The effects of CH4/H2 reactive ion etching (RIE) on the optical properties of an InP/InGaAs multiple‐quantum‐well structure have been investigated by low‐temperature photoluminescence (PL). The structure consisted of eight InGaAs quantum wells, lattice matched to InP, with nominal thicknesses of 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, and 70 monolayers, respectively, on top of a 200‐nm‐thick layer of InGaAs for calibration. The design of this structure allowed etch‐induced damage depth to be obtained from the PL spectra due to the different confinement energies of the quantum wells. The samples showed no significant decrease of luminescence intensity after RIE. However, the observed shift and broadening of the PL peaks from the quantum wells indicate that intermixing of well and barrier material increased with etch time. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.