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Disposing of Ferric Chloride - safety is key!


I was going through a mound of orchid emails today and although this
is two weeks late I just had to post a response…

Brian you’re absolutely right you should not put it down the drain,
but I am appalled you would say the best thing to do is to pour it
into the ground! You should never pour chemicals, especially acid
into the ground!

Ferric Chloride should always be stored in acid safe pyrex or the
containers that premixed ferric chloride come in. Sodium
bicarbonate(1/4 cup baking soda nad h2o) can be used to fully
neutralize metal, etching pans, etc. When I etch I always dispose of
all materials used during etching, such as tape, paper towels, etc. in
ziploc bags labeled with contents. As far as the ethcing solution…
most premixed ferric chloride solutions can be used again and again,
assuming there aren’t contaminated at all. When the time comes to
rid, you should contact your local waste facilities, there have the
resources to dispose of it along with other waste materials properly
instead of into the ground!!!

It is possible to use hazardous chemicals in a safe way to make art
jewelry, and it is sooo important to respect the environment when
doing so.


Kit Puliz
engauge studios



Don’t get too excited about pouring such things into the ground.
Yes, it would be neutralized first, but we’re not talking PCB’s or
radioactive materials here. This is an iron salt, a pretty innocuous
substance. What do people think is already inside the earth anyway ?

I’m a “tree-hugger”, I guess, but I do have my limits and I don’t
worry about every little thing. I mean, I’m sitting about 8 miles
away from Three Mile Island and I was 5 miles away during the
accident. Everything else pales by comparison. That was 29 years ago
and I’ve had no ill effects, and yes I was exposed.

Brian Corll
Vassar Jewelers


Ferric chloride can be stored in plastic bottles. After its etching
properties are spent, simply mark the bottle as such and ready it
for your local hazardous waste.

If you don’t have a hazardous waste facility near you, you can also
pour the spent liquid into plastic litter box with kitty litter. Acid
into kitty litter. Once it has been absorbed, then mix some baking
soda in with the kitty litter. Once all of the kitty litter has
absorbed the ferric chloride, or ferric nitrate, this can go into

The preferred method is using your hazardous waste facility. You can
also call your local city hall and ask them what method they chose to
depose of your chemicals.


Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio


Brian I was there too at Three Mile Island. They walked into our
neighboorhood and sprayed a line between our house and the
neighbors. Said everything on the neighbors side was unsafe and that
everything on our side was safe…My father packed us up kit and
caboodle because he didn’t think radiation knew how to recognize
boundry lines.

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry



Yeah, the whole TMI thing was a big mess in every possible way,
wasn’t it ? But I don’t think anyone suffered any real harm, despite
what some folks and their ambulance-chaser lawyers have claimed. Even
the local Penn State - Milton Hershey Medical school hasn’t come up
with any lasting negative effects, to my knowledge.

Brian Corll
Vassar Jewelers


I just bought a bottle of ferric chloride from Radio Shack and the
disposal instructions on the bottle said to flush it down the

Mitch Adams


Hi Mitch, Whoa. flushing ferric chloride down the toilet is probably
the worst thing one can do. I am amazed that Radio Shack would
recommend this as a way to dispose of the stuff. I suppose it would
be o.k. if you wanted a toilet bowl stained a permanent orange/brown


I just bought a bottle of ferric chloride from Radio Shack and the
disposal instructions on the bottle said to flush it down the

I saw that and dumped it down the stainless steel sink anyway. Did
you know that Ferric Chloride etches stainless steel? It was only
there for a moment on its way down the drain, but there’s a definite
permanent slightly frosted look where it puddled in the sink on its
way down the drain.

My only excuse is that I had neutralized it with baking soda - I
thought it was safe. Evidently not. Another day, another lesson




TMI Well No Lasting affects unless maybe it caused us to go insane
and enter into Jewelry fields lol

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry


OK, I’m a little behind on my Orchid. I’ll put in my .02 worth.

