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High quality and safe nickel plating question? Answered

There is instruction on this address https://www.instructables.com/id/High-Quality-and-safe-Nickel-Plating/
how to make high quality and safe nickel plating,and i have some question about that.
When he showed to add salt to the vinegar in order to make the vinegar  more conductive,isnt the salt become Na and Cl ions?
Will the Na positive ion stick to the negative nickel plate?(while making the nickel solution-step 3)?
Will the Na positive ions stick to the item that we are plating besides the nickel( in the plating process-step 5)?
will it spoil the object that we are plating with nickel?

I see in the supermarket vinegar which said"synthetic vinegar" 5% acetic acid,water.(for food).Is it ok?

when he said(step 4)"You can further clean your object by reverse electroplating (ie "electrocleaning") it for a few seconds.  Hook your object up to a negative voltage, a WIRE to the positive voltage, and drop them both in a vinegar salt solution for 10-30 seconds.  This will remove any left over oxidation"
What wire did he mean?

and the last one:how pure is the nickel should be?because i notice that most of the nickel sheet are about 99%-99.7% purity.is it ok?
can i use pure nickel strip(97% pure nickel)that is used for battery welding?

Thanks in advance.



4 years ago

Can anyone answer my last question?

I understood the procedure how to make that job.but before i am going to spend time about it ,i must get an answer to my last question .

I will very appreciate if you will not ignore my question.


Question 1 (Regarding plating with sodium): Jack A Lopez is correct. And should some of the salt break apart during plating, the sodium would VERY quickly react with the surrounding water to form sodium hydroxide (also known as lye). The sodium ion would not stay free and therefore would not plate as a metal onto your object. HOWEVER, using too much salt will ruin your plating. The whole idea is to have electricity carried between the cathode and anode as a result of moving nickel ions and not via free electrons from the table salt. A small amount of salt will allow the free electrons to be high enough to get a decent amount of current needed to get the nickel salts created initially. (Initially), the more current you have, the more nickel ions you are going to knock off into the solution due to the avalanche effect.

Question 2 (Regarding the "synthetic vinegar"): Yes, this will work just fine. Distilled vinegar (as I mention in my ible) is "synthetic vinegar". They take vats of corn alcohol, distill it to ~99%, and then add bacteria that further breaks it down to acetic acid. That is then watered down (acetic acid is extremely flammable in high concentrations, not to mention not very tasty) and sold in big jugs.

Question 3 (Regarding the reverse electroplating, aka electrocleaning): The whole idea here is to remove the surface of your to-be-plated object in hopes of making it easier to plate to later. The way I like to think about it is that you are making a very weak solution of whatever your object is made out of; it is the same as making the nickel solution but the other way around. Not only will this remove remaining oxidation, but it will create nanoscopic pores where the nickel can attach to and create a sturdier coating (think roughing up a surface before you glue to it).

I would avoid using the nickel plating solution as your electrocleaning bath as you can pollute your electroplating solution with ions that will ruin your shiny, silvery finish. Copper, for example, will end up turning your plated object a dull grey brown/green.

As far as the "wire" - anything conductive will do. As we are dissolving the outer-most layer of your object, the "wire" won't dissolve and will in fact be plated with a very fine layer of whatever your object is made out of. So, when I say "wire", I literally mean a piece of wire as it is cheap and disposable.

Question 4 (Regarding nickel purity): I used 999 (99.9% pure) nickel. You can try any purity of nickel that you would like. I imagine the 97% would do an okay job, but not all that great. What is more important is whatever that other 3% is. If that other 3% is water soluble after it reacts with the acetic acid in the vinegar, you should probably count it out as it will plate alongside the nickel and has the potential to ruin your plate. For example, if your combination was 97% nickel and 3% zinc, you probably shouldn't use it because zinc acetate dissolves moderately well in water. A further example: if your combination was 97% nickel and 3% silver (I have no clue if this combo actually exists), it would be fine as silver acetate does not dissolve in water (technically it does, but hardly) and will form a precipitate in the bottom of the bath.

Regarding issues with Instructables: Stop trying to post things via a smartphone, iPod Touch, or tablet. Jack is right in that they keep tweaking things and causing problems. If you are on a computer and still having issues, try a different browser such as Chrome (what I currently use) or Firefox which are free and very heavily supported and maintained.

If you have further questions or problems, I do invite you to comment on my instructable (using a computer). Most people (including myself until very recently) don't know these forums exist and will scan through the comments for answers to questions. As Jack mentioned, I do love questions - if I don't know the answer, I will do my research to find out and will learn from it.

