools/equipment, and fixtures to fail and deteriorate.

Corrosion can create three major damage: 

The entire metal surface becomes thin gradually & red stains begin to appear in the steel or iron plumbing water systems. Even green or blue stains in brass and copper plumbing systems may appear. 

Deep pits begin to get visible that penetrate tank walls or pipes. This corrosion might not include major copper or iron amounts to water in significant amounts. Eventually, it can perforate the tank or pipe and create potential water damage to business or home. 

Other metals or copper oxidize in the procedure same as rusting of steel.

This mostly lowers water flow via supply lines & destroys water valves & other control surfaces that create leaks outside and inside of faucets and valves. This kind of corrosion is not necessarily caused by water chemistry but due to exposure to corrosive surroundings or soil. 

How to Prevent It?

Copper oxidizes naturally, and few find the appearance appealing, while others prefer copper to keep their shiny finish. To stop copper corrosion, one must stop the surrounding air from constantly coming in contact with copper. Here are few ways to protect copper: 

Grease

Just by utilizing a few kinds of grease, like a layer of Vaseline over copper, you can prevent the process of copper corrosion.

It is not suitable for all the substances created with copper, but when you have the copper pipes in the basement, it can come across to be a great solution.

One does require that he/she covers all the copper pipes in grease so that they have a complete airtight coating over metal for this purpose. 

Sealer

Putting in a paint sealer to keep the air away from copper is the next excellent choice to halt copper corrosion.

It is a solution that works with most copper objects, while in this situation, it will be for the display of objects rather than any other thing, which is handled regularly. 

Cleaning

With most copper materials, regular cleaning utilizing vinegar or salt and baking soda powder is a great answer. It prevents any kind of corrosion that takes place with the copper and keeps the metal shine on.

Ensure to clean the copper substance every month to attain the best results. It takes time, but if performed thoroughly, copper corrosion will for sure never happen. 

Conclusion

Copper corrosion occurs at a nominal rate in unpolluted water or air & de-aerated agents like nonoxidizing acids.

Note that it is even susceptible to a more rapid attack/strike in oxidizing heavy metal salts, oxidizing acids, ammonia, Sulphur, ammonia & even in few ammonia & Sulphur compounds.

Thus, ensure to follow precautionary steps to eliminate the process of copper corrosion. In case copper corrosion is excess and you fail to remove it individually, consulting a plumber experienced in this field can cater to the best permanent solution. 

References

Corrosionpedia.com

SageWater.com

CountryLiving.com

DahlstromRollForm.com

ResearchGate.net

Curaflo.com

DoItYourself.com

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