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topic 44771

Acid Copper Plating Problem

A discussion started in 2007 but continuing through 2020


Q. We are experiencing a problem with our acid copper. Our amps are dropping to zero while our volts are increasing and the plating has no shine. We tried different rectifiers and the problem remains. We are now carbon filtering the tank but it does not seem to be helping after 2 days. The tank is 200 gals. I'm at the end of my rope with too many deadlines unable to be met until the problem is rectified. Thanks...Don.

Don Prestage
plating shop owner - USA

simultaneous 2007

A. If the anodes are phosphorized copper as they should be, then the anodes are polarized. Take them out, remove the bags, replace with new clean bags, put back in. The black sludge is "hazardous waste".

robert probert

Robert H Probert
Robert H Probert Technical Services
supporting advertiser
Garner, North Carolina


A. Service anode or change to new.

John Hu
- Singapore


A. Don,

The first thing you need to do is a complete analysis of your solution to check that your bath is in balance. Carbon treating without knowing what you are treating for is pointless.

If your analysis shows that the copper and acid levels are correct then do a Hull Cell and play with the brightener levels until you get a satisfactory plate in the mid range current densities.

If all else fails ask the chemical suppliers if they can help, they are usually extremely helpful and can normally offer the services of an expert to try to sort out your problems.

I must admit that it is a long time since I played with acid solutions, normally dealing with cyanide or pyrophosphate systems these days so I apologise for my vagueness but there are simple rules to apply to a situation like yours: Analyse, Hull Cell, expert, dump.

If your production pressures are high sometimes it is more economical to dump the solution and start again rather than have a long down time while you try to sort the problem.

Hope you get your problem sorted soon.

Brian Terry
Aerospace - Yeovil, Somerset, UK


A. You will "lose" your ability to carry current when the amount of copper in solution has become too high raising your ratio of copper sulfate.
Titrate the solution and see if you are within spec; if not, the easiest solution is to cut the bath. You can test it out first in Hull Cells.

J. Ott
plating shop - Hbg, Pennsylvania

simultaneous 2007

A. Hi Don

in my opinion...the problem is about the anodes. the brightener may be makes the anodes surface passive.

take away the the bags and the surfaces


Arda Baþaran
plating - Turkey


A. This is classic anode polarization and most likely due to too high copper sulphate content and possibly low temperature.

Geoffrey Whitelaw
Geoffrey Whitelaw
- Port Melbourne, Australia


A. Hi Don,

The chloride level in your bath is low. The level must be above 40 ppm and below 80 ppm for satisfactory passage of current.

Do this and let us know.


Asif Nurie [dec.]
- New Delhi, India
With deep regret we sadly advise that Asif passed away on Jan 24, 2016


A. Hi Don,
I believe your problem is TOO much chloride -- are the anodes getting a white coating on them? If so, take them out and scrub until you see clean copper.
You may have to do this a few times.
I had this same problem in my electroforming tank.

Ken Foyn
- Durban, South Africa


A. The total concentration of copper sulfate and sulfuric acid should not be higher than 300 g/l otherwise you get polarisation.

sara michaeli
Sara Michaeli sara michaeli signature
chemical process supplier
Tel-Aviv, Israel


A. Everyone has valid advice. Basically they have told you to check everything since you could have too much or too little. The most valid advice is to call your supplier. They generally will offer to run an analysis of your bath at no charge (this is included in what is called customer service) and since you are having a problem they should then offer their learned opinion of what the corrective measures are.

Before everyone jumps on and comments I would like to clarify that periodic analysis by the vendor is not a substitute for having the capacity to have routine analysis done on premises or locally, nor that every time you have a small problem go running to your vendor (enough people do to give me days when I wish cell phones had not been invented). But the vendor does have product specific knowledge to their formulations as well (usually) as having people with a wealth of knowledge. Also your supplier should be sure you have a Technical Data Sheet for the products and processes being purchased, analytical instruction and a trouble shooting guide.

One point I forgot, if you are using "city water" in your acid copper, you should have the necessary chloride without adding any. If you have been making large additions of water and not of acid or salts that would tend to raise the chloride level (maybe). Get an analysis and test panels done!

Gene Packman
- Great Neck, New York

October 2, 2011

A. I am sure that your problem is high copper sulphate if your bath solution about 100 liter only you must to get out 25 liter from your solution and put 25 liter ionized water good luck

Majed Janineh
- Beith Lehem Israel

November 11, 2012

A. Dear Don,

At first I am not sure what is really the issue in your plating bath.
At first you need to analyze the bath very regularly specially if it's a 24-hr operation. Depletion of additives and other chemical varies in every panels loaded in the bath and that is why there should be a regular routine analysis.
1) firstly, how is the current density, is it calculated as per number of panels per rack.
2) how is the chloride content and how is the color of the anodes, black phosphorized film should be seen on the anodes.
3) what is your process, is it pattern or panel plating (for PCB process), should the color of the bath is greenish then it should be contaminated much with more organics on it. maybe there is a need to do carbon treatment and check TOC.

