How to Electroplate Metallic Items

This page gives you a deeply detailed view on the chemistry behind the process of electroplating metallic objects. You will also learn some basics on chemistry.


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    Gather your materials. (see things you need.) It is best to also have some tape, paper or regular towels, and a spill proof surface (i.e. a table, floor, or desk, not carpet).
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    Learn about what you will be doing. Everything in this deals with the idea that an electrical current will carry electrically-conductive particulates along the current in a fluid (air or water) medium. This property is used in many aspects of daily life, such as gold-plated steel wires (used in false necklaces), gold-plated micro circuitry (for protection), and other things. With this in mind, we must now go to properties of electrically-conductive materials. Certain requirements must be met chemically in order for something to be electrically conductive. One such property is that the object must have a less than 8 electrons in the upper energy level. This allows the material to share electrons with surrounding substances, including electrons. This means that water would be non conductive since it has all the electrons necessary to satisfy the energy levels of the two hydrogen atoms and the oxygen atom. WHAT!? you might say, but this is true. The only reason you hear about people being electrocuted through water is because it has impurities in it, which allow electrical currents to pass through it.
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    Make the medium. Use vinegar and table salt. Each on its own is electrically conductive, allowing for OH- on part of the acid and H+ with the salt. So why mix the two? Well, this allows certain properties to combine to form a better substance. In this case, the salt allows for conductivity that is amplified in the presence of an acid. How about the electrical source? What's up with the high-amperage low-voltage source? This explanation requires you to have a little bit of knowledge about electricity itself.
    • Voltage is the relative speed that the current flows through the substance.
    • Amperage is the overall energy that the current has.
    • High energy in this is critical to have larger atoms cross the space between the anode, the negative terminal (which is the plated), and the cathode, the positive terminal (the plater). We also want low relative speed in this or else the atoms can't stay in the current and we end up with a stinky mess (which nobody wants that, right?).
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    Attach a wire to both the item you want to plate, and the energy source.
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    Find the object you want to electroplate in (a half of a gallon jug of milk that is rinsed works well) and add about half of a liter of the acid (preferably vinegar) to it.
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    Add about 10 grams of salt in and stir.
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    Repeat this until you can't dissolve any more salt, which is when you see salt at the bottom that doesn't dissolve after you stir for a while
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    Attach the wires with the metallic objects to the battery. Plater on the positive terminal, plated on the negative.
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    Put the metallic objects into the acid/salt solution. After you do this step, you should see bubbles forming and fizzing out. These are hydrogen and oxygen bubbles
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    Watch to make sure that nothing wrong happens.
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    Let this sit for about 5 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved.
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    Disconnect the wires at the battery, and remove your objects you just have electroplated.
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    Let the items sit on a towel or paper towel for about fifteen minutes, then use your fingers to remove the excess metal from the object you plated.


  • This process is extremely useful in creating decorative ornaments if you are low on resources.


  • Don't use alternating current (like from a wall socket) - that doesn't work.
  • You can get chemical burns depending on the acid you use, so be careful when handling it.
  • The high amperage electrical source that you will use in this has the potential to kill, so don't fool around with it!
  • Make sure the area is well ventilated - Oxygen and Hydrogen are explosive.

Things You'll Need

  • Two non-coated metallic objects
  • Low-resistance wires
  • High-amperage, low-voltage battery/electrical source.
  • Non-electrically-conductive container (plastic is the best).
  • Acid/salt solution (usually vinegar and table salt).
  • Hand and eye protection (just in case).

Article Info

Categories: Metalwork and Wire Projects