How To Remove Paint From Copper Pipes [6 Excellent Methods!]

Do you use copper pipes at home for your water supply lines? Well, it's a given that, over time, they get dirty, especially if they are coated with paint -hence regular maintenance is a must! But how will you strip off that paint and clean your pipes without causing any damage to them? We've searched and asked the experts for the answer.

To remove paint from copper pipes, you can use any of the following methods or materials:

  • Nitromors paint remover
  • Paint burning
  • Sanding or emery cloth
  • Paint thinner
  • Acetone
  • Olive oil and mineral spirits

Do you want to know the step-by-step procedure on how to remove paint from copper pipes using the methods or materials above? Continue reading as we elaborate more on the topic. Additionally, we'll answer pertinent questions related to the topic.

A copper pipe painted in white, How To Remove Paint From Copper Pipes [6 Excellent Methods!]

How to remove paint from copper pipes

Copper pipes are usually used for water supply and air conditioning systems because of their non-corrosive, lead-free, and antimicrobial properties. They're also known for being durable and long-lasting, which can withstand pressure and outside stresses, thus making them impermeable as well unlike common plastic pipes.

However, like any other materials, copper pipes also need some maintenance work. Since some copper pipes are coated with paint, the paint must be thoroughly removed to complete the job.

A worker installing a copper pipe for the water line in the kitchen

There are different techniques on how to effectively strip off paint from copper pipes. We've listed each of them below, including the step-by-step procedure.

Nitromors paint remover


Unlike its original version, which used a toxic chemical substance methylene chloride as one of its active ingredients, the current Nitromors paint remover has a new formula that eliminates the harmful chemical from its components. The Nitromors paint remover is now safe for the user, as well as for nature.

Nitromors paint remover is an excellent choice to get rid of copper pipe paint. Just make sure that you work on it in an open area with the use of personal protective gear.

To apply it, follow the steps below:

  1. First, wear the needed protective gear like gloves, goggles, and respirator/facemask. Lay old newspapers below the pipes to catch any dripping.
  2. Using a disposable brush, apply small even layers into the copper pipe.
  3. Let the application sit for about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Once you can see a bubbling or blistering effect on the paint itself, gently start scratching off the paint with the use of a paint scraper.

Paint burning

Most plumbers usually use the paint-burning technique since it gets the work done faster and, at the same time, very effectively. You simply need a blow torch and a sanding mesh strip for this method.

A worker burning the paint off the copper pipe

Follow the steps below to strip off the paint using this method:

  1. Using a blow torch, burn the paint around the pipes.
  2. Once you can see that the paint is starting to burn and then eventually turns black, stop the fire. Let it cool down for a bit.
  3. Next, scrub the paint off using a sanding mesh strip around the entire pipe.

You may view the video below for your reference:

Sanding or emery cloth

Another simple yet effective way of removing paint on copper pipes is with the use of sanding or emery cloth. Plumbers also use these materials to remove the paint from the copper pipes before soldering or brazing them. This is easier if you have your pipes detached.

Check out this sanding cloth on Amazon.

To remove the paint using these materials, follow the steps below:

  1. The first thing that you need to do is to get a long strip of sanding or emery cloth. Make sure to double it.
  2. Next, with the sanding or emery cloth in hand, hold a grip on the pipe itself and start rubbing it to remove the paint.
  3. If the pipe is not detached, place the sanding or emery cloth on the pipe and hold both ends of the cloth. Scratch off the paint.

Check out this Emery cloth on Amazon.

Paint thinner

One way to get rid of paint from copper pipes, especially enamel ones, is by using a paint thinner. But since copper is a malleable metal, you should be careful in applying paint thinner to it.

Follow the steps below for the proper application of paint thinner:

  1. Apply a fair amount of paint thinner on the copper piece.
  2. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Next, wipe away the substance with a cloth.
  4. If there are any stubborn spots located in the area, remove them gently using a scraper.


Acetone is also a good paint remover. You only need to leave the acetone on the surface of the copper pipe and wait for at least 10-15 minutes.

To prevent the acetone from evaporating quickly, use a plastic wrapper or anything that could cover the pipe while waiting for the chemical reaction to take place. Once done, wipe away the paint using cotton or cloth.

Olive oil & mineral spirits

You wouldn't have expected that a simple cooking ingredient like olive oil would help remove paint on copper pipes. The oil serves as a lubricant to soften the paint and eventually get rid of it. The application of mineral spirits is also helpful for flawless output.

To get rid of the paint, follow the instructions below:

  1. Apply a small amount of olive oil to the paint. Leave it there for at least one minute.
  2. Scrape the paint off the copper pipe by using a plastic scraper or any sharp object (make sure that the sharp edge is wrapped with a cloth).
  3. If there are any stubborn paints left, apply a thin layer of mineral spirits on the spot using a rag.

Does paint prevent copper from tarnishing?

A detailed photo of a copper pipe water line

Although copper is a non-corrosive metal, it is still not safe from any discoloration due to handling or atmosphere exposure. A copper does tarnish, but it doesn't rust. The formation of discolorations can be avoided by applying a protective coating to the pipe's exterior.

As recommended, they should be coated with a thin layer of clear protective coating. Thus, painting copper may help prevent copper from tarnishing, but it is not really recommended.

What type of paint to use on copper pipes?

Although painting your pipes is not that necessary, you can still paint them if you want to. The best paint to use on copper pipes would be oil-based or enamel paint.

What does vinegar do to copper pipes?

The tarnish caused by oxidation on your copper pipes can be removed by the use of vinegar. Vinegar, with its chemical components, can remove the tarnish or discoloration out of your copper pipes. Applying vinegar on the copper pipe and leaving it for at least 15 minutes will initiate the removal of the tarnish due to the vinegar's acidity.

Can you paint copper pipes that get hot?

An HVAC specialist installing a copper pipe to the radiant heater

You can paint copper pipes that get hot, like those used in your water and AC system. However, it does have to be a special kind of paint since normal paint will just easily flake out of the pipe if exposed to heat. It should be a hard enamel paint that is heat-resistant.

How do you get paint to stick to copper?

To ensure that the paint will stick to the copper, follow the steps below:

  1. First, you need to apply a primer for metals to your copper pipe. You should always use a primer first before painting on your pipe so that the paint will really adhere to it.
  2. Once done, leave the primer for at least 45 minutes before applying it to the paint.

See the copper pipe preparation in progress below:

In Summary

A copper pipe painted in white

Getting rid of paint from copper pipes for maintenance purposes, like soldering or brazing, is quite easy and involves a lot of ways to do it. You may use a Nitromors paint remover, acetone, paint thinner, or emery/sand cloth.

Another tip to easily remove copper pipe paint is to burn the paint using a torch and polish it using a sand cloth. And believe it or not, you can use olive oil to help get rid of the paint. Yes, you heard it right! You just need to use mineral spirits alongside olive oil to thoroughly remove the paint.

And although copper is known for being non-corrosive, it still has the possibility to tarnish due to oxidation or outside exposure. Now to treat any discoloration or any tarnish on your pipes, using vinegar is the cheapest yet effective way.

And before you go, you may want to check these comprehensive articles which somewhat relates to the topic:

How To Keep Copper Pipes Shiny? [Plus Natural Methods & Oxidation Prevention]

How Long Do Galvanized Steel Pipes Last?

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