You need to investigate further and the assistance of the chemical supplier also will help a lot to troubleshoot the issue.

Thank you very much.


Allan Trapal
- Singapore

September 25, 2018

A. Don,

your copper bath, no amps but voltage because copper anodes are polarized (if you see your anodes are dark color that means polarized)

pull out you anodes , change the new bags, new proper type of anodes, check your chemistry.
check the rectifier, check the current to anode and cathode bar.

popat patel
Popat Patel
finishing shop - Roseville, Michigan

Reducing Sulfate level in a Copper Bath

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

Q. Hi everyone, I am a student of Chemical Engineering in Brazil and recently I started an internship in a company that works with electroplating. We have collected cylinders for use in rotogravure.
I'm very new to the subject and it's been hard to find materials (handbooks are all sold in the USA and I can not find any PDFs), so I'd like to rely on your experience to answer the following question:

How do you make the correction of copper baths?

We work with 1000 L baths with H2SO4: 50-70 g / L and CuSO4: 200-220 g / L.
Here the baths are in contact with a very high amount of copper's chips, so with the passage of days the amount of sulfate increases a lot and to correct it the head of the sector uses the following strategy: Discard a certain amount of the bath (for example 100 L), complete the bath with water again and add more acid to compensate for what was lost.

In my opinion, we lose a lot of copper, acid and water every week. I've already suggested removing copper chips from the bath, but since I'm a newbie I do not have much credibility.
Another idea I thought was to precipitate sulfate with Barium Carbonate. I do not know if it works, but I intend to experiment with it.

Thank you for your attention and sorry by my English!

Jerlan Alves
- João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil

December 2017

A. Hi cousin Jerlan. I think your problem is more properly described as excess copper rather than excess sulphate per se; there is no place for sulphate to come from during operation, but dissolving anodes can contribute to excess copper.

You will read above that two responders do suggest your action of bailing out some of the solution and replacing it with water -- but I think this was suggested as an emergency fix, not as an operational routine.

The thing to investigate is whether you are using phosphorized anodes. These are intended to solve just this problem. After that is assured, then you might consider reducing the number of anodes and, if necessary, making a small and controlled chloride adjustment.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

December 28, 2017

thumbs up sign Thanks, Mr. Mooney! It really helped me.
Sorry it took so long to answer :)

Jerlan Alves [returning]
- João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil

April 14, 2018

Q. Good day. We are facing dots problem in copper plating; we did filtration properly but the dots are not reduced

gopi nath
- tamil nadu, india

affil. link
Trouble in Your Tank: Handbook for Solving Plating Problems
by Larry Durney
from Abe Books
info on Amazon

April 2018

A. Hi Gopi. Please mail some pictures of these "dots" to because it is not clear if they are roughness, pits, discolorations, or whatever. I assume they are pinhead size or smaller? Durney's wonderful "Trouble in Your Tank" starts from the first paragraph with the reminder that the only way this can happen is because something changed, so your first step is to figure out what it was that changed :-)


Also, this is a place of camaraderie and we have postings from several different people with the name gopi nath. Please give us a fuller name so we don't confuse you with others here. Thanks.

Luck and Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

September 24, 2018

Q. Dear Sir,

I want to ask one question --
We are dissolving 230 g/liter copper sulphate and doing Hull Cell test, and it is coming glossy.

My question is if we are using copper sulphate 230/liter and doing Hull Cell test how should it come, and coverage of Hull Cell panel how should it come?

How we will know which Hull Cell is the best one -- dull Hull Cell panel which has 100% coverage or glossy one which has 90% coverage.

Please suggest.

Raj singh
Shiv Shakti Engineerings - Delhi, India

September 2018

A. Hi Raj. Sorry, but your question is too vague and abstract for me to be able to comment properly. Are you saying that you trying to do copper plating from 230 g/l copper sulphate and nothing else -- no sulphuric acid, no chloride, no addition agents?

Or are you implying that you are using a properly formulated bright acid copper bath, and gradually adding brightener, only to discover that as you move from dull to bright you start losing coverage? If so, can you tell us your chloride content? Brighteners and chloride work sort of symbiotically and sort of in opposition -- it can prove impossible to obtain proper plating while ignoring chloride level. Good luck and get back to us please.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

September 25, 2018

Q. Dear Sir
I am trying to do copper plating from 230 g/l copper sulphate and nothing else -- no sulphuric acid, no chloride, no addition agents.

