Can't locate Ferric Chloride

Jewelry | | |

I have been on the hunt for Ferric Chloride to etch some jewelry pieces. Radio Shack used to carry it. Can anyone tell me where to find some?? Or what else works as well? I was told to use Muric acid, but that is a highly toxic chemical and although I have it, I haven't opened it. Has anyone used that? I am in GA. Thanks so much- Renee

Rich Waugh's picture

Radio Shack still carries

Radio Shack still carries it, under the name "Printed Circuit Board Etchant". Failing that, try a nearby chemical supply house.

You don't say what metal you're etching, and that makes a huge difference in the proper mordant. Nitric acid is appropriate for silver, aqua regia (nitric/hydrocloric mix)is necessary for gold, muriatic will work for aluminum, etc. Without the details, I find it hard to provide much help.

There are NO safe etching compounds! Anything that will dissolve metal is dangerous, period. Read the appropriate safety literature and practice safe procedures with ALL the proper safety gear - face shield, safety glasses, apron, clothing, ventilation/respirator, etc. It is up to YOU to be safe.

Reneewright's picture

Etching Copper

Sorry- I am trying to etch copper. I tried every Radio Shack around a 50 mile radius and none of them has the PCBE in stock- nor know when they will be getting it. I finally did find a website that sells it and ordered 6 bottles as they only had 18 in stock. Guess I won't run out for awhile!
The class I took only used the Ferric Chloride, so I am trying to find info on other etchants.

Are you saying that muratic acid will not etch the copper or is that an alternative? I used to work at HD so I know the dangers of using that chemical.

Will the Ferric Chloride etch brass?
Is Nitric Acid ok for both sterling and fine silver?

Sorry about all the questions :-) As you can see, I'm a newbie at the etching.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions and help! Renee

Rich Waugh's picture

Renee, Yes, Ferric Chloride


Yes, Ferric Chloride (FeCl) will etch brass, as it is a copper alloy. The speed, depth and smoothness of the etch will depend on the particualr alloy of the brass (there are dozens) and the time/temp/concentration of the FeCl mordant.

Muriatic acid, (dilute HCl), will etch copper, and is likely to be a somewhat faster and rougher etch, depending on the concentration you use. I would stick with the FeCl for copper unless you want to develop a very deep etch in heavier stock.

Nitric acid (HNO3) will etch sterling, fine silver and other silver alloys. It is considerably more dangerous than muriatic acid, so read and follow all the safety precautions.

I would suggest you obtain and study several books on the subject. "Metal Techniques for Craftsmen" by Oppi Untracht has some good information on etching, as do a number of other books on metalsmithing. You may also find good information in books on printmaking. If your local library doesn't have them, you might want to try to obtain them through the Inter-Library Loan (ILL) system. Ask your librarian for details.

Reneewright's picture


Thanks Rich for the info. I will do as suggested :-) Renee

JaniceF's picture

etch sterling?

If you want to etch sterling you can use ferric nitrate rather than nitric acid - if you want a gentler chemical to work with. :)

beadaholic's picture

an alternative

I etch copper using a D battery and salt water. It is rather simple. I use a paint pen, I have a silver metallic one, draw what I want on the item, put it on one aligator clip with a copper wire going to the + side of the battery, then a another wire and a piece of left over scrap copper to the - side. Put this in very heavily salted water, and watch it bubble and well for me on small items. If you want more power, then buy a car battery charger, it already has aligator clips installed, and you don't have to buy D acid, no danger that I can find....I strain the water with coffee filters and reuse it over and etches things in about 1 hour...and I plan on buying a battery charger at some is great for enameling transparents over these etchings....

visitor's picture

You can probably use

You can probably use ammonium persulfate. This works better than ferric chloride on circuit boards (i.e. on copper), and has the advantage of being clear in that you can see progress. Of course it's toxic, but it doesn't tend to stain as much if spilt.

visitor's picture

Ferric Chloride

I also had trouble finding it. Finally I found it in quart and gallon (pre-mixed) at a (vague) strength of 32-42 Baume. Look into any electronics supply place. oo Used to etch circuit boards. Also found online at (in crystal form). has good premixed patinas too.
Good luck, Susan

visitor's picture

Ciopper etching

Renee- Check out the November 2008 issue of Art Jewelry. It has an article on etching utilizing saltwater and a "D" battery. No acids required.
Scroll down to the 6th feature article. This process still produces contaminated fluids after etching but not nearly as difficult to dispose of as the ferric chloride mixture.

visitor's picture

check out

check out

visitor's picture

Ferric Chloride

I checked the local Radio Shack for ferric chloride recently and was told they don't carry it. Apparently some individuals who had purchased it previously were attempting to use it for making explosives.

bgold110's picture

Ferric Chloride

Datak supplies FeCl in a dry, powder form and the user must add it to water to make the etching solution. The 1/4 lb. package produces 1 pint...It also appears to be stronger than the premixed solution from Radio shack.
BTW.. RS still carries it in the kit, same for Rio.

visitor's picture


I am curious to know if vinegar would do the same job?? I don't have access to either azuya stone or ferric chloride. Am I SOL or is there still another way to get the same results??

visitor's picture

ferric chloride

I was also told at my local ratio shack that they didn't carry ferric chloride any longer.

I went in a few weeks later and asked for copper etchant solution on the off chance is was a matter of semantics.

