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Dip n' Etch

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[Orchid] Working with Titanium

 Someone on this thread mentioned hydrofluoric acid's use as a
glass etchant: If you're looking for a safe alternative, try Dip
n' Etch solution, which is sold through many bead and lampwork
suppliers (i.e., It's reusable and relatively safe
(don't drink it), it smells like burning caramel, and it works
beautifully. I use it to create matte finishes on seed beads.  

Folks, I have to take this topic up even though I usually just read.
I have been making lampwork beads for 9 years and I etch a lot of
them. I am working on an article for Lapidary Journal on this and in
the process did a lot of research on Ammonium BiFlouride (Ammonium
Hydrogen Flouride) which is what is in Dip-n-Etch. I also work with
chemists, who were horrified to find that you can buy products like
Dip-n-Etch at Michael’s. HF acid will seep into your body and attach
itself to calcium in any form it can find. That means if you spill
it on your finger or are wearing a glove with a pinhole in the
fingertip, it will seep in and DISSOLVE the bone in your finger. If
you spill enough on you to cover the back of your hand, it can kill
you. If it can’t find enough calcium in the area of the spill, it
will take enough of it from your system that your heart will stop -
nerve synpases need calcium to communicate and without it, the
nerves stop controlling things like your heartbeat. Go to google and
do a search on HydroFlouric Acid or Ammonium BiFlouride and read
some of the horror stories!

Years ago the only glass etch product most lampwork suppliers
carried was Jack Frost, and when Dip-n-Etch came out many
lampworkers touted it as ‘safer than Jack Frost’. This misconception
is very dangerous and sadly perpetuated.

The precautions to take include wearing gloves, face shield, and
long sleeves, if possible work under a hood, and next to a sink.
Keep Calcium Gluconate gel on hand and apply to any area you have
spilled Dip-n-Etch on, go directly to the emergency room. This gel
can be purchased from Attard’s Chemicals

Always get a material data safety sheet for any chemical product you
work with. If not from the manufacturer, then from a web site like - [this one is Ammonium
BiFlouride MSDS info].


Sherry, this is highly disconcerting…I find myself rather angry
that this product is being sold without labeling that more
emphatically states the dangers of working with it, and I was also
led to believe that it was relatively safe to work with, which makes
me feel kind of stupid (maybe bamboozled is the word) and therefore
even more angry.

I used to work as a lab temp and have handled nasty stuff ranging
from concentrated hydrochloric acid to capsicum oleoresin to
listeria cultures, and I take a little pride in being a “safety
geek.” My safety glasses hardly ever leave my face when I’m in the
shop. So when I worked with the Dip n’ Etch, I took what I thought
were the appropriate precautions - but your post has made me feel
like I might as well have been in my skivvies.

Is it not illegal to sell a product without labeling that informs
the consumer about its potential dangers? Maybe I missed
something, but I don’t remember such labeling on the Dip 'n Etch
bottle. I tried without much success to locate an MSDS online
(there were a few pages masquerading as MSDSs, but they lacked
important . I tried the link you posted, but it led to
a 404 message. I did find this link that others may find helpful:

Apparently, both HF and ABF have been used for many years in the
carwash industry to remove dirt from wheels and wheel wells, with
issues similar to the ones we’re discussing.

I wonder if the concentration of the Dip n’ Etch is high enough to
be dangerous - acetic acid is very dangerous in its near-pure form,
but if you dilute it, you can put it on your salad and eat it.
Likewise, sodium hydroxide can be an extremely nasty chemical, but
it is used in, among other things, body lotion. However, one site
gives the percentage of ammonium bifluoride in the Dip n’ Etch
solution as 20%, which sounds pretty darn high.

(On a side note, since the beginning of the discussion about HF,
I’ve been reminded of a wrenching episode of “Chicago Hope” or “ER”

  • this was quite a few years ago - in which a worker at a glass
    factory or something similar spilled HF on his arm and then
    proceeded to die in agony over the course of the show. Anybody else
    recall that one? Scared the bejeezus out of me…)

Anyway, please let us know when your article in Lapidary Journal
will be published. I think many of us will be very keen to read

Many thanks,
Jessee Smith

TV shows and novels pick up on STUFF and while the may
have a little revelence sometimes there is a lot of exaggeration and
sometimes plain falsehood . I seem to remember the show but I think
the exposure was grossly in error…, It was not the way things would

HF is very bad stuff but don’t use the popular press or TV as a
scientific factual source.