How to Remove Lead from Brass Plumbing Fittings

brass plumbing fittings
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-20
What You'll Need
3% Hydrogen peroxide
White wine vinegar
Small brush
Clean cloth or towel
Large bowl
Dry cloth
Rubber gloves

Although the amount of lead that can be present on brass plumbing fittings is normally low enough not to be of any concern, most people prefer to get rid of it anyway because it dulls and darkens the color of the metal. Lead has been linked to a range of health issues and will most commonly enter a home water supply locally due to lead piping or as a cumulative growth on brass fittings. The process of removing any accumulated lead from your plumbing is very easy, if you follow the detailed steps below.

Step 1 – Mix Solution

Dilute 1 part hydrogen peroxide with two parts of vinegar in a bowl to form the cleaning solution. The acidic properties of this solution are able to dissolve the lead without affecting the composition of the metal. Hydrogen peroxide is irritating to skin so be sure to wear gloves when mixing and using it. Avoid contact with your eyes and wipe up any spillages quickly.

Step 2 – Initial Application

Use a small brush, such as an old toothbrush, to apply the solution to any hard to reach areas in order to make sure that the plumbing fitting is as lead-free as possible. Use a generous amount of solution on the brush for best results. Do not forget to wipe the liquid away before moving on to the next step.

Step 3 – Soak Plumbing Fitting

Soak the towel or cloth in the cleaning solution and wrap it around the entire plumbing fitting securely. Leave it in place for around seven minutes and check to see if the brass has taken on the buttery-yellow color that indicates that the lead has been removed.

If the fitting does not yet have the correct color, leave the towel in place and check it every minute or so until it does. Take care not to leave the towel in place for too long otherwise the fitting may begin to turn blue-green as the copper present in the brass starts to dissolve. If this happens, you will need to begin the process again using a clean towel soaked in solution as the existing one may have become contaminated with lead. Repeat the process with any other brass plumbing fixtures showing signs of lead accumulation.

Step 4 – Wipe Surfaces Down

When the brass fittings are a rich buttery-yellow color, you can remove the soaked towel and wipe the surfaces down thoroughly. The process may be repeated again in the future as required. An indication of lead build-up on brass is that the color will darken. However, you may also wish to invest in a home lead testing kit in order to monitor the levels that exist. As hot water tends to contain higher levels of lead, you may find that hot water faucet will become dark first. This is one of the reasons that you should avoid drinking water directly from the hot water supply.