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Home made electroless plating solution

December 4, 2008

Hey this is Richard Laughter (real name) and I recently make a solution. I used vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] and salt to make copper acetate [affil link], then I purified it (there were many impurities), and I boiled it down to make a brown powder. Then I rehydrated it with HCl it turned blue.

Now when I dip iron into it it plates it copper on contact.

I got the recipe online but I can't find a name so I label it PS-CI (philosophers stone copper to iron). I've been trying to uncover the origins of the myth of the philosophers stone. Can you tell me the name of this chemical I have made and the chemical break down?

Richard Laughter
owner of chemical company - Nashville, Tennessee

December , 2008

Hi, Richard. Interesting topic, thanks.

Just to add to the confusion, the solution you have created is actually called an "immersion plating solution" rather than an "electroless plating solution". Immersion plating means that a more noble metal like copper will plate out onto a less noble metal like iron without electricity required, because the difference in the electrode potential between copper and iron is creating a battery that is driving the reaction. Once you have a thin covering of copper on the iron, with no more iron exposed, the "battery" is dead and the plating ceases. You will notice that it doesn't matter how long the iron remains in the solution, the coating remains very thin. Consumers sometimes buy immersion silvering solutions to repair old silver plate that has worn through; the silver will deposit onto any exposed copper or brass (see our FAQ "Silver Plating at Home").

The term "electroless plating" is reserved for plating solutions that contain reducing agents and will continue to plate even after the base metal is completely covered.

The chemical that you have created is apparently copper chloride. I guess you rubbed some copper material with the vinegar and salt and dissolved some copper into the solution. Good luck.


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

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