Copper corrosion is a phenomenon that can cause many problems in your home. Pipes can fail, leading to leaks and oxidized copper can leave blue stains on tubs, sinks and plumbing fixtures and even laundry can be tinted blue. In fact, according to some estimates corrosion costs our country $1 billion annually. Copper can be toxic, a concentration in excess of 1.0mg/L in water should not be used for drinking purposes. Let’s take a look at the top nine reasons for copper corrosion and some ways to correct the problem. 

Understanding Corrosion: copper-texture-1146434

When we refer to corrosion, we’re talking about a deterioration of a substance or its inherent properties due to reactions with its environment. In layman terms, the metal surface of the pipe is dissolved in the water for a variety of reasons, and this can cause a number of problems, such as pipe failure, damage to water using appliances, corroded water heaters and damage to plumbing fixtures. Corrosion occurs when there is a physical and chemical reaction between the water and the pipe material. 

The 9 Causes of Copper Corrosion: 

1.    Acidic water with a low pH level of less than 7.0.

2.    Alkaline water with a high pH level greater than 8.5.

3.    High levels of dissolved oxygen.

4.    High dissolved salt levels in the water known as total dissolved solids (TDS).

5.    Bacteria that cause corrosion, such as iron bacteria or sulfate.

6.    Electrochemical issues, including improper grounding of electrical appliances to copper piping and lightning strikes through utility grounding wires.

7.    A high velocity of water that causes hydraulic wear on the pipes.

8.    Sand, sediment and other particles in the water, causing hydraulic wear on the pipes.

9.    Improper installation of the copper piping caused by a failure to deburr or ream the ends of the pipe and/or the use of excessive acid flux when soldering. 

Dealing with Copper Corrosion:  

The first step is to inspect the copper pipes for damage and to get a water analysis if you’re using well water. This will help you to identify the source of the problem and how bad the situation is. Check electrical appliances that are connected to the pipes and ensure that they are grounded correctly to a flat earth ground. Check your water, for qualities, such as the pH level, the hardness, TDS, alkalinity, and temperature. These factors will help to calculate the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI) to determine if your water is aggressive or corrosive. Sections of copper pipe can be removed and inspected for corrosion and poor installation techniques. If you receive municipal water and there is a corrosion issue, call them and report the problem, if your case is an isolated one, the problem is in your home. If you have high TDS (more than 1000 ppm) install a whole house reverse osmosis system and a calcite neutralizer. A chlorination system can kill corrosion causing bacteria before they enter the pipes in your home. 

If you’re experiencing copper corrosion problems with your water supply, contact a local water professional. There are many modern water softener/water filtration systems available that can treat a wide range of water quality issues. When you choose a water professional, always make sure that they are fully WQA certified. This will ensure that they meet and even exceed water industry standards.

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative.  Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.