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How to Antique a Mirror DIY Tutorial

I’m excited to share this upcycling DIY project: how to antique a mirror, because after renovating our main bath and guest half bath, we were left with builder’s basic, plain bathroom sheet mirrors that had not worn well over the last 30 years.  They were chipped and scratched and just plain ugly.  I hated to throw them away though, so I decided to turn one old mirror into a unique piece of art to hang above the fireplace mantle.  I know a lot of people are left with mirrors after renovations, so this antique mirror DIY is a fun way to upcycle and create something cool with an old mirror.  Antiquing a new mirror is easy, but there are a few steps to make it look perfect.

How to antique a mirror

Safety Notes for Antiquing Mirrors:

Some important reminders first, because this tutorial for how to antique a mirror requires dangerous chemicals.  Wear some dorky protective equipment like rubber gloves, goggles or an entire face shield, like the one Handy Hubby crammed onto my noggin.  You might want to consider a mask and be sure to work in a well ventilated area as well.  I even followed proper WHMIS protocol and created a workplace safety label when I decanted my bony-hand (corrosive) chemical into a spray bottle.  Above all, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Scary safety warning aside, this project took only a few minutes, so I didn’t spend hours huffing fumes.  It was very quick – but you can never be too careful.

Safety gear for working with muriatic acid

Supplies for Antiquing a Mirror:

How to Antique a Mirror:

  1. Put on protective eye wear, gloves, etc., as you will be working with chemicals.
  2. Lay down drop cloths or a tarp to protect surfaces from the chemicals.
  3. Flip your mirror and place it reflective side down on your covered work surface.
  4. Pour on paint stripper to remove the painted coating from the back of the mirror.
  5. Once the surface bubbles, scrape the paint away.
  6. Wipe any remaining bubbled paint or residue with a cloth.
  7. Now you will have only the reflective coating on the mirror, which you will lightly spray with muriatic acid to create an aged effect.
  8. Let the surface dry overnight.
  9. To cover the areas that are now clear glass, use spray paint to cover the surface.
  10. Let the surface dry and you can now frame, stencil or hang up your new aged mirror!

How to turn a new mirror into a DIY antique mirror

Antique Mirror DIY Instructions Detailed:

I started with this plain sheet mirror.  I worked in my garage, but if you’re working somewhere with nice things around, be sure to protect surfaces from the chemicals you’ll be using for this mirror antiquing process.

Projects to do with old bathroom mirrors

Here’s what the back looked like – there’s a protective paint and then, beneath that, a reflecting coating.  You want to remove the painted surface so we can make the metallic coating look more speckled and aged.

How to remove the backing from a mirror

To remove the paint from the back of the mirror, I applied a paint & varnish stripper, left over from stripping and re-varnishing our kitchen cabinets.  I poured it on and then used a garbage-bound foam brush to move the stripper around so the entire surface was covered.  Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific use.  It took only a few minutes for the stripper to make the paint covering the back of the mirror bubble:

Use paint stripper to remove backing from mirror

I patiently waited a few minutes and then got to work scraping.  It came off like butter!

How to antique a mirror

Once all of the paint came off, I wiped the surface down with a dry cloth to make sure no residue remained.  I was left with just the metallic backing of the mirror, which the paint had been protecting.

How glass is turned into a mirror

Using a plastic funnel (and all the safety gear), I carefully decanted a tiny amount of the Muriatic acid from its bottle into my spray bottle.  I needed no more than a few tablespoons – the equivalent of a half dozen or so spritzes.

