Types Of Pickle

Citric Acid Pickle – a safe and non-toxic pickle

  • Citric Acid (anhydrous fine granular citric acid – MSDS) is the new, “green” pickle but, there are a few disadvantages:
  1. It doesn’t last as long..
  2. You have to heat it up a few times a week otherwise, it will begin to grow mold and smell funky when it stays cold too long.
  3. It is not so quick as Sodium Bisulfate pickle
  4. The higher the temperature, the better it works which can result in burns.
  5. You still can’t pour it down the drain if there are copper particles present. If it is used only with fine silver, no problem, but sterling, Argentium, most golds, brass, bronze and copper are going to shed a few copper molecules. You generally don’t need to pickle fine silver and 24K gold.
  6. A safer, non-toxic pickle (don’t inhale it!). It doesn’t last as long as Sodium Bisulfate Pickle. Add more citric acid as the solution weakens.

Recipe for Citric Acid Pickle:

One part citric acid to 6 to 7 parts distilled water.

Add Citric Acid to the water – Important

Suppliers of Citric Pickle or Citric Acid

Note:  Citric Acid can cause digestive and respiratory tract irritation. Causes severe eye irritation and may cause skin sensitization by skin contact.  Use mask, eye protection, and gloves when mixing and eye protection when using.

Salt and Vinegar Pickle – Another safe and non-toxic pickle

Salt and Vinegar Pickle Recipe: 

  • Add one teaspoon of salt for every cup of vinegar.  Use distilled white vinegar so that you can see what’s in the pickle. Works much faster when warm.

Alum Pickle


According to Nancy Hamilton, “The recipe, from what I can discern from the web is: put in a big clump (handful?)of Food grade Alum aka Aluminum Alum into the water in your pickle pot.  Stir.  Works much faster when warm.

Alum can be found at the grocery store (in small quantities for more money), Amazon carries the Barry Farm Brand for $8.53 US a pound or buy direct from the Barry Farm. I can’t find anymore suppliers.  Maybe someone else knows? It shouldn’t have iron in it BTW.  There are many different types out there.

Alum, in its various forms, is used in pickling (food grade), fixing dye to fabric, baking powder, dying and tanning hides and fire extinguishers, to name a few uses.  Per McCormick (the Spice People) “It is a general purpose food additive that functions as a firming agent.”

Alum, Vinegar, and Salt Pickle

One tablespoon of alum into 1/4 cup of distilled water.  Dissolve.  Use 8 parts white distilled vinegar for every tablespoon of salt.  Pour the water and alum into the vinegar.   Heat to simmering (pickle pot on high) and then add salt to the mixture.  Turn down temperature and keep warm in your pickle pot.

Sodium Bisulfate Pickle

The most common pickle for jewelry making is composed of sodium bisulfate (MSDS on Rio Pickle).  Sodium bisulfate is also used as a ph reducer for spas so, you can purchase a product like: In The Swim ph Reducer to use as your pickle.  The “Swim ph Reducer”, for a 6 lb bucket, costs $22.99 at Amazon.  The Rio Pickle works out to a little less (it’s $11.25 for 3 lbs = $22.50 for 6 lbs). Swim Time 6 lbs ph Reducer at Wally World (Walmart) sells it for $13.82 (as of 8/14). Check to be sure the label says: Sodium Bisulfate.

Rio Pickle is made for Non-Ferrous Metals and also for Nickel, Brass, and Bronze.  Use the non-ferrous pickle for silver, copper, brass, yellow golds and bronze.

Different names for sodium bisulfate pickle:

***Note Sparex #1 is for pickling iron and steel.

ph Reducer – Sodium Bisulfate Pickle 

Mix, approximately, one cup of ph reducer to a gallon of distilled water (Acid to water). Adjust amounts for your pickle pot’s size. You can determine how much it holds (if you don’t buy new and have that info readily available).  Using a measuring cup, fill the pot to within one or two inches from the top with water. Record your results for future reference. (You don’t want the pickle overflowing when you put items in it!).   So, don’t overfill.

*Note: there are 4 quarts in a gallon, so the ratio (don’t know if this is truly accurate as one is liquid and the other dry) for a quart would be:  1/4 cup of ph reducer per quart of distilled water. Fill to within 1-2 inches and then add ph reducer.

How to mix Sodium Bisulfate (aka: Sparex #2, Rio Pickle, Safety Pickle)

Safety first!:  Mask, goggles, PVC Gloves, Plastic or PVC Apron.

  1. Use only distilled water
  2. Determine acid to water ratio from packaging.
  3. Measure water and pour into pickle pot.
  4. Either have two studio dedicated measuring cups or wipe dry the one you just used.
  5. Measure out your pickle.
  6. Slowly pour the powdered pickle into the water in the pickle pot.
  7. Turn on pickle pot/crock pot. Set it on low.
  8. Stir with your copper, brass or plastic tongs or a jewelry dedicated plastic or wooden spoon.
  9. Wait
  10. Stir
  11. Wait
  12. If you can’t wait anymore and there is still some of the bisulfate salts on the bottom, go ahead and use the pickle anyway.  The pickle will work and the remaining powder will eventually dissolve.

Warning:  (This from Rio Grande’s site: “Sodium Bisulfate. Releases Sulfuric Acid, here’s SciLab.com’s MSDS on Sulfuric Acid) on contact with water. Causes burns and irritation. Avoid contact with eyes, skin, and clothing. Do not inhale dust. Do not swallow. Keep out of reach of children.”

Suppliers of Sodium Bisulfate Pickle

There are many more suppliers:  Just Google “pickle for metalsmiths or jewelers”!

Sulfuric Acid Pickle

Some pickles, although not very common today, due to the dangerous nature of the acid, are made from a solution of between 5% and 10% sulfuric acid. They are now difficult to find and are usually seen in the manufacturing industry.

A special thank you to Nancy L T Hamilton of The (Not So) Lazy Jeweler for providing a thorough list of information on pickle.

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