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Getting copper pipe to turn green

Q. I am making a deck railing of cedar and 1/2" copper pipe. I would like the pipe to turn green without waiting 20 years. Any suggestions on what I could brush on the pipe to get it to turn green?

Patrick Qdeleted
- Juneau, Alaska

A. Hello Patrick,

Here's a patina formula I found online that will give copper that bluish-green antique look you desire: Take 8 ounces of salt and 8 ounces of ammonium chloride and mix them with a quart of vinegar. Mix in a half ounce of ammonia when you are ready to put it on the copper. Spread it on with a soft brush and let it sit for 24 hours. If you want it darker, repeat the formula and let it sit another 24 hours. When it's done and has sat for a full day, wash it down and protect it with wax or lacquer.

Good luck,

Jake Koch
G. J. Nikolas & Co., Inc.

Bellwood, Illinois

Jax Green Patina

A. In the summertime, spray it with a spritz bottle with a mixture of salt, vinegar and water every morning and night. Green in about 2 weeks. When you get the green you like, rinse it with a hot water spray twice a day for a week. Then polish it with felt or canvas and wax it.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


A. To turn copper green spray with 1/2 strength muriatic acidamazoninfo. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Place in sun. With in 24 hours it will look like 100 years old.

Thomas Adeleted
- MC FARLAND, Wisconsin


Q. I am trying to age the copper on the overhangs of my house by turning them from what now looks like a dirty copper color to and age green color. I have seen several suggestions for doing so: muriatic acid, ammonium chloride and vinegar, and something called patina. Can I get some advice on what would work best?

Bryan Hdeleted
home maintenance - Mount Laurel, New Jersey


Q. Bryan H of Mount Laurel, NJ asked a question regarding the best way to turn his copper house overhangs to an aged green color. There was no response to his question. I am also looking for the best solution to this problem. Is there an appropriate answer?

Esta Sdeleted
- Los Angeles, California


A. Hello Esta. It's a public forum where anyone is welcome to respond. The question has already been "sorta" answered with three different solutions; but the exact response that you and Bryan request (for someone to point out which two of these suggestions are inferior to the third) can't be proven anyway, so why insult two of the three good Samaritans who answered the question :-)

... But we can list some advantages/disadvantages by saying that muriatic acid is very dangerous stuff that must be treated with great respect, so it has that downside. And commercial patinas have the advantage that they are formulated for the exact purpose, after a good deal of research and experiment, so they ought to be "best" in functionality -- but they are probably quite expensive compared to household chemicals. Good luck!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Thanks Ted, I did see and appreciate the helpful answers of the "Samaritans" who did respond. But like Bruce H of Laurel, N.J., I was hoping to hear from someone who had tried at least a couple and found one better than the others. Guess, I'll have to try them all myself!

Esta S [returning]
- Los Angeles, California

Ed. note: Sorry to put you to the work of testing more than one, but if you do, please come back and tell us your results, Esta. Thanks.


Q. I have a large copper job to do and I know there is a chemical reaction that will make the copper green without having to wait for the elements.

Teresa Cdeleted
fabrication student - Powder Springs, Georgia


A. May sound crazy, but I used Miracle Grow =>
diluted w/ water on my copper bays and it worked. It's much safer, easier and better for the environment than muriatic acid.

Steph West
- Boston, Massachusetts

September 12, 2010

Q. I'm trying to patina some copper and am not having very much luck - I even tried urine! It produced a peacock blue color but it washed away. I've read in two places that Miracle Grow works =>
but was curious if Miracid would work better? Isn't acid the thing you need to do the job? Thanks! Good column!

candy walter
- chapel hill North Carolina

November 2, 2010

A. Miracle-Gro for African Violets in a liquid form is GREAT! =>
I brushed (like I was painting) on the copper and it turned a lovely green the sunny day after I finished the job!
Thank you for the tip, Steve.

Lillian Satterfield
- Marietta, Georgia

Miracle Grow African Violet Food

March 15, 2010

Q. To achieve the antique green finish we love from ancient buildings, my ex. told me the workmen would urinate on it, and apparently it worked a charm. I am not prepared to do this on my vertical copper siding cladding two bay windows.

The several suggestions you have posted are all so different. Wish someone could recommend a sure-fire step-by-step procedure I could depend on.

Thanks, winona

winona gallop
- Toronto, Ontario

March 2010

A. Now, Winona. Your ex gave you a very attractive answer, and it sounds to me like instead of simply climbing a ladder and doing it, you're working hard to find some trivial objection just to pique him :-)

Seriously, people have related some success stories with salt + ammonium chloride + vinegar, and salt+vinegar, and muriatic acid + kosher salt, and Miracle Grow. If you have time to search the site you'll find dozens more threads on patinating copper, with still more approaches like ammonia. There is unfortunately no way to say which approach is "best" or most "surefire". The ease of different approaches will vary, and the speed, the safety, the exact color, the smoothness; the pattern will vary with some people preferring perfect uniformity and others wanting variegation. the durability will vary -- and it will remain a matter of opinion whether these approaches, or commercial patina solutions, or urination is "best" :-)

But are you positive that you have real copper, not copper colored aluminum? Sadly, sure-fire is impossible unless you can tell us exactly what copper alloy was used on your windows, what heat treatment sequence was performed, what mechanical preparation and sanding/buffing the manufacturer used, what type and brand of brass lacquer, epoxy, polyurethane or other clear coat they applied, and a dozen other questions we consumers are not privy to.

The closest we can come to step-by-step is to say that you must first remove whatever clearcoat is protecting the copper. Try lacquer thinneramazoninfo first. If that doesn't work, you will have to use Aircraft stripperamazoninfo, which is terribly toxic and noxious stuff requiring gogglesamazoninfo, protective glovesamazoninfo, and outstanding ventilation. After you have bare copper, please pick whichever approach sounds most authoritative or promising to you, and odds are it will work fine. Very best of luck!


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 10, 2010

You are right. Cannot answer all these questions. I do however know this is REAL copper. Saw it being installed, and know from the bank I needed to rob to pay for it, that it is the real thing. I am still pondering these various options. Muriatic acid is not on my list...too toxic, but all the others will be tried and I will keep you posted. winona

Winona Gallop
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

June 2, 2011

A. I am an artist and use small bits of copper sheet and wire. I don't have a standard recipe but have found that hot sauce works well. I had several bottles of old Tabasco in the kitchen and that seems to work well. Experiment. Have fun!

Benny Church
- Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

October 23, 2011

!. Miracle-Gro African Violet Liquid Food =>
diluted is the safe way to go... It was actually used in the Statue of Liberty restoration work. It was used to get the replaced copper to match the existing green copper.

Paul Varino
- Union, New Jersey, USA

October 24, 2011

Thanks, Paul, that's very interesting! Can you possibly provide a reference?


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Miracle Grow African Violet Food

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