As you are likely aware, copper is a great material to use for plumbing. It is resistant to corrosion and easily formed into different shapes and sizes. One of the most common uses for copper is to make drainage fittings. However, if you live in a home with copper plumbing, you likely have at some point used a part of copper plumbing that is no longer being used, such as a tee or elbow.
If so, you might have wondered whether you could reuse this fitting to make repairs in your home or whether they are only good for one time use. The short answer to whether you can put copper fittings to use again is yes, with a few caveats.
More on this discussion in the next section.
Copper fittings are recyclable, but…
Purchasing new copper fittings for an existing home can be a cost effective way to update your plumbing.
When you are remodeling or building a home, copper can be used to replace galvanized steel.
Lead-free copper fittings are significantly more expensive than galvanized steel fittings, but copper requires less maintenance, is non-toxic and is safe for drinking water.
Copper fittings are great, but due to their age, you have to be careful with them.
For example, it is important to understand that copper fittings can be reused, but they should not be if they are worn or damaged.
When copper corrodes, it tends to leave behind a greenish-black slime that builds up in the joints and makes removing the old parts nearly impossible.
Also, you should never force a copper fitting to connect to another type of tubing, because sometimes it can create a leak.
The question of whether or not you can reuse copper fittings, or whether you need to throw them away and buy new ones, depends on a few other factors, most notably whether the fittings are threaded or compression, and what they are connected to.
Threaded fittings can be reused if the threads are in working order, while compression fittings are usually only good for one use.
Copper plumbing fittings are often sold as a set, but it doesn’t mean you should use them all at once.
As with any plumbing installation, the fittings should be used sequentially, with the first fitting in the chain connecting the water source to the first fixture or appliance in the home.
Then work your way down the line until the final fixture or appliance has a fitting attached.
This ensures that the fittings you use are appropriate for the job and that they’ll connect to each other properly.
How do you clean old copper fittings
Old copper drainage fittings collect sediment and debris over time, which can compromise their effectiveness and even cause clogs.
Although not as common as plastic, metal drainage systems are seen in many homes today.
The good news is that, unlike other plumbing components, draining copper fittings is doable.
While most are easy to clean, some fittings, especially older fittings, can be very difficult to clean.
This is usually because of mineral deposits created by water with a high concentration of calcium, magnesium, or iron.
In fact, some of these fittings have been in place for so long that they’ve become encrusted, and it’s hard to tell what’s copper and what’s just the crud that’s built up over the years.
The following are quick tips on proper copper fittings cleaning
- The first step is to determine whether any of the fittings are made of brass. If so, you should not use abrasive materials, which will damage the surface of the brass and cause it to appear dull and tarnished. You should use a brass-specific cleaner or a vinegar-water solution to remove dirt and tarnish.
- Bathroom sinks are made of either porcelain enamel or vitreous china. Porcelain enamel is less prone to small scratches than vitreous china, but both are prone to staining.
- Vitreous china is also more likely to be damaged by acidic substances such as vinegar, which is why vinegar is not recommended for cleaning enameled sinks. Use baking soda instead
- The keys to a successful rust-removal process are being thorough, patient, and knowing how to identify and avoid using products that will eventually cause a new layer of rust to form.
- The first step is to thoroughly rinse the entire piece of copper with a mixture of salt and vinegar, which will help loosen the rust and make cleaning it off easier.
- Many people think that the vinegar smell will linger on their copper; however, when the copper is allowed to dry, the vinegar smell will fade completely and leave just the salt smell.
- After rinsing, you should use a commercial-grade steel wool to scrub away the loosened rust. This process should be repeated until the rust is gone and the copper is polished to a shine
How do you remove oxidation from copper
The process of removing oxidation from copper is actually pretty simple: it just takes a little time and some know-how!
For example, to clean new copper from discoloration, you can use toothpaste, vinegar, or a copper cleaning product.
If you’re not sure which way to go, we suggest starting with a copper cleaning product—these are specially formulated with copper-cleaning agents, and are designed to be safer than household cleaners.
Alternatively, you can use:
- oxalic acid, which will remove the oxidation and leave a protective coating,
- a solution of vinegar and salt, which will clean the copper while removing the oxidization,
- or copper brushing to easily rub it off, if you have only a few spots of oxidation
Reuse copper fittings with care
Copper fittings are a very standard plumbing project.
Copper fittings have been used in homes and businesses across the world for over 100 years.
This is due to the fact that they are more durable and offer better performance than other materials.
There is a common misconception, however, that copper fittings can be used only once and then must be replaced. This is incorrect.
While new fittings may be required for certain repairs, fittings that have already been installed can be reused.
The homeowner or business owner should inspect the fittings they already have. If they are still usable, then they can be used again.
The fittings may not be reused if they’re worn or corroded.