On a completely different note, I learned what I did to make this instructable through trial and error and then personal research when things didn't work as expected or as well as expected. It took me many, many hours to actually figure things out well (my first few attempts ended up with a bright red liquid that did absolutely nothing but bring me to frustration). The beauty in this particular instructable is that everything here is dirty cheap and most of it can be found under your sink. As a result, you can experiment a little bit and see what happens. Try out that battery welding strip and see what happens :) It may turn out that you get some cool result that you weren't expecting. The other cool thing about this particular instructable is that you won't destroy your donor metal (your battery welding strips) very quickly as only microns are removed to make the electrolyte. So, if things don't work, you are really only at a loss of a cup of vinegar and a pinch of salt.

Thanks Steingrube,you was right about the browser.

When i asked you about nickel health concern,as i want to plate some old items,like:old nickel plated towels hooks and nickel plated closet handles,you recommended me to avoid doing that due to the chance of develop nickel allergy.

But i see that every where in the market there are faucet,hooks,handles and etc,that are nickel plated(though there are also nickel plated products that are chrome or/and lacquer finished).

Are these nickel plated products manufactured at a special method that prevent nickel allergy?after all,we come into contact with these products all the time.

Will it be practical and efficient to cover my plated nickel item with spray(or brush)lacquer in order to prevent the allergy?

If yes,i read that the best way to apply the lacquer is by electrocoat method.

Can i do it at home and apply a lacquer layer on the nickel plated item,at the same way as your nickelplating method?

Hi A_Steingrube.
I am very glad to hear from you,since i have been trying to reach you,but the site or my computer didn't let me do that.i think that i need to download different browser(as you suggested)maybe this is the problem.
I like your article,since i have some old rusty nickel plated items that i wanted to re-plated,and you gave us safe simple and cheap method to do that without dealing with harm materials.
Your answer was great,very informative and helpful,and i thank you alot for your explanations.
There are 2 more question that i didn't get an answer and i hope it is ok. with you,because i simply want to understand what i am doing,and to do it right and safe.
When we makes the nickel acetate solution,while the nickel is being removed from the nickel anode into the solution as ions,doesn't these positive nickel ions should be attracted to the nickel cathode instead of accumulating in the solution?
Regard to health issue:
Is it safe to plate items at this method that will be in contact with cloth or body skin,like:old nickel plated hangers,closet handles,faucets and etc?
Or is it depends on the purity of the nickel that we are using,as less than 99.9% pure nickel,contains other elements that,maybe can do health problems?

Thanks in advance.

Sub-Question One (in a nutshell): The nickel ion has to get there somewhere and metal (in metallic form) is not water soluble. When you electrically charge the nickel, it throws off electrons. Because the nickel desperately wants those electrons back, it will try to borrow one or more from the acetic acid and will form Nickel Acetate. This bond, however, is rather weak. When the Nickel Acetate comes upon the negatively charged plating object, the extra electrons from the cathode knock the acetic acid off of the nickel and the nickel atom adheres to your plated part.

Sub Question Two: Nickel allergies are extremely common, so I would avoid it. And, even if you do not have an allergic reaction to nickel, you can accumulate one over long or repeated exposure. I would generally avoid it for anything folks will be touching frequently. It is great for things like gears, car parts, ornamental pieces, and possibly hand tools (if you are someone that wears gloves to work 99% of the time). Basically, anything you don't want rusting or you want a hardened finish on to prevent scratching and some wear

Also, please look into getting another browser (or updating as the case might be). It would be great for any new questions to be in the comments so that other folks can find them rather easily. I can't keep checking back to this page once a day. Thanks :)

Each instructable has a place for comments, and often that is the best place to ask questions related to that specific instructable, because then the question will be seen by the author of that specific 'ible, and also other people writing similar comments there.

In Step 1 of the 'ible you linked to, the author, A_Steingrube, says, " I LOVE your questions!", so I'm going to recommend you ask your questions there, in the comments section at


That being said...

Sodium ions never plate out of an aqueous solution, because the energy difference between Na+ ion and Na(s) metal is large, around 2.71 eV, at standard concentrations,


, and because sodium metal is so reactive with water, if it did plate out it would likely just react with the water,

Na + H2O = Na+(aq) + OH-(aq) +(1/2)H2(g)

and get back into solution as ions.

Regarding materials, I am guessing grocery store bought vinegar (5% acetic acid in water) and salt (NaCl) are good, and these same grocery store bought materials are what the author is using.

Your 97% pure nickel strip for battery tab welds sounds good like a good source of nickel to me. I'm guessing that would work.

Thanks for your answer and for the links.
Your explanation about the reaction in the solution solved my confusion.
Thank you for came back:).

Did you quit?
I,really,need an answer for that question,and i didn't got any response from anyone in that question section besides you,so i hope you will be able to answer that last question.As can you see,the last question is different from the other one you said you don't know the answer.

thanks in advance.

