Sandblasted Glass Vs. Acid Etched Glass: Which is Better?

Chick-Fil-A Headquarters etched glass windows

We often have many people ask which decorative etched glass is better, but really it all depends on you and your wants! While the two glass products are similar in style, acid etched glass vs sandblasted glass, are actually very different when it comes to an end goal.

What is sandblasted glass and how is it different from acid etch glass?

Sandblasted and etched glass both use abrasives which create a frosted appearance on the glass. Sandblasting usually uses a high-speed machine that blasts down on the glass panel with sand, walnut husks or other materials to achieve its look. (It can also be done by hand!) Sandblast glass etching lets you choose the level of glass opaqueness that best fits your needs and is versatile in many ways when it comes to design.

Acid etched glass offers a wide variety of options, but the appearance is smoother. Etching glass with acid offers more finishes and various degrees of transparency than standard sandblasted glass. Another major difference between acid etch and sandblast is that light does not transmit through the acid etch as well as the sandblast when lighting up a piece of glass for accent purposes.

Gradients and Transparency

Sandblasted Glass Vs. Acid Etched Glass: Which is Better? 1

Whether you decide on sandblasted etched glass or acid etched glass one of the most significant benefits is its capability to be as transparent as you like. This is ideal for adding privacy in places like partitions, glass showers, office, or public spaces.

Glass gradients can start and end at any percentage such as a 20%-80% gradient or a perfectly clear glass panel fade into a 100% full frost with zero opacity.

Sandblasted Glass Vs. Acid Etched Glass: Which is Better? 2

Glass etching services offer two unique options; opacity and gradients. With a light dusting, you can achieve a 10%-20% opacity level while heavier glass frosting yields zero opacity and clarity for full privacy yet allowing light to still penetrate the glass panels.

Pros and cons of sandblasted glass etching and glass acid etching

As with any product both sandblasted frosted glass and acid frosted glass have their benefits and disadvantages.


  • A pro to sandblasting is that you can are pretty much guaranteed good quality etching and it will be completed within a decent amount of time. Also, designs are readily available and can be more detailed.
  • A con to sandblasting is the glass is more likely to leave fingerprint marks which do require a bit more maintenance when it comes to cleaning.

Acid Etching

  • A pro to acid etched glass is that unlike sandblasted glass it is low-maintenance and less likely to leave fingerprint marks.
  • A con to acid etched glass is that it is not readily available due to the fact that the acid used is hazardous and often has to be produced overseas. Acid etching is also limited in custom designs.

All etched glass has the ability to get dirty and scuffed due to oils and dirt getting trapped inside the etched abrasions. This must be considered when choosing etched glass as to where it will be placed and how it will interact with the environment. Some coatings and precautions can be taken to block this type of damage such as when you etch glass shower doors or barn-doors or have etched panels in a public space.

There you have it. You’ve learned about the process of glass etching, the appearance of it, and even it’s advantages and disadvantages. So which is better? Well, that’s up to you to decide.

Banner Project/Photo Credit: Steve Dubberly, SEGD | Associate | Experiential Graphic Design

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