For applications where privacy is a consideration, acid-etched glass is a good option for letting in light while masking visibility. Acid-etching can be used to create glass with a flat, translucent texture, or to decorate panes of glass with intricate geometric designs and imagery.
In the manufacturing of acid etched glass, one side of a sheet of float glass is dipped in an acidic substance — commonly, hydrofluoric acid — producing a rougher texture and a finish that looks lightly weathered or “frosted”. The acid-etching process creates glass that is translucent rather than transparent. Double-sided acid-etched glass, in which both sides of the glass sheet are acid-dipped, is an additional option that offers even more opacity and is a good choice for applications like room dividers and shower doors, where privacy is prioritized over natural light.
While basic acid-etched glass is uniformly textured with an all-over frosted appearance, the acid-etching process can easily be manipulated to create patterns and shapes for a more decorative glass appearance. Rather than treating the entire surface of a glass pane, hydrofluoric acid can be applied to a small section, or to points across the surface of the glass in a specific pattern. This type of glass is perfect for interior applications and decorative accents. The translucent appearance is ideal for shower doors, bathroom windows, and indoor partitions, allowing for a sense of privacy while balancing a more open feeling than would be permitted by opaque dividers.
Acid-etching can be applied to other types of processed glass as well as basic clear float glass. Mirrors are another popular application for acid-etched glass — acid-etching on mirrors often takes the form of intricate geometric designs, especially at the edges of the glass pane, balancing visibility and function with visual interest. Acid-etched accents are frequently seen on vintage and antique mirrors, and subtle acid-etched details can help tie together an old-world aesthetic within a newer development.
As an added bonus, due to its uniform texture and smoothness, acid-etched glass is easier to clean and maintain and is less likely to smudge than clear glass. It won’t show fingerprints, and for this reason, it is prized for use in high-traffic and high-touch areas, such as doors, partitions, and balcony railings. Acid-etching can also be applied to tinted clear glass, for a more dramatic or visually interesting aesthetic, or to change the nature of the light filtering into a space.
Acid-etched glass can also be used in bird-friendly glass applications. According to figures from the American Bird Conservancy, collisions with clear glass windows harm or kill up to 1 billion birds in the United States alone every year. Acid-etched detailing and patterns on clear glass, especially in locations and applications that are likely to interfere with bird flight paths, can make glass more visible and give birds the ability to avert a potentially deadly collision. Acid-etching has been used on glass constructions specifically for aviaries and zoos. Low-e coatings and acid-etching can be combined to produce glass that is visible to animals and reduces hazardous heat gain, while maximizing visible and UV light for habitats that are as close as possible to nature.