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Electrocleaning of Nickel

Q. Hello, I have been following this blog since my graduate work and I really appreciate the information, pointers, and tips that you provide. Now I am in industry and working on developing some fabrication protocols for different electrodes.

I had a question about electrocleaning of Nickel. I know it is suggested that Nickel must be cleaned cathodically before electroplating. Do you have any suggestions for formulating a decent electrocleaning solution and anodes for the same?

Also, do you have any suggestions on general cleaning workflow for Nickel before electroplating?

Thank you.

Abbas Kazi
- Wilmington, Delaware
December 26, 2023

A. Hi Abbas,
You are certainly welcome to design your own electrocleaning solution is you wish, of course. But just in case you didn't realize it when you jumped from academia to industry, that's not the conventional approach. Probably 99% of users buy their electrocleaning chemical from a process supplier who has done the development work over the decades because there is a lot to it: a good alkaline cleaner must saponify, wet & emulsify, deflocculate, chelate or sequester, buffer, and inhibit (from Garden State branch AESF Electroplating Course Manual).

"The Canning Handbook of Surface Finishing Technology"
on AbeBooks

or eBay or


(affil links)

Anodes can be plain steel.

Typical pretreatment is soak clean, electroclean, rinse, acid activation, rinse, electroplate. Nickel is extremely passive and a Wood's Nickel Strike is required before any other plating, but even Wood's Nickel is a bit "iffy" ...

Thread 36223, "Plating nickel on nickel" mentions other enhancements including cyanide electrocleaning, and "The Canning Handbook Method" ⇨
of sulfuric acid, potassium iodide, & iodine.

Thread 17382 "Activating old Nickel plating for Replating" also has many comments and suggestions about activating the nickel.
Luck & Regards,

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

thumbs up sign Hello Mr. Mooney, thank you so much for your suggestions and pointers. These are great directions that you are pointing me towards and I will explore them for sure. I should have probably given more context about my work: at the moment, the plating that I wish to achieve is on a very small (mm and cm scale) Nickel substrates for research purpose but the definitely I will benefit more from purchasing a commercially developed cleaner. Your suggestion definitely reminds me of my research adviser and his wisdom. Thank you so much! :)

Abbas Kazi [returning]
- Wilmington, Delaware
December 27, 2023

A. Thank you very much for the kind words, Abbas; they're appreciated.
Luck & Regards,

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

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