Sure enough they had it. Don;t know what the problem was.

visitor's picture

Ferric Chloride

Hi Reneewright,

Another place you might want to consider is an art supply store - that's where I buy it.


visitor's picture


I have read the information in the blogs, I see you are in the Atlanta area?
I too am looking for ferric chloride and had started on the Radio Shack trail. I want to use it for spraying on raku fired pots, it produces a really nice orange colour.
Any chance I could buy one of the bottle you have purchased, or failing that, where did you buy it from?
Thanks, Rosemary

visitor's picture

another option


MGGuy's picture

We supply ferric chloride and other etchants

Hi everyone,

I was researching the capabilities of different etchants on google and came across this thread of people looking for a source of ferric chloride.

I hope it's not been too long to bump this thread, but at MG Chemicals we supply ferric chloride, ammonium persulfate, and sodium persulfate in reasonable quantities to all of the USA and Canada through our distribution network (sizes from 500ml to a drum).

Our ferric chloride page is here:

Allied Electronics will supply it to anywhere in the USA or Canada:

and we have many other distributors listed here:

visitor's picture

Ferric Chloride disposal

Hello ... saw your posting on ArtMetal from several months ago, and have visited the MG site. I know to use baking soda to difuse the etchant, but it seems to take forever and much soda to do so. I do not have test paper that is referenced ... ??? I have used this solution in workshops I have taken and taught. There was never much discussion about disposal, if any at all. The amount I use is usually small and easy to dispose of. Today, however, at home I had some that had been in garage for quite a while and husband wanted to dispose of it. It was about 1/2 gallon. It seemed to take forever and the solution continued to foam on and on. Will it foam even after it reaches the safe level the MG site references? Or, do you have to keep adding until no more foaming? Any proportion you can suggest as to how much soda for what size/quantity of solution?

Rich Waugh's picture

If it is foaming it has not

If it is foaming it has not yet reached neutrality. Continue to add bicarbonate of soda until it stops foaming, or reaches a pH of 7.0 to 7.2 or so.


visitor's picture

old ethcer

looking to get back into the art. if you can get me the things i need,ill trade you out and teach you how to use them

artings's picture

Finding Ferric Chloride

I realize this is coming in after the fact...
has always been my source...
(I just officially joined this forum yesterday...
and with some printmaking under my belt..
"ferric chloride" was too familiar a topic for me to pass up).

visitor's picture

I, too, have joined (today

I, too, have joined (today in fact) and read this thread with interest. FWIW:

1) I have used FeCl for the last 45 years to etch copper on PCBs first , later brass and most recently *steel* with good results.

2) The worst side-effect was to turn my mother's toilet bowl yellow.

3)Most recently I got mine here:

4) It can be re-used several times.

5) Clean up is easier if neutralized first with soda bicarbonate.

silverpounder's picture


Curcuit board makers use it for custom boards, (copper clad Fiberglass). It will do any type of copper alloy very well, it works better than any acid etchant on copper. If you do brass it will have tin in it, kinda toxic. Some brass has lead in it. I forget how we used to neutralize it but it was easy. Once you take the bite out of it, it (used to) be legal to flush. May still be!

Rich Waugh's picture

Ferric chloride is not, in

Ferric chloride is not, in its unused state, a material that is restricted to haz-mat disposal at the present time. However - and this is a major however - after use as an etchant, it will be contaminated with metallic residues and may very well fall under the haz-mat guidelines. The relative acidity is not a consideration in this case, only the degree/type of contamination. If in doubt, call the EPA (anonymously?) and ask.


visitor's picture

Ferric Chloride disposal

Found this stream when searching info for disposal. I have used at several workshops I have taken and taught. Still find conflicting info on disposal. I know to add baking soda, but it continues to foam up ... on, and on, and on. ?!?! So, at what point is it ok to dilute with water, and ready for disposal? Is there a proportion anyone has as to how much baking soda to volume of etchant? Just looking for more guidance and info. We used it, but disposal was never a discussion point ...

Thanks ... Pam

Rich Waugh's picture

Pam, If you want to be sure


If you want to be sure the FeCl is no longer acidic, simply get some litmus paper or pH strips from the pharmacy and test the pH of the solution after you have added the bicarbonate of soda. You are shooting for a pH of 7.0, which is neutral. Below that is acidic and above it is alkaline. If the solution is still acidic, add bicarb to titrate to neutrality, as the chemists say.

As I noted before, the presence of dissolved metals or metallic salts in the solution may make the solution a haz-mat under current guidelines.


crquack's picture

I use household ammonia to

I use household ammonia to neutralize. You get there quicker. Use litmus paper.

I am puzzled how even after multiple re-use the minute quantity of copper dissolved makes it a bio-hazzard.


Rich Waugh's picture

Oh, I don't say it makes

Oh, I don't say it makes complete sense, but the EPA has some rather draconian regulations about disposing of metallic salts and the like. Frankly, I wouldn't worry about it at all, but I certainly can't advocate that for everyone - I use about a tablespoon of FeCl every couple of years, so it would take several millennia for me to make an impact on even a shovelful of dirt.


crquack's picture

I should add that I am still

I should add that I am still using the same FeCl3 that I bought - years ago! The neutralization goes into the rinsing baths and the water in which implements are washed. I have not actually tried to neutralize any significant quantity of FeCl3 - I just have not had the need. The stuff seems to go forever.

BTW I do not have a clear handle as to whether one should neutralize *the workpieces* after etching or not. Some way you should - the etching goes on even after you rinse the stuff off. I am not sure I buy it. Many of my pieces go on to being treated with other chemicals (gun blue for one) and have a sense that it goes on better if I do not neutralize. I have not noticed any progressive etching.

In any case, recently I have been using the Ediburgh etch rather than pure FeCl3.