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Chemical etching is one step of some popular PCB fabrication techniques.
In this technique,
- one starts with a copper-clad board.
- one puts a mask over all the copper he want to keep. There are a variety of ways to do this -- see Toner Transfer and Photoetching.
- one removes the parts he don't want to keep, by chemically etching away the copper.
- cleanup: wash off the board in the sink; carefully store or dispose of the acid.
There are a lot of different chemical techniques for doing this, each with its own advantages and drawbacks.
None of these chemicals is incredibly dangerous, but they can all be toxic or caustic, and should be treated with care. Eye protection and gloves are a very good idea. Before you start, make sure you know how dangerous each chemical is, and figure out what you will need to do if you spill it or get it on yourself. Washing with plenty of water is usually a good start. For some chemicals you may want to keep a neutralizing agent handy. An MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) for the chemical will give you some basic information.