How to use muriatic acid to antique a mirror

Very sparingly, I spritzed a tiny bit of the acid onto the mirror near the edges, and anywhere I wanted the mirror to look a bit aged.  Mirrors tend to wear on the edges, so for an authentic look mirror antiquing DIY, don’t spray too much on the middle of the mirror.  I tried dabbing it, as per other online mirror ageing tutorials, but that was TERRIBLE advice because it took way too much of the backing off.  So, instead, I learned to just spritz a few times around the edges, once or twice in the middle, and then set it aside overnight – no wiping whatsoever.  In the morning it was dry to the touch and didn’t smear or remove any more of the backing.  That’s my major improvement upon other DIY mirror antiquing tutorials.  Here are a couple photos of what the acid did:

How to remove foil backing from mirrorSteps for antiquing a mirror

The next day, I sprayed the back of the mirror with spray paint – the colour peeks through so you can use a silver metallic shade like I did for a subtle, antiqued effect or go wild with neon hues or black for a spookier mirror.  Try holding up a few sheets of paper behind the mirror to get a feel for what looks good.  You can even back it with printed paper, fabric, newspaper . . . Oh gosh, now I’m thinking of new ideas!  Basically you just want something to cover what is now clear glass in areas where we removed the metallic backing.  I used Krylon Brushed Metallic Satin Nickel:

Antique a mirror with acid

Here is what the mirror looks like after it has been “antiqued” with this method:

Antique a mirror with muriatic acid

You can control what your DIY antique mirror looks like by changing how much of the metallic backing is removed and what color you newly paint the back to cover the clear glass.

Upcycle an old bathroom mirrorHow to antique glass - step by step tutorial

I am so pleased with how my DIY antiqued mirror turned out.  You’d never guess this came out of my crappy old bathroom!  Click on the link to see how I stenciled a poem on my antiqued mirror and finished it off with a simple frame.  I think it’s such a cool piece, but there’s so much potential here to put your creative spin on this mirror antiquing process.  You could even adapt this process to turn clear glass into an antiqued mirror – or frame it in a really ornate antique frame to enhance the vintage vibes.

Hopefully you found this tutorial for how to antique a mirror helpful!  I’d love to see your DIY antique mirror projects.

Projects with mirrors

P.S. Don’t Forget to Pin for Later!

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34 Comments

  1. Amy
    June 6, 2012 / 2:31 pm

    Very cool! Can't wait to see the finished product! šŸ™‚

  2. modern jane
    June 6, 2012 / 2:37 pm

    Crazy cool! Can't wait to see the end result!

  3. Sheila @SZInteriors
    June 6, 2012 / 2:37 pm

    This is the best tutorial I've seen yet for antiquing a mirror! Can't wait to see the finished product šŸ™‚

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      June 6, 2012 / 11:29 pm

      Really? Thanks Sheila. I worked hard at making a tutorial that was clear, with lots of pictures and detailed instructions, because this stuff can be dangerous if misused. Happy you like it!

  4. Faith Pike
    June 6, 2012 / 3:18 pm

    looks great so far! can't wait to see the finished product tomorrow!! šŸ™‚

  5. Lesley at Fabulously Flawed
    June 6, 2012 / 3:52 pm

    Wow! I can't wait to see what it's going to look like. šŸ™‚

  6. Dora
    June 6, 2012 / 4:12 pm

    Can't wait to see the final result šŸ™‚ Love your nerdy outfit

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      June 6, 2012 / 11:29 pm

      Ha ha, thanks! I look this nerdy on a regular basis. Today you should have seen the too-cool ear protection I was rockin'

    • Anonymous
      July 19, 2012 / 7:27 pm

      Need a bit more clarification……you got this effect by striping off paint, random spray with muriatic acid and spraying over with silver paint…..thats all just the river paint? Beautifully creative

    • Anonymous
      July 19, 2012 / 7:28 pm

      Sorry I meant silver paint

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      July 19, 2012 / 10:27 pm

      The chemical stripper removed all of the protective backing but it still looked like a mirror from the front. Using the muriatic acid removed the foil backing in spots so the mirror became see through in spots. But still reflective in other areas where no acid touched The silver paint kept it from being see-through and added the mottled texture you see.So it's a mix of paint and original mirror.Just use a light touch with the acid. You really need very little and don't rub it – it will remove all of the foil. Hope that helps! Feel free to ask any other Q's.

