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Formula for Electroless Silver Plating?

⇦ (tip: readers usually show little interest in abstract questions,
but your actual situation will usually bring responses
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I want to do electroless coating of silver & silver chloride on ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). How to do it?

Jay jayu patel
- Gujarat India
May 17, 2023

A. Hi Jay.
"Electroless Plating" by Mallory & Hajdu [on eBay , Amazon, or AbeBooks (adv.)] includes a 42-page chapter with 68 references. The pretreatment for glass is immersion in SnCl2; I would imagine that this would work for ABS as well. The usual source of silver seems to be silver nitrate [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)], although there are options. That chapter talks about many different possible reducing agents including Rochelle Salt [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] , and many different available stabilizers.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

⇩ Related postings, oldest first ⇩

Q. Dear Sirs:
I am seeking a simple recipe for Electroless Silver plating. I found this once, but lost it! It involved only three ingredients: Silver Nitrate, Cream of Tartar, and ? That third item has me stymied. Was it Salt or baking soda [in bulk on eBay or Amazon (adv.)] ? I would also like to know if this is a pure Silver plate or is it a potentially toxic compound? I appreciate the time you put into this valuable resource.

Thank you,

Herman W. Lilgreen, Jr.
- Stanwood, Washington

A. Hi, Herman. Sorry, I've never heard of this formula, so I can't comment on it except to say that if the choice is between salt and baking soda, I'd have to say baking soda. Because table salt is sodium chloride, and it would make the silver precipitate out of solution as insoluble silver chloride :-)

What you describe would not be "electroless silver" in the lingo of platers though, because we only call "autocatalytic" processes "electroless plating". Platers would call your ask an "immersion silver plating" process, i.e., a solution which will plate out onto copper and brass -- metals which are less noble than silver. Assuming your solution works, you might use this to cover thin spots on silver plated platters, etc.

If you are interested in an alternative, you can buy commercial formulations from a number of sources, which sounds simpler. Please see our FAQ, "Silver Plating at Home" for sourcing of these immersion silvering products. Best of luck!


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Sir,

Thank you for the response. In truth, I'd forgotten posting this question. I still have not found that formula. As you say, this is an immersion formula. It seemed simple and relatively nontoxic. The idea was to plate the inside of a copper mug. Obviously, knowing if it was toxic was the main thing. Since I can't find it, it does not matter, however :-)

Thank you,

Herman W. Lilgreen, Jr. [returning]
- Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
May 5, 2010

A. Hi again. Silver metal is non-toxic; it's been used for centuries if not millennia. But silver salts can be toxic; so if you do try it, be sure to rinse it well. You might look up the MSDS for a commercial immersion silvering process as the ingredients list might serve as a brain-jogger towards remembering what you had read about.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Hello.
I have a follow up question:
Will the mixture described below work on copper conduit that experiences a high temperature difference --
from 0 °F to 450 °F without thermal failure/separation from the copper conduit?

I was given a formula to use in silver plating:
- Silver nitrate,
- Sodium nitrate,
- and aqueous ammonia [on eBay or Amazon (adv.)].
I do not remember the pH of the solution or the proportion of the chemical compounds.
It is a stinky mixture, smelling like cat urine.
It was used as a dip in a cup with a 3 Volt, 1 Amp rectifier for a long time ... 4 hours or so.

I'm looking for a SILVER PLATING SOLUTION that does not need to be pretty or shine but it has to adhere to the clean copper, and not separate from temperature related stress. A big bonus is if it can be high temperature silver solder to silver on copper plated conduit. Please post your reply on the forum. Thank you for all your help. Paul

Paul Prisyazhnyuk
- Erie Pennsylvania USA
April 16, 2012

A. Hi, Paul.

All practical silver electroplating baths are either proprietary or cyanide-based (violent poison). You can buy the solution from a plating supply house or find the formulation is almost any plating textbook, like the Electroplating Engineering Handbook [on AbeBooks or eBay or Amazon (adv.)] .

Immersion silvering baths are based on silver nitrate, and available from a number of suppliers, per our "Silver Plating at Home" FAQ, but I question whether that would give a heavy enough and adherent enough coating for your needs.

Two other points: electroplating is a jobshop-oriented industry, so there are shops that have experience in this and can easily handle the project for you if you wish to go that way. The other point is that you should not experiment with partially remembered formulas; it is very easy to accidentally create explosive silver fulminates with these ingredients. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 17, 2012

Q. Hello,

I have seemed to have made an explosive mixture from trying to make a silver nitrate spray chrome process. The reducer is perfect. It is just the silver that I want to stop from exploding. Does anyone have any ideas what I can use to stop this reaction from happening please?

So I am using:
silver nitrate
sodium hydroxide [affil links]

in my silver mix.

Mustafa Mehmet
- United Kingdom
October 1, 2013

A. Hi. Step 1 is to immediately stop using ammonia. Step 2 is to not use any alcohol for drying or rinsing. Step 3 is probably to carefully study the subject of "silver fulminate" before resuming the experiments. Stay healthy.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 2, 2013

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