I kind of want to quit answering your questions. It seems like I've tried to answer several of them, and now I'm not sure which one is the "last" question.

Is it the one about the 30 second "electrocleaning" step? I mean, I'm not even sure if that part is necessary. I mean just scrubbing your object-to-be-plated with that metal cleaner stuff, what was it called?... Cameo(r). I mean just cleaning the object until it is shiny, that's probably good enough.

Also I'm not sure if it matters what solution you use for the optional 30 second "electrocleaning". I am guessing it would be OK just to use the same green, nickel containing, solution used for the plating.

Hi Jack A Lopez.
Thank you for your replies.You answered and solved most of my questions and like i mentioned before i can't contact with anyone in order to find more details,except the forum and the question place.
When i try to sent a message in the PM,it sends me to my first question,while all the background is blue or red.
The same thing happens,also,when i try to check your comments.
The only way i can read your comments is on my email.The best thing to do,of course, is to ask the author those question(as you suggested before))and also to check other people questions which asked the author about that article(and i saw about 83 questions),But,unfortunately,it send me all the time to my first question,and i can't see them.
I have one more question that regards to what is happening in the solution when the two nickel plates(as anode and cathode)are in the vinegar salt solution.(while makind the nickel acetate).And i hope you can help me with that.
I understand that the H+ ion are going to the cathode and the Cl and O ions are going to the anode while nickel ions get into the solution from the Nickel anode,and after awhile the solution becomes light green(nickel acetate).But at this reaction,when the nickel positive ions dissolved from the anode into the solution,doesn't they should be attracted to the cathode and plate the nickel cathode?
It seems like it doesn't happen as i see that the solution become after all,nickel acetate,but i can't figure out what is exactly happen?

It is not necessary to completely understand how something works, in order for it to work.

In my home country, most adults know how to drive a car, but at the same time, very few of these same people actually understand what's going on under the hood of this same car: how the engine turns fuel into power, how the transmission moves power from the engine to the wheels. But for the most part, these people don't have to know, or even want to know, how that part works. Moreover this lack of knowledge does not prevent these people from turning the key, and driving where they want to go, or in the case of driving to work, where they don't want to go, but kind of feel like they have to go there.

It is possible to bake a cake, without understanding anything about food science.

I think this is sort of the Promise of a site like Instructables, is that you can find a recipe, for to make, or build, anything, that someone else has already made, and to do this you don't have to actually understand how it works.

If the recipe is easy to follow, then you can just follow it, and it will work, as if by magic. You know, the same way your car works.

If the recipe is NOT easy to follow, then I dunno. Maybe you could just try something, and discover what happens. Don't be afraid to fail.

I am guessing you are still wondering about these nickel ions.

In step 3 of High Quality(and Safe) Nickel Plating, we see some before and after pictures of a electrolysis cell with two nickel plates. Initially the solution is grocery-store white vinegar, with a pinch of salt (for some reason?), and it is clear in color.

After electric current has been run through the cell for some time, the solution turns green in color, presumably because of the presence of nickel ions.

Maybe you are wondering why the nickel ions went into solution. Why did they not all simply leave the anode, and then all just plate back onto the cathode? The green color suggests a lot of nickel ions are going into solution, but not coming back out. Maybe they're trading places with the H+ ions from the vinegar?

I think the answer is that more than one reaction is happening at once.

For example, at the cathode, Ni+2 ions can be reduced to Ni metal, or for the same number of electrons, H+ ions can be reduced to hydrogen gas.

2 e- + Ni+2(aq) = Ni(s) [nickel ions to nickel metal]
2 e- + 2 H+(aq) = H2(g) [hydrogen ions to hydrogen gas]

Similarly, at the anode, we can imagine different reactions that might take place

Ni(s) = Ni+2(aq) + 2 e- [nickel metal to nickel ions]
2 H20 = 2 H+(aq) + 0.5 O2(g) + 2 e- [water to H+(aq) and oxygen gas]

2 Cl-(aq) = Cl2(g) + 2 e- [chloride ions to chlorine gas]

The answer to the question of which reaction will happen, or if both are happening, which reaction will happen more, in general that's not an easy question.

What I'm going to tell you, via handwaving,


is that these reactions "compete" with one another, and the actual answer to which reaction happens, or which happens more, depends on some thermodynamic voodoo called delta-G, which depends on the exact reactants and products, and also the concentrations of these reactants and products, and also pressure and temperature.

Aside from what the reactants/products are, it is all about concentration, if I can generalize pressure to mean concentration for gas reactants or products, and temperature to mean concentration of heat, meaning heat is one of the reactants.

