Tool Time: Etching lampwork beads

I really like the “beach glass” look that can be achieved by etching lampwork beads. It gives them a matte shimmer and is a lovely contrast to the usual shiny bead look. It also seems to enhance some of the colors and I just love the “inner glow” that etching can produce on some of the lighter transparent colors.

To get started with etching lampwork beads, you require etching solution. You get them either as cream or as liquid and you can buy them with your usual glass suppliers. The brand that I use is called “Etch-All dib ‘n etch” and it’s a liquid.

Etching liquid is aggressive (kind of obvious, as it is a chemical that is removing a small layer of your glass bead) and safety is important when handling the solution. I suggest you use disposable rubber gloves and make sure that you have good ventilation. Either use it outside or with an opened window. And please don’t handle the liquid with your bare hands (I always use a plastic spoon to move beads into the liquid and take them out) – it is not a very pleasant experience. Ask me how I know 😉 And one more thing: please make sure that the etching solution and etching container is always outside of reach of children.

I normally place the annealed beads into a little plastic container and carefully pour a sufficient amount of etching liquid over the beads (metal or glass containers are not such a good idea, unless you want to etch your container too LOL). You want to make sure that it’s enough liquid to cover your beads completely.

The etching process usually doesn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes (please double check on your etching solution container, in case you’re using a different brand).

However, some glass colors take longer, mainly the silver glass colors (for example StrikingColor or TAG Fire Lotus). While I’m etching the beads, every couple of minutes I’m moving them around with a plastic spoon – just to make sure that the etching solution is really getting everywhere.

Once the etching process is finished, I use a plastic spoon to scoop the beads out of the solution and I’m giving them first a fast clean under running water before dropping them in a baking soda solution for a bath (etching liquid is acidic and can be neutralized with baking soda).

After neutralizing the beads in soda for a while, I give the beads another thorough clean with an old brush under running water, and they’re ready to string! If you see some whitish deposit or dust on the beads after drying them, it just means that they were not cleaned enough – the deposits are sometimes a bit stubborn and another clean with a brush should solve that.


Don’t forget to pour back the used liquid into the etching solution container – you can reuse it many many times (even though it gets dirty over time, but that doesn’t affect it’s performance). Make sure to clean the plastic container & spoon thoroughly too!

You can achieve beautiful effects if you just etch parts of your beads. There are several ways to do this, and I will tell you all about this (well, as much as I know LOL) in a few weeks.

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2 comments

  1. I also love the sea glass look of etched beads. Thanks for the tip on using a baking soda solution. I usually just use soap and water.

  2. wow…how cute all these…!!!you know the viniger is also useful for that…!!

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