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"Plating Electroless Nickel onto Nylon or Plastic"

An ongoing discussion beginning back in 1999 ...


Q. I'm trying to electrolessly plate nickel onto nylon (a thin film of plastic) in a lab. However, I obtained a nickel film which is brittle and comes off easily. What is the pretreatment I should do, and the proper procedure of carrying it out? Can anybody enlighten me, thank you.

linda lim
- Singapore


Q. I am trying to do something very similar. If you've had any luck finding information I would very much appreciate any assistance you might be willing to give. Thanks,

kurt grunwald
university of wisconsin La Crosse


A. Hi Linda, hi Kurt. Electroless nickel is more properly called 'auto-catalytic nickel', which means that it will plate out onto nickel, as well as some other metals like steel. Which is to say that you must metallize the nylon first; you can't just dip nylon into an electroless nickel solution, because nothing good will happen. So, how did you get the initial layer of electroless nickel to deposit onto the nylon, Linda?

Please see our FAQs for a quick intro., then check your university library for a copy of "Standards and Guidelines for Electroplated Plastics" by the American Society for Electroplated Plastics and Electroless Plating by Mallory & Hajdu.

I'm sure our readers will be happy to answer any specific questions you have, but they aren't able to summarize how to do electroless nickel plating onto nylon in a paragraph or two because it starts with cleaning the plastic properly, then etching it right, then depositing palladium chloride and then tin chloride solutions to form a good seed layer, all before a properly formulated and operated electroless nickel step. Good luck!

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

Electroless Ni plating onto stainless steel scrubber and nylon foam

December 3, 2017 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. We would like to do electroless Ni plating on Nylon foam and Stainless steel scrubber for using them as electrodes in low pH conditions. We have nickel Sulphate as source of Ni and Sodium Hypophosphite as the reducing agent. What else do we need and what are the multi ways of achieving good results? Relevant images are attached.


Diwakar Singh
Student - Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

December 2017

A. Hi Diwakar. Plating is far from impossible; people do it every day.

But the assumption that you can start right into plating on exceptionally difficult substrates, while also formulating your own homemade electroless nickel plating solution is quite a stretch -- it's rather like telling the music teacher that you've never played a piano but want to do some Franz Liszt compositions for the Holiday Concert. The music teacher would tell you to start by practicing some scales, and I need to tell you to start by doing some electroless nickel plating onto a steel substrate with a commercially bought electroless nickel solution first :-(

I believe that the stainless steel will prove plateable but that you'll need to clarify what you expect of that woven nylon. If you need air and/or liquids to be able to flow through it after it's plated, that could be a problem. Will exposed nylon be an issue for your process. Must it be nylon, which exhibits poor resistance to low pH compared to some other plastics? Good luck.


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

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