I am doing hull cell testing in laboratory.
I am using 2 amp current for 10 Minutes

But Hull cell results are glossy and plating coverage is 90 percent

When I am doing hull cell from other company's copper sulphate, it is dull and Hull Cell coverage is 100 percent.

So which is best copper sulphate to use and why?

Raj singh [returning]
Shiv Shakti Engineerings - Delhi, India

September 2018

A. Sorry Raj, neither is satisfactory. As a wild guess the one which is offering complete dull coverage is purer and the other is contaminated with something which is brightening it.

You haven't told us what you want to plate and why, but the short answer is that you can't do satisfactory plating from plain copper sulphate -- that's usually for school science projects to demonstrate the science of copper plating, but not for actual industrial use.

affil. link
"Electroplating and Electroless Plating of Copper and Its Alloys"
by N. Kanani
from Abe Books
info on Amazon

Ideally you buy a bright acid copper plating process from a supplier, but if that is not practical for some reason, you formulate one from copper sulphate, sulfuric acid, a carefully controlled small amount of chloride, a wetting agent, thiourea, and a brightening agent like dextrin or molasses. If you can't get access to any books about copper plating =>
then the copper plating chapter of the digital version of the Metal Finishing Guidebook [ed. note: sorry, that book is no longer available on line] is at least a good start. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

November 19, 2018

Q. What is the best solution to reducing copper sulfate in copper bath?

Jessie Guerrero
- Roscoe, Texas , USA

November 2018

A. Hi cousin Jessie. Two readers suggest bailing out the tank as the most practical immediate fix, but the bigger question is how you got there. You have to fix that, and studying this thread should tell you how :-)

But get back to us with anything that's not clear. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

November 27, 2018

Hi Jessie,

Besides bath bail out, if your intention is to reduce Cu ion then you may use insoluble anode to run dummy plating till Cu drop to optimum level. If your intention is to reduce sulfate ion then you may replenish copper oxide instead of copper sulfate to minimize sulfate ion build up.


David Shiu
David Shiu
- Singapore

December 25, 2018

Q. In bright acid copper plating bath we have an excess of foam. Can I use antifoam to reduce foam?

R Muniraju
Bangalore, Karnataka, India - Bangalore, Karnataka, India

simultaneous December 27, 2018

A. Hi R Muniraju,

You may do carbon treatment follow by chemical adjustment instead of adding anti-foam which may contribute organic contamination to affect copper deposit ductility and appearance.


David Shiu
David Shiu
- Singapore

December 27, 2018

A. Hello, I assume you have air agitation, so some foaming is normal. Too much however can be caused by an excess of organics, commonly caused by brightener break down that occurs over time. Another cause would be drag in of a pre - clean chemical. Be certain that your rinse tanks are clean and your acid dip is also clean. One way to check possible contaminated rinses and acid dips is to grab a half liter sample in a bottle, shake well and check to see if sudsing lingers. If it is a brightener break down issue, carbon treatment is necessary. As far as using a defoamer, your current Cu chemical supplier can give you that answer. Personally, I don't know of any baths that have one. Hope this helps you.

Mark Baker
Electronics plating - Phoenix Arizona USA

September 12, 2019

Q. I'm doing hull cell plating 1.5 A (using CuSO4 with sulphuric, Cl ion and brightener). I've got agitation mark at high current -- is it too much Amperage , or brightener excess or other causes?

molly charless
- ipoh, perak, malaysia

September 2019

A. Hi Molly. Please send a good photo of the panel to for posting here. If you don't have screening readily available, trying to reflect a page of text on white paper onto your panel for the photo. Thanks.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

October 4, 2019

Q. Hi,
I am plating antenna with copper sulphate and sulphuric acid (H2SO4). Which proportion will I mix them and which amperage to give it for 2 cm2 area of antenna. Can you help me please.

abdurrahim evli

October 2019

A. Hi Abdurrahim. If you are a hobbyist doing one antenna, try the following (from the Metal Finishing Guidebook 2012-2013):
199 g/L Copper Sulphate
30 g/L Acid
50-120 ppm Cl

If it's not bright enough to your taste add 0.0375 g/L thiourea and 0.75 g/L molasses. Current density about 1.5-3.0 A/dm2.

But if you are a plating shop doing professional work you should probably be buying your acid copper plating solution from a reputable supplier and following their technical data sheet rather than playing with generic formulations. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

Bright acid copper... great results and grainy on the same piece

August 14, 2020

Q. Please see the attached pictures. I've been plating a piece and getting better and better results, but now I've gotten a bit stuck. I'm getting a lot of "bead" buildup in some portions, but pretty great results in others. I'm thinking it is due to the odd shape of the piece, but hopefully you've got some recommendations on something I've missed.

44771-2a   44771-2b  

Ray Walker
- Salt Lake City Utah

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