How to Desolder Copper Pipe?

March 25, 2021

Many people hire a plumber to desolder a copper pipe. However, you may be surprised that desoldering a pipe is not very hard. 

With this guide, you will avoid paying extra fees by learning how to desolder a copper pipe. 

We will cover what tools you need and list any safety equipment that will be helpful.

Furthermore, you will be getting a step-by-step guide to break the desoldering process into easy steps

Not only will we explain how to desolder, but we will also give a few tips and tricks that make the process even easier. 

If you are ready to become a desoldering expert, keep on reading. 

Reasons to Desolder Copper Pipe

Reasons to Desolder Copper Pipe

Before we explain how to desolder a copper pipe, let’s find out why someone may need to do this in the first place. 

  • Leaking joint. One of the most common reasons why you will need to desolder a copper pipe is that the joint is leaking. 
  • Rusted pipe. A rusted pipe is not very uncommon. When you discover that a pipe has rusted, you will need to replace it quickly to avoid further problems. 
  • To replace the joint with a straight joint or a T-joint. When you want to replace an old joint with a new joint like a straight or t-joint, you will have to desolder it to remove it. 

Tools and Equipment Needed

Tools and Equipment Needed

Before you start the desoldering process, you will need to make sure you have everything you need. Let’s take a look. 

Desoldering Equipment

Even if you know how to desolder copper pipe, the knowledge won’t do you any good if you don’t have the proper equipment. 

  • Propane torch. The propane torch will be the main tool you will be using for the desoldering process. 
  • Igniter. Depending on the kind of torch you have, you might need an igniter. Some torches will already have igniters built into them; others will not. 
  • Pipe cutter/pliers. You will need pipe cutters or pliers to remove the joint or pipe. It will be best to have two pliers on hand. 
  • Dry cloth. You will be using a dry cloth during the last step of desoldering to wipe away the old solder.

Safety Equipment

Before you learn how to desolder copper pipe, there will be a few safety precautions to take. 

Here are a few things you should have in arms reach. 

  • Fire extinguisher. Any kind of workshop should have a fire extinguisher. Make sure the extinguisher is not expired and is ready to go. 
  • Water. Another easy safety precaution is to have water at hand. This can be a water bottle or even a spray bottle with water in it. There may be an instance where you don’t need a fire extinguisher but still need some sort of fire retardant. 
  • Heat-resistant cloth. This tip will be optional, but you can also use a heat-resistant cloth during the desoldering process. Some people will place the cloth behind the joint that you are desoldering to prevent a fire from starting. 
  • Safety goggles. Safety goggles should be a given when you are in the workshop or working with fire. 
  • Face shield. Since you will be working with a propane torch, it will be a good idea to wear a face shield during the process. 
  • Gloves. Finally, make sure to wear some fire-resistant gloves. You will be working with very high temperatures, so you will need to wear gloves to avoid burning your hands. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Desoldering Copper Pipe?

Up to this point, we have covered why you may need to desolder a pipe and what equipment you will need.

Now it is time to get to the fun stuff. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to desolder copper pipe.  

Step One: Make Sure the Pipe Is Drained of Water

STEP ONE: MAKE SURE THE PIPE IS DRAINED OF WATER

Before you even begin, a crucial step is to make sure the pipe contains no water. 

If you have not removed the pipe yet, you will need to turn off the water and drain the water from the pipes. To do this, you will shut off the main valve and turn on the faucets.

When you take the pipe out, some water may come out. Simply place a bucket underneath the pipe that you are removing to catch the water.

If there is still water in the pipe, the solder will not melt properly when you heat it with the torch. 

Step Two: Use the Torch To Melt the Solder

To begin, turn the torch on to the highest setting. You will then take the flame and direct it onto the copper pipe fitting you want to remove. 

This step is where you can use the fire-resistant cloth if you have one. You can place the cloth behind the fitting to avoid a fire from starting. 

If you want to desolder the pipe itself and not a fitting, the process will be fairly similar. However, instead of holding onto the torch, you will place the torch on the table. 

After you place the torch on the table, turn it on. Then you will hold the two pipes with both hands (wearing gloves, of course) at each end and bring the joint to the flame. 

When you begin the torching process, you will have to watch carefully and notice when the solder starts to melt.

Once you can see the metal beginning to melt, keep the flame on for another thirty seconds. 

You want to keep the flame on for a bit longer after the metal begins to melt so that the pipe will stay hot and malleable once you take the torch away.

This will allow you to work the metal and remove the fitting easier. 

One last thing to note about this step is that you will need to make sure you have either water or a fire extinguisher nearby. Even though the flame is small, it does not take much for a fire to start. 

Wearing glasses or a face mask during this step will also prevent any molten metal from splattering and hitting your face. 

Step Three: Use the Pliers To Remove the Fitting/Joint or Pipe

STEP THREE: USE THE PLIERS TO REMOVE THE FITTING/JOINT OR PIPE

Now that you have heated the metal, you can now remove the fitting or pipe. 

You will now grab the pipe with the first set of pliers. It is crucial not to clamp down on the pipe too hard.

Since the metal is in a vulnerable state, this could change the metal’s shape and lead to further complications. 

The next thing you will do is grab the fitting or the other pipe you are removing with the second set of pliers. 

Carefully twist the fitting or pipe. The twisting movement should slowly loosen the joint and allow you to remove the copper pipe. 

Step Four: Use a Dry Cloth To Remove Old Solder From the Pipe

Now that you have removed the fitting or pipe, you will need to remove the old solder. This step is very simple. 

You might need to quickly heat the pipe again with the torch to loosen the solder. Then you can take a dry cloth and wipe away the old solder from the pipe. 

It is very important to wear heat-resistant gloves during this step. 

The copper pipe will be very hot at this point, so never clean the pipe with bare hands. If you do, you might be walking away with some severe burns. 

Extra Tips

EXTRA TIPS

Now you know how to desolder copper pipe. However, there are a few tips you will want to know that might help the process to go more smoothly. 

Propane torches will be the easiest to use for desoldering copper pipes

There are three main kinds of torches: propane, brazing, and Mapp gas torches. You can use all of these torches to desolder copper pipes.

However, propane torches are the main weapon of choice for copper pipes since it is the easiest to use. However, Mapp gas torches will also work well.

Try to avoid using brazing torches for copper. 

Use a wet rag to prevent the entire joint from melting

Before you use the torch to melt the pipe/joint, wrap a wet rag around the pipe that you are not removing. The moisture will prevent the other pipe from overheating. 

Make sure to subject the pipe to the hottest part of the torch flame when desoldering

Many people think that the tip of the torch flame is the hottest part. However, the hottest part of the flame is actually near the middle.

At the base of the flame is a blue color. Then the flame converts to a yellow color near the tip.

You will want to place the pipe right next to where the blue flame ends (this will be near the middle of the flame). 

Conclusion

We hope that this guide has effectively helped you learn how to desolder copper pipe.

The process is quite simple; all you need is a torch, pliers, and an igniter. 

It is important to keep safety in mind while desoldering, since the hot temperatures and flame can introduce certain hazards. 

Make sure to have a fire extinguisher or water at hand. Personal protective equipment will also decrease the chances of injury. Gloves, safety glasses, and a facemask will be best. 

Resources:

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