Frosting Glass Bottles

Hi Glowteam! I’ve been scratching my head about this one so I’m putting up the ‘please help’ flag: I’m trying to frost / etch some glass bottles and I’m struggling. I’m cutting the tops and bottoms off and then need to front the entirety of the remaining cylinder so it lets light through but is no longer see-through. One proviso though, I’m keen on an efficient solution as I’d like to be able to produce a bunch of these and I don’t want to use the spray stuff as it’s not great for the environment.

My current idea is to place it in a 4" waste pipe full of silicon carbide grit and stones and roll it for days. I’ve no idea if this will work but I don’t want to make the rig to do it if and waste all the power if it won’t. I’ve also head that acid etching is really effective but it uses HF (which is, rightly, highly restricted) or con Sulphuric (which isn’t great either).

Anyone have any experience which might help me do this quickly, efficiently and with minimal effort . environmental impact?

…now I write it down, it a big ask! :smiley:

A lot of people sandblast glass for this. Combined with vinyl stickers you can get great effects.

As for making a bunch of them… I am not sure what you’re up to but you aren’t exactly inventing the wheel with this. If you boil down time spent and whatnot, something like this might start to make a lot of sense:

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Thanks for this! I was hoping it had already been done tbh. My project is basically finding ways to reprupose / upcycle waste to a premium product. I figure with the amount of energy which is wasted scrapping wine bottles to become new wine bottles they could be turned into perfectly good lamps / lanterns etc.

I was wondering about the uniformity of the finish from sand blasting but I’ll see if it’s possible to throw one together at home. Obvs vinyl stickers kind of defeat my environmental push.

Yeah I got that vibe, so I was wondering if that would work for you. I’m all for it.

As for the vinyl trick, the idea would be that you cut a sticker, stick it to the glass and blast it. Peel back the vinyl and your glass has a clear/frosted pattern. There may be a way to accomplish this with something more durable, maybe a silicone sheet with some replaceable adhesive or something, I dunno.

Harbor freight sells a pretty good benchtop sandblaster for fairly low price, you might be able to pick a used one up pretty easily too, feeding your upcycling concept.
I feel like someone on here was doing some sandblasting, lets see…

I mean really the whole sandblasting search term is useful.

I think you’ll find that etching or sandblasting is going to scale pretty well, and sandblasting is probably the most sustainable of the options.


Michaels or Amazon has glass etching paste that you brush on - I used to cut vinyl and etch elaborate designs into wine bottles -


You could experiment with something like a larger plastic jug (like a 5lb container that whey protein comes in) with some aluminum oxide powder, place the bottle inside it, then roll/tumble the plastic jug with the bottle/AOx inside it. That’s basically how the commercial tumblers work anyway.


@mpipes So this is basically what I’m working on right now. I’ve actually got silicon carbide (I’m assuming that will work too…?) and gravel mixed. What I’ve read isn’t very specific though and it looks like it might take days of tumbling to achieve an even finish - that’s a lot of power for one but I’d also need to rig up a system I trust to leave powered up for that long… i.e. when we’re asleep!

@jfruhling my worry with this stuff is consistency. I was wondering whether I could create a homemade version which was very watery so I could dip the cylinders in and just hall them out and wash them off. That would be an even finish and no energy wasted. It also takes me back to con sulphuric acid though : :roll_eyes:

@evansd2 I do like this idea. I’m looking for no designs, just a frosted finish to obscure the stuff behind the glass and diffuse the light. I might have to do some reading on making a homebrew version since I’m in the UK and none of your amazing US budget stores exist here :frowning: boo hiss! Thanks for the references though, I’ll do some reading.

I liked this budget blaster:

granted, it uses the blowgun and blast media from a cheap US budget store, but a blowgun should be easy to come by, and an extension could be made from hardware-store bits pretty easily.


The only effective way to etch glass is mechanical–higher pressure, e.g. sand blasting or abration wheels, for fast results, or a more glacial pace such as your idea–and not controllable–it’s not unlike process of glass on the beach.

Or chemical–such as etching paste, Armour Etch:

Hope you find an option that works–you may want to see if there are any shops near you that do sand blasting services…

The finish from Armor Etch is splotchy unless you take care to stir the goop around while it sits. I find it is tolerable for small areas only.

Even a cheap airbrush-style sandblaster will easily produce a nice, even finish, but if the item is large you need to refill the tiny hopper over and over.

Yeh, this is what I was worried about. I was hoping there was an easy to make acid solution I could just dip them in and leave them for a few days, seem not :frowning:

I’m no, like, glass scientist but your initial idea of a tumbler may be the way to go for hands-off, even coverage.

Maybe you can find a rock tumbler on Craigslist?

For a tumbler we have used the common household catchall/clothes hanger/dust collector more commonly known as a treadmill.

Used a similar type pipe with caps on the end placed at the end of the treadmill to spin/tumble ammunition brass clean.

Not our video but this is what it looks like. There are many of us that have one sitting in the house. But if you don’t you can usually find a free one on craigslist every week!


That right there is genius!! Sadly I don’t have one but if I did it’d be the most exercise it ever got!


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