Also it turns out the potential, E, (measured in volts) for a half cell reaction under standard conditions, like in this table:


Potential, E, is closely related to that delta-G voodoo I mentioned previously (which has units of joules or kilojoules of "Gibbs free", meaning "avialable" energy, per mol of reaction). Large negative delta-G means a reaction is likely to happen in that direction. Large positive E means the same thing in electrochemistry, i.e. forward reaction is likely.

Actually, this is one of the central questions that chemistry tries to answer.

I mean it is easy enough to write a balanced chemical equation, but the hard part is when you ask, "Is this reaction likely to happen?", or said another way, "What conditions make this reaction likely to happen?"

But at this point, I kind of feel like I'm having to explain everything about everything. If you want to know more, in chemistry textbooks the question of spontaneity, how likely a reaction is to happen, is covered under the topic of chemical equilibrium,
and also this other thing called Gibbs Free Energy, aka delta-G.
Also I should probably mention Le Chatelier's principle too
since that one gets used a lot to explain how the equilibrium of a reaction shifts in response to a change in concentration of reactants or products, or even temperature (as concentration of heat).
Also the Nerst Equation
explains how potential, E, for electrochemical reactions is related to delta-G, and how to calculate E for non-standard reaction conditions.

I understand that by reversing the polarity i can clean the object.
The object should be the Anode(+),
But(regard to the solution electrolyte in the article)what material should be the cathode?the nickel plate?copper wire?any kind of metal?
And what should be the solution when i make that reverse electroplating?Should i prepare new electrolyte with vinegar and salt?or i should do it with the green acetate vinegar electrolyte(that was made before the forth step)?
My confusion is also due to the instruction in the article at step 4 when he mention to hook the object up to the NEGATIVE voltage for the cleaning(electro cleaning),and a WIRE(which kind of wire?)to the positive.While,as far as i understand,it should be opposite?

Thanks for your reply.

I have been trying,at first, to ask my question in the comments place as you suggested,but after i sign in to instructable site the white comment place became suddenly small and narrow ,and it didn't give me the ability to write something.also i can't open people's comments.there are 83 comments on that subject and i only see the begining of one sentence of each one.and when i am trying to open each one of them,i was directed to the same instuctable"high quality nickel plating".
maybe bug in my computer maybe in the site,i don't know?

Besides that you gave me good answers,except the one that related to step 4-reverse electroplating(electro cleaning)
I understand that the object to be cleaning should be at the negative voltage,and he said to connect a WIRE to positive voltage and drop them both to the vinegar salt solution?but what is connected to the end of the positive wire?the nickel sheet?only the alligator leads?the end of the copper wire?
it makes me a little confused.

I don't know what to tell you about the Instructables web site being buggy. It seems like they're constantly tinkering with it, and they still haven't got it quite right, yet...

Regarding step 4, the paragraph about "reverse electroplating", I am guessing this is simply saying you can get some small cleaning effect by reversing the polarity, but for a brief amount of time, only 10 to 30 seconds or so.

Normally the object to be plated is made the cathode of the cell, i.e. it is connected to the negative terminal of the power supply. The reaction that happens at the cathode is: metal ions from the electrolyte get reduced. The metal ions gain an electron (or two), and become solid metal, e.g.

M<sup>+2</sup>(aq) + 2 e<sup>-,</sup> --> M(s)

The electrons on the left side that equation are supplied through the wire, connected to the negative terminal of the power supply.

At the anode, the reverse reaction is happening. The atoms of the metal electrode is giving up electrons, also called oxidation, causing the metal to become ions and dissolve into the electrolyte.

There is a mnemonic for remembering which reaction is which, and this is:

The (c)athode (c)ollects. It cathode collects solid metal. The (a)node is (a)ttacked. The anode is attacked; i.e. it gets eaten away and tends to dissolve into the electrolyte.

I am guessing this advice for step 4 is to make your object to be plated, make it be the anode for a brief time, and there is going to kind of cleaning effect from have a small amount of the surface get dissolved (the reverse of plating). Of course this is the reason for the brief time interval, measured in seconds. Presumably if you just left it that way, connected as anode, for a long time, the object would dissolve completely

These all sound like great questions that should be posted in the comment section of that instructable.

Thanks for your reply.
I have been trying,at first, to ask my question in the comments place as you suggested,but after i sign in to instructable site,the white comment section place became suddenly small and narrow ,and it didn't give me the ability to write something.also i can't open people's comments.there are 83 comments on that subject and i only see the begining of one sentence of each comment.and when i am trying to open each one of them,i was directed to the same instuctable"high quality nickel plating".
maybe bug in my computer maybe in the site,i don't know?
Kind regards.