Abstract We studied visible photoluminescence in etched p − silicon films produced by chemical etching and electrochemical etching. Topographical examination did not show any apparent network of quantum wire structures. Diffraction data, however, indicated the presence of a non-crystalline layer at the etched surface. Photo-emission studies showed that Si and oxygen were present, but that flourine was absent in the surface layer. The valence of the predominant Si species at the surface is +3. The temperature dependence of photoluminescence shows that optical recombination does not involve interactions of electrons and holes in extended states, but is more representative of electron-hole interactions in disordered materials where localization plays a dominant role.