How To Clean Green Corrosion Off Metal

Brass and copper can be a necessary part of any home.

Whether you have it as a statement piece or as part of your plumbing, it is a big part of the function and beauty of a room.

While it is a beautiful metal, it is also prone to green corrosion.

Some people like the green on their copper or brass; you can care for it by regularly dusting it.

However, you don’t have to live with it if you don’t like it.

We’ve done the research, and removing green corrosion from metal is easy.

All you need are a few simple household cleaning items to get rid of the corrosion and have your brass looking shiny and new once again.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a few basic household cleaning items to remove green corrosion from metal.

Now that you have everything you need, read on to learn how to get green corrosion off metal.

1. Mix baking soda and vinegar

Mix baking soda and distilled white vinegar to form a paste.

Baking soda is abrasive and will scratch the corrosion from the surface of the metal.

Vinegar is acidic and will help to break down the deterioration.

Pro tip: If you are out of baking soda, you can also use salt. Gently rub salt onto the affected area and then pour the distilled white vinegar over it.

2. Apply the paste to the green corrosion

Rub the baking soda and vinegar paste on the affected areas.

Be careful not to press too hard as you are applying it.

Copper and brass are softer metals; baking soda could scratch them if you are too aggressive. 

Allow the paste to sit on the green corrosion for about ten minutes.

That will allow the vinegar to react with the corrosion and loosen it from the metal. 

3. Wash and dry thoroughly

After about ten minutes:

  1. Take a cleaning cloth or an old toothbrush, scrub the corrosion, and paste away.
  2. Only use as much force as necessary to prevent damage to the metal.
  3. Once the corrosion is gone, wash the metal with soap and water to remove any baking soda and vinegar traces.
  4. Dry thoroughly and enjoy your newly shiny brass or copper.

Here is a video demonstrating how to clean green corrosion off metal.

0:23—Make a paste of vinegar and baking soda.

0:27—Rub the paste on the affected areas and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes.

0:32—Wipe the paste away and then wash with soap and water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my copper turn green?

The green corrosion on copper and brass is called patina.

It’s a thin tarnish that develops naturally over time when the metal is exposed to water.

The water can even be in the air.

The resulting chemical reaction produces the patina.

Certain salts or sulfurs can accelerate this process, which is why the Statue of Liberty in the United States is now green.

It is made of copper, which has reacted to the water and salt in the air over time. 

How can I prevent green corrosion?

The only way to prevent green corrosion is the keep the chemical reaction from occurring.

Doing this means regularly cleaning copper or brass indoors and keeping the metal away from moisture.

Place your metal items carefully, avoiding commonly wet places like the bathroom or kitchen. 

Outdoors, avoiding moisture is more of a challenge, but you can still keep your copper or brass looking shiny without cleaning it constantly.

You can apply a clear coating made explicitly for the metal to stop the chemical reaction.

The coating acts as a barrier between the metal and water, preventing them from forming green corrosion.

It needs to be reapplied every few years, but it will allow you to enjoy your copper or brass without worrying about turning green after the next rainstorm. 

Is there something else I can use if I don’t have baking soda?

You can substitute it with salt if you do not have any baking soda.

It is also abrasive and will scrape away the corrosion.

There are also a few techniques you can use with just vinegar, depending on the metal’s size and the corrosion’s extent. 

If the area is small and the corrosion light, you can dampen a fresh cleaning cloth with distilled white vinegar and rub it over the discolored areas.

Then, rinse the area thoroughly with cool water. 

If the affected area is more extensive, mix three parts:

  1. Water, distilled white vinegar, and one tablespoon of salt.
  2. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then submerge the metal. The heat should not damage the copper or brass but help dislodge more stubborn pieces of green corrosion.
  3. Be careful not to leave the metal in the boiling water too long; remove it quickly and then rinse and dry thoroughly. 

While it is suitable for removing corrosion, vinegar can also damage your copper or brass if left on them for a prolonged period.

We do not recommend submerging your brass or copper pieces in undiluted vinegar.

Instead, use the vinegar diluted with water or apply and remove quickly in a controlled environment. 

What should I do if I don’t have any vinegar?

If you don’t have any vinegar, you can also use lemon juice to remove green corrosion.

Make a paste using one part salt and three parts lemon juice and work it into the corrosion.

Use an old toothbrush to get the paste into all the corners.

Once it is gone, rinse the affected area thoroughly to remove any lemon juice or salt traces.

If you accidentally leave the acid on the metal for an extended time, it can damage it, so make sure you rinse and dry it thoroughly.

If you find the lemon juice is not working, you may have to use a commercial brass cleaner to remove the green corrosion altogether.