There is something regal and royal about aging mirrors. Add one to any room and you have a stunning conversation starter. In the past, the coating on the back of mirrors was made to easily chip off with time and you’d have a naturally aged mirror. Today, if you want an instant antique mirror, you’d have to rip off this coating yourself.
There are several methods of achieving a distressed look on mirrors and to be honest, it might take a bit of trial and error to finally come out with a really good-looking antiquated mirror. By now, we know a few tricks and we’re happy to show you how to antique a mirror perfectly.
So, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
For this project, you will need the following supplies:
- Drop cloth
- Paint stripper
- Plastic paint scraper
- Small paintbrush
- Used hand towels
- Protective gear- gloves, facemask, and goggles
- Muriatic acid
- Spray bottle
Step-by-Step Guide to Antique a Mirror
Follow these simple steps to achieve an antique look for your decorative mirrors.
Step 1: Prepare your workstation
This project involves scraping paint off the mirror and applying some chemicals to strip off the reflective surface on the mirror. Lay a drop cloth and some plastic sheets on the surface where you will be working to avoid creating a mess.
Step 2: Remove the mirror from the frame
As tempting as it might be to work with the mirror in the frame, you definitely do not want to skip this step. Not only is it cumbersome; you might also not get the best results.
Some mirrors come with some type of cardboard at the back held in place with staples. Use a flathead screwdriver to remove the staples and to carefully release the cardboard. Don’t rip the cardboard as you might need to reinstall it later.
Carefully release the mirror from its frame. If you find it difficult to take the frame out, you can bring the mirror to your local glass shop and have the frame professionally removed.
Step 3: Strip the paint off the mirror
Lay the mirror with the backside facing up. Once you remove the frame, you will see that the backside is painted. You want to remove this paint to expose the reflective material underneath the paint.
Use a small brush to apply the paint stripper all over the backside of the mirror. Let the paint remover sit on the back of the mirror for 10 to15 minutes but do not allow it to dry out. If it dries, apply another coat of paint remover.
After the recommended wait time, use a plastic scraper to check if the paint is coming off. Test on a small area first before moving on to scrape the rest of the mirror.
The paint should easily scrape out the first time but if it doesn’t, reapply the paint remover and wait a couple of minutes to try again.
Step 4: Clean the mirror
With the paint out, it is now time to wipe down the back of the mirror to remove the scraped-off paint. Use a wet cloth or if you have a large mirror, simply hose it down.
Thoroughly dry the mirror using a clean cloth before moving on to the next step.
Step 5: Remove some of the reflective material
Mirrors are made by pouring a reflective material such as melted aluminum, tin, zinc, or copper over glass. To antique a mirror, you will need to remove a bit of this reflective material.
As we mentioned earlier, there are a couple of ways to antique a mirror but in this tutorial, we will be using muriatic acid. We’ve found this to be the fastest and most effective method of getting a naturally aged look.
Be sure to wear protective gloves when handling muriatic acid to avoid burning your skin. As long as you are careful in your handling of the acid, you should successfully and safely complete this project.
Step 6: Apply muriatic acid to the mirror
You can either spray or dab the muriatic acid on the mirror. We prefer spraying- it is not only safer; you also get to work faster and the aged effect seems more natural with this method.
Carefully pour some acid into a spray bottle. You can use a funnel to avoid spilling. Now, spray a bit of the acid along the edges of the mirror and then, dab off immediately.
You may spray the acid anywhere on the mirror but it is best to do it along the edges because this is how mirrors age naturally.
Keep spraying and dabbing until you are satisfied with the amount of reflective material you have removed.
Pro Tip: Spray the acid little by little, as you go along. Dabbing off the acid immediately ensures that you do not remove so much of the reflective material that you are left with clear glass.
Step 7: Clean the mirror
Lift the mirror to check if you have the look that you want. Once you are satisfied, place the mirror under a tap of running water or a hose to remove all the muriatic acid.
Be sure to clean and dry the mirror thoroughly, as any traces of acid on the mirror will continue to corrode the reflective material.
Step 8: Paint the mirror
Now that you have the desired antique look, it is time to repaint the mirror. Carefully select the paint color; whichever color you use is what will show through the spots where you have removed the reflective material. For a natural antique look, consider going with charcoal grey, copper, or a nice gold.
Apply one thin coat of your chosen paint. Allow the mirror to sit in a well-ventilated area for about an hour or until the paint is dry then, apply a second coat. Allow the paint to completely dry before putting it back in the frame.
That is all there is to antiquing a mirror! Now, go ahead, find the perfect spot, and hang your antique mirror.
We’d like to share a couple of tips and tricks that we have learned along the way to help make this project a success.
- Muriatic acid removes the reflective material faster. But, you can also use a mixture of bleach and water to achieve the antiquated look. Mix ¾ cup of water with a ¼ cup of bleach, then spray the mixture on the mirror until you have your desired look. The bleach and water solution might take a bit longer but it is safer than acid.
- Use as little or as much paint stripper as you need depending on the look you are going for. If you are after a natural, aged by the elements look, a little stripper goes a long way. In the same vein, apply more paint stripper if you want to remove most of the reflective material.
- Use a random pattern when scraping the paint of the backside of the mirror. We found that scraping from top to down left straight lines, which wasn’t the look we really wanted. So, just move the scraper less systematically. You may go wild here just as long as you don’t dig into the reflective material more than you need to.
- If you remove too much of the reflective material, you can re-silver the mirror using a mirror effect spray paint. Spraying a bit of black paint along the edges of the glass after removing the paint will also help toward achieving the natural antique look.
- Take note of the kind of plastic scrapper you buy. Many have a beveled edge and if you use the wrong side, you will not only take much longer to scrape the paint off the mirror; you might also leave some undesirable patterns in the mirror that will make it hard to achieve a naturally aged look.
Add character to any room using DIY antique mirrors
We’ve shown you just one way to antique a mirror. There are many other methods you can try depending on the look you are after.
One of the secrets to success with this project is moving fast; a delay of just a few minutes can cause you to remove too much of the reflective material. So be sure to gather all your supplies before starting.
We recommend trying this project on one or two small inexpensive mirrors before going full scale with it on your favorite mirror.