How to Frost Glass

Frosted glass windows in a modern bathroom

Andreas von Einsiedel / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $30

Frosted finish lets light shine through glass but obscures its clarity for an appealing matte-like haze. Shower doors or windows can be frosted to let the light in while maintaining privacy. Or glassware like bottles, canning jars, wineglasses, mirrors, or mugs can be frosted for a velvety-soft look and feel. Frost over a stencil to create intricate designs of your own making. Depending on your needs, you can frost glass permanently with etching cream or semi-permanently with frosting spray.

2 Ways to Frost Glass

Etching Cream
  • True etched, frosted glass

  • Permanent

  • Interior or exterior

  • Glass only

Frosted Glass Finish
  • Simulated frosted glass

  • Semi-permanent

  • Interior

  • Glass or plastics

Create real frosted glass with etching cream, a chemical that abrades the glass for permanent results. Etching cream is suitable for either indoor or outdoor glass since the frosting effect will not wear off.

Frosted glass spray doesn't etch the glass. Instead, it's a translucent haze that simulates frosted glass. Since frosted glass spray is a covering, it will come off if used in exterior applications. Use household glass cleaner and a soft cloth to clean the frosted glass finish. Use acetone or lacquer thinner to remove the frosted finish from the glass.

Safety Considerations

Glass etching cream is toxic and caustic. Do not let etching cream touch your skin. Wear latex gloves and long sleeves and pants when handling etching cream. Use frosted glass spray only in a well-ventilated area. An alternative to etching is tinting or applying a decorative film over glass to offer shade and privacy.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Etching Cream

  • Water container
  • Paint brush
  • Latex gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Sink with warm water

Frosted Glass Spray

  • Soft cloth
  • Water container

Materials

Etching Cream

  • Etching cream
  • Mild soap

Frosted Glass Spray

  • Frosted glass spray
  • Mild soap

Instructions

How to Frost Glass With Etching Cream

  1. Prepare Work Site

    Prepare a work table covered with plastic. Tape the plastic down. Have latex gloves and safety glasses nearby.

  2. Clean Glass

    Clean the glass thoroughly with mild additive-free soap and warm water. If frosting glassware, run it through the dishwasher. After the dishwasher, clean the glassware once more by hand. Dry off the glass with a lint-free cloth.

  3. Add Stencil (Optional)

    If frosting over a stencil, apply the stencil now. Press down the edges of the stencil with a popsicle stick or old credit card to make sure that the etching cream will not seep under the stencil.

  4. Apply Etching Cream

    Wearing your protective gear, use a disposable paint brush to apply the etching cream. Use the paint brush to gently dab etching cream on the glass. Cover the glass with a thick layer of etching cream. Do not brush on the cream. Instead, dab it onto the glass. The cream should be about 1/4-inch thick. It should not be so thick that it slides off the glass.

  5. Let Etching Cream Sit

    The etching cream needs to sit on the glass for a period specified by the manufacturer. Usually, the waiting period is from one to five minutes.

  6. Wash Off Etching Cream

    In a sink with warm water, rinse off the etching cream. Thoroughly remove all traces of the etching cream.

  7. Remove Stencil (Optional)

    If your glass has a stencil, remove the stencil only when all of the etching cream is gone. With the stencil gone, run the glass once more under warm water to remove cream that may have remained along the edges of the stencil.

  8. Dry Off Glass

    Gently dry off the glass with a soft cloth.

Tips for Frosting Glass With Etching Cream

  • Avoid cleaning the glass with vinegar, alcohol, acetone, or glue removers as they can leave streaks. Instead, use mild soap and warm water.
  • Applying the etching cream with brush streaks will create streaks. Be sure to dab it on, not brush it on.
  • Some types of glass, like Pyrex, may not etch well. Experiment with different types of glass.

Frosted Glass Spray

  1. Prepare Work Site

    Prepare a work area that is shielded from the wind but is ventilated enough to prevent the fumes from building up. The temperature should be between 50ºF and 90ºF and humidity should be below 65 percent. Cover the work area with paper and tape the paper down.

  2. Clean Glass

    Use a mild detergent, water, and a soft cloth to clean the glass.

  3. Spray First Coat

    Shake the can well for about a minute. Holding the can 12 to 16 inches from the glass, spray the glass with even side-to-side motions. Overlap each spray by a few inches.

  4. Spray Two or More Coats

    After a few minutes, it's safe to spray a second coat. Wait at least 10 minutes for the frost effect to appear. The spray will appear shiny until the frosting takes effect. Clean up with mineral spirits.