Why are my pipes green?

So you look under your sink and to your surprise, your copper pipes that you had installed a year ago are starting to turn green. What’s happening? Is this bad, or is there any risk? How can I prevent my pipes from going green? What can you do about green pipes? Let’s break all of this down.

What makes your pipes green?

First, the pipes in your home can be made out of many different materials. Usually older homes use metal materials like lead, iron, and steel. Nowadays, pipes are made from lighter materials like PVC and Copper. But they are also the reason your pipes are turning green. The reason your pipes are green is because of a very common process called, oxidation. Oxidation is a process that happens over time with exposure to air and water. The green colour is known as patina. Take a look at old pennies or the statue of liberty, both are made from copper and when exposed to the elements naturally turn green. Patina may appear as patches or all over your pipes, it could be an indication of something more and is a gentle reminder to get it checked out by a plumber.

What are the risks and are green pipes bad?

Green pipes are a kind of warning light to homeowners.  Think of this greening as a kind of rusting that only occurs on copper pipes.  Rust can be harmless but it also signals corrosion.  This is exactly the case with copper pipe oxidation.  Pipes can continue to function completely fine and even sometimes better with this layer of oxidation acting as an additional waterproofing measure.  An oxidized layer of copper can also be much less susceptible to other reactions.  Though patina is a sign that the plumbing wasn’t done correctly in the first place, it could mean there is a leak, or a leak could spring from a corroded copper pipe.  

A bad plumbing job isn’t the only reason you could be experiencing patina.  Low water PH, chloramines, and particle corrosion are all additional causes for green copper pipes.  Having low PH water (usually from a well) can cause those small holes that lead to patina.  Chloramines are used to clean municipal water, but this combination of nitrogen and chlorine can also cause holes in piping leading to patina in the future.  The final cause is caused by corrosion in your water heater.  A corroded water heater can mean that small metal particles get flushed through copper pipes scratching and eventually puncturing the copper.

How do you prevent green pipes?

You can prevent your home’s pipes from changing colour in a variety of ways. First thing you can do is check your water’s PH levels; anything under 6.5 is a problem. You can also use at home seals for your pipes to try and prevent oxidation and seal any pin holes.

What to do about green pipes

In any case that your pipes are already green, have a plumber assess.  A plumber will be able to recommend the best course of action.  In many cases, the best, most effective, and safest thing to do, is to replace your pipes.  While replacing the patina ridden copper pipes might sound expensive and dramatic, it will be saving you money in the long run.  

Whil green on your pipes may not mean the end of the world, to be safe, get them checked out by a professional just to avoid disaster.  Take a look at our list of plumbers and call for an inspection and quote.