Ferric chloride can be reused many times, adjusting the strength up
or down with either anhydrous (dry) crystals or distilled water.
However, for the saved mordant you intend to use again, you do want
to decant (pour) the liquid from the container, leaving behind the
smut (sludge) in the container so it doesn’t interfere with
subsequent etching.

As many people have pointed out, it will etch stainless sinks and
copper pipes, as well as aluminum, steel of any kind, copper, zinc,
chrome, and a few other metals I’ve forgotten. It will not etch
silver or gold, which is useful if you happen to be working with
bi-metal laminates.

To dispose of that sludge, it’s best to contact your local sanitary
landfill, as different states have different procedures, and
sometimes one county to the next will have a different procedure.

In my area, after neutralizing the sludge with an alkaline solution,
the sludge is mixed with a little cement, sand and water, to make a
mortar encasing the sludge, along with its bound etched metal, and
then it is buried in the soil. I was told, because of it being mixed
in this manner, it will break down very slowly into the various
components of iron, chlorine, and the etched metal. It wasn’t the
ferric (iron) or chlorine (chloride) that is the problem, as it is
the etched metals that can cause toxicity in the soil or water if
dumped freely. I still suggest you call your local landfill for
proper disposal in your area.

Believe it or not, ferric chloride was used many years ago to treat
pernicious anemia. The palms were painted with the solution, because
the size of the palm was relative to the patient’s size and correct
dosage. I don’t know what the strength of the ferric chloride was. It
is readily absorbed into the skin, which is why certain people should
not use ferrics at all. Those with thasselemia, compromised immune
systems (like cancer patients, etc.), liver problems, or pregnant
women, should not be around ferrics.

I hope this helps.


I think radio shack is thinking the amount used to etch a circuit
board is minimal :slight_smile: lol just because we use it for larger purposes
Radio Shack has no idea…lol

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry


Here’s what I found on ferric chloride disposal:

The solution must not be put down the drain because of residual
copper ions left in it. To make it safe for disposal, you can add
sodium carbonate (washing soda) or sodium hydroxide to it to
neutralize it, until the pH value goes up to between 7.0 and 8.0,
testing it with indicator paper. Copper will be deposited as a
sludge. Allow the sludge to settle, pour off the liquid, further
dilute it with water and then it can be poured down the drain.
Collect the sludge in plastic bags and dispose of it as required by
your local waste authority.

Brian Corll
Vassar Jewelers


Also add my problem Hereditary Hemochromatosis but then masks
goggles and tongs and glove are a means to an end

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry


I seem to remember a chemist telling me that since Ferric Chloride
is a salt not an acid, she didn’t think adding baking soda would do
anything. Does this make sense? Nitric acid, pickle, etc can use the
baking soda, but not the chlorides.


I seem to remember a chemist telling me that since Ferric Chloride
is a salt not an acid, she didn't think adding baking soda would
do anything. Does this make sense? Nitric acid, pickle, etc can use
the baking soda, but not the chlorides. 

One of the tech people at Bryant Labs in Berkeley, explained to me a
while back ago that ferric chloride when exposed to oxygen through
use separates into hydrochloric acid and ferric (iron). He said that
at that point it’s hydrochloric acid doing the etching not the salt,
ferric chloride and that baking soda is an appropriate neutralizer.
I’m not a chemist, but it sounded good got me.

Jeff Georgantes
Dartmouth College


I found this answer by googling for “ferric chloride disposal”:

One thing to note - when you add baking soda to ferric chloride,
it’s goingto create small amounts of carbon dioxide, especially if
the the ferric chloride is fresh. This will foam up, so do it slowly
at first.

Not only jewelers use ferric chloride - sculptors, printers, and
people making printed circuit boards also use it, so the local
hazardous waste disposal folk will be extremely familiar with it.

The other thing to note is that you can use your ferric chloride
solution longer if you mix in citric acid powder (which you can get
at health supplement stores).

Sebastien Bailard


Ferric Chloride is a Lewis Acid, but this gets into more than you
probably want to know. If you really do want to know search : Lewis

For the Chemistry of ferric chloride etching and waste disposal see: