What Is the Difference Between Etched and Frosted Glass?

When talking about glass shower enclosures, it is natural to be curious about the most important part of the design, i.e. the glass. And when it comes to glass shower enclosures in Toronto, consumers have many options. To help choose the right kind, we have already mentioned the different types of glasses in a previous blog.

However, when it comes to textured glass shower doors, how many people know whether they prefer etched, acid-etched, or frosted glass? Perhaps a clear understanding of the different terms is needed.

So, how are these two different?

Difference Between Etched and Frosted Glass

Acid etched glass vs. frosted glass

For our purposes, “etched” and “frosted” refer to the decorative and translucent glass in your shower. As mentioned in our earlier blog, frosted glass is a textured material that lets light enter the shower and offers privacy as well. The best thing about this type of glass is that it does not get fingerprints or smudges on it, unlike clear glass. Textured glass is easy to clean and adds an elegant beauty to your fancy glass shower enclosure.

Truth be told, etched and frosted glass are not that different style-wise. However, in terms of your design goal, they are very different.

While etching changes the appearance of the glass, frosting simply produces a frosted appearance to the etching on the glass. In both cases, the outcome is achieved with abrasive materials. The rough surface and translucent quality of frosted and etched glass is due to the removal of minute glass particles.

In a nutshell:

  •    Etching alters the glass surface for decorative purposes, usually artwork, a pattern, or lettering;
  •   Frosting, on the other hand, produces an opaque appearance that limits the amount of light that goes through and gives more privacy.

A Brief History

Throughout history, various methods have been developed to etch glass for various purposes, from creating artistic effects to getting a translucent surface. These techniques include acid etching, abrasive blasting or sandblasting, and using glass etching cream. In his textbook The History and Use of Our Earth’s Chemical Elements, Robert E. Krebs notes that fluorspar-etched glass dates back to 1670. Later scientists discovered that the fluorine present in hexafluoro silicic acid acts as a key etching agent.

Among the techniques mentioned earlier, frosted glass is created by sandblasting or acid etching clear glass.

Pro Tip:

Etching is a technique, while frosting refers to the appearance of the glass.

About Etched Glass

Etched glass provides privacy by letting a limited amount of light pass through. When the glass surface is blasted with aluminum oxide, micro-abrasions on the surface help create the frosted appearance. Deeper etches produce a 3D effect. The carving can be enhanced with LED edge lighting and painting the back of the glass. From a very hard etch to simple dusting, you can customize the glass’s gradients and opacity.

Let’s talk about the different types of glass designs achieved through etching.

1.    Carved Glass

Carved glass is basically a 10x deeper etched glass. While in etching the surface is simply scuffed to create simple patterns, in carving the material is dug at various depths. These designs are highly detailed and give your décor some serious style.

2.    Frosted Glass

The term ‘frosted’ refers to the opacity or pattern on the glass. Just like any other etched glass, frosted glass serves a variety of practical uses in both residential and commercial applications, notably exterior and interior doors. They can also be used for shower enclosures, glass partitions, or interior and exterior glass railings.

Its surface is white, frost-like, and opaque. The effect is available in two different products:

  •  Acid-etched glass, where acid creates the white frost-like effect
  • Laminated safety glass, where the interlayers in between two sheets of glass produces a dynamic frosting effect

3.    Acid-Etched Glass

Acid-etched glass, often referred to as “French embossing,” is one of the oldest decorative techniques. As evident from the history of glass-etching, craftsmen have been using the mineral fluorite for etching glass a long time. Hydrofluoric acid erodes the top layer, leaving a frosted appearance. Not only that but different shades of white can be achieved through this type of etching. It can be even embossed with gold and colour to give your shower a luxurious look.

4.    Sandblasted Glass

Sandblasted glass

Sandblasting can be achieved either by machine or hand. In both techniques, sand particles are aimed at the glass with high-pressure to erode the top surface. Removing small amounts of glass gives the material a rough surface and significant etched appearance. The depth and intensity at which the sandblasting is done is controlled to create different levels of opacity.

Choosing Between Acid-Etched and Sandblasted Glass

If you want complex and decorative designs, acid-etching is the prescribed method. It gives your glass a distinctive, smooth look that is closer to the frosted appearance. The benefit of this method is that the design will not peel or wear down. Acid-etched glass is also more resistant to smudges and fingerprints compared to sandblasted glass.

On the other hand, sandblasting creates a more consistent and high-quality finish, which is suited to simpler designs. Sandblasted glass is more expensive and more susceptible to fingerprints.

When considering etched and frosted glass for your beautiful glass shower enclosure, the main thing you want to decide is the level of opacity. Depending on the level of privacy you want, a professional glass expert in Toronto will be able to provide you with fully customizable products, where you can specify your preferred opacity range.