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Glass etching on windows on a front door.

Developed in the mid-1800s, acid-etched glass became popular for its ability to shield patrons in drinking establishments from view while letting in natural light.

Victorian and Edwardian homes quickly adopted the look, and today, glass etching designs appear on windows, mirrors, even glassware. As the chemicals needed to achieve this frosted effect have become less toxic, etching glass has turned into an ideal project for DIYers looking to personalize their homes.

What You Need to Etch Glass

For a DIY glass etching project, all you need is etching cream, a stencil, and a few other easy-to-find items, says etching artist Sydney St. James of

Glass Cleaner

Bottle of glass cleaner for DIY glass etching. Photo by Bill Mazza

Before etching, wash your surface to remove dust and fingerprints.

Simple Green Naturals Glass and Surface Care, about $4; Simple Green

Lint-Free Cloth

Blue microfiber cloth. Photo by Bill Mazza

Mop up the cleaner with microfiber; it will help eliminate residue that could keep the stencil from adhering to the glass.

Zwipes cloths, about $11 for 12;


Decorative stencil for DIY glass etching project. Photo by Bill Mazza

For a big project, opt for a peel-and-stick vinyl pattern, which is easy to reposition.

Here, we chose a custom stencil to create a scroll design. From $5;

Flat Edge

A white plastic square that can be used to clear out air bubbles when applying a stencil to glass for a DIY glass etching project. Photo by Bill Mazza

Use a smoothing tool, such as a plastic square or an old gift card, to affix the stencil and eliminate air bubbles.

Masking Film

A roll of film to use while glass etching. Photo by Bill Mazza

Cover any exposed areas around the stencil with adhesive-backed contact paper to protect them from the etching cream.

About $7 per roll at hardware stores.

Rubber Gloves

Rubber hand gloves. Photo by Bill Mazza

Because etching cream is made with ammonium bifluoride, which can irritate the skin, you should wear dishwashing or latex gloves.

About $8 for 100;

Etching Cream

Glass etching cream in a small bottle. Photo by Bill Mazza

Carefully spread this over the open areas of the stencil, moving away from the edges to keep the cream from bleeding underneath.

Armour Etch, about $6 for 3 ounces;


Soft-bristle paint brush. Photo by Bill Mazza

Apply the etching cream in a thick coat using a soft-bristle artist's brush in a size that works for your design.

About $9 at art supply stores.


Blue sponge. Photo by Bill Mazza

Dip this into warm water and use to rinse the cream off the glass and into a plastic bucket. For the best results, work from top to bottom.

About $2 at hardware stores.

pH Strip

pH strip test kit by Live PH. Photo by Bill Mazza

Neutralize the water from the cleanup with baking soda, then test with this indicator to make sure it's safe to toss.

about $8.00;