  7. Lets just build a house!
    June 6, 2012 / 6:04 pm

    Serious business!! I want to see the final reveal!

  8. Kelly
    June 6, 2012 / 9:31 pm

    I love it. Great tutorial. Looking forward to the finished product.

  9. Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
    June 6, 2012 / 11:31 pm

    I'm such a tease, right folks? I think all of you mentioned wanting to see the final product. Tomorrow, I promise. I just didn't want to win an award for longest post ever by combining all of the steps and thought this step, with the bony hand chemicals and whatnot, deserved a little extra attention. See you all tomorrow!

  10. Meghan @ Wishful Thinking
    June 7, 2012 / 6:53 am

    Ooooh I have always wondered how they do this! It's looking amazing! Can't wait to see how it looks with the frame!

  11. DIY Show Off
    June 19, 2012 / 1:27 pm

    Awesome!

  12. Anonymous
    October 17, 2012 / 8:47 pm

    Do you know if this would work on a metallic tinted window. I want to use glass to make a box to cover DVR but really want that antique look.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 18, 2012 / 5:21 pm

      The key to this was removing some of the foil backing (that makes a piece of glass a mirror) and then adding some spray paint where the foil was removed to make it look mottled. Once the foil is removed, it is just a piece of clear glass. I'm not sure what kind of treatment your metallic tinted window has. If there is something behind it to remove, this might work. But I cannot say for sure. Feel free to email me a photo and maybe I can help figure it out.([email protected]).

  13. juicyfruits
    January 28, 2013 / 12:48 am

    OK– I just jumped through about 10 sites to find you. And I am glad you did. I found your instructions very clear.Now I hope I can find the next step.Question: If you have a piece of glass — is there a spray that you can put on it to turn it into a mirror?Thanks!

  14. Morgan Jarrard
    November 27, 2014 / 10:14 pm

    Where did you find your mirrors? Thanks!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      November 27, 2014 / 11:00 pm

      Salvaged from my bathroom reno! I see them for free in the classifieds.

  15. Unknown
    November 12, 2016 / 2:25 pm

    Hi! It sounds like once the acid dried, you didn't wipe or neutralize it–just painted right over it. Have you had any problems with the acid interacting with the paint? Thanks!

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      November 12, 2016 / 4:02 pm

      Correct – I did not wipe because wiping removed way too much of the backing. I let it dry overnight and then spray painted. There were no issues with the paint. It's been many years since I made this, but it still looks the same as it did on day one.

  16. Beth
    November 15, 2016 / 4:22 pm

    Hello!Your mirrors look great. I am thinking of doing this for a theatre production I am working on.Do you think it would work with this material?https://shop.neplastics.co.uk/Search-Results/2630 it's called mirrored HIPS and is advised for theatrical uses because it's light.It has a plastic backing on it which I think is what you emphasise as being important.Let me know what you think ! šŸ™‚

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      November 15, 2016 / 6:43 pm

      Hi Beth,That is a good question! I'm sorry, I cannot say definitively because I'm completely unfamiliar with that type of mirror. Theoretically, yes – the acid should remove the backing the same way it did for my old bathroom mirror. My suggestion is to send them a link to this tutorial and ask their customer service. They would know their product best and confirm if you could age this mirror.

  17. Mich Abing
    March 19, 2017 / 8:21 am

    Absolutely agree, the best and most beautifully creative antique mirror tutorial I've found. So much better than some of the YouTube videos. Thank you so much!

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      March 20, 2017 / 1:54 pm

      So happy you found this tutorial helpful! Thanks for your kind comment šŸ™‚

  18. Susie
    May 12, 2019 / 12:09 pm

    Great job!

  19. August 10, 2020 / 5:48 pm

    Very simple but when i wiped all stripper off i think i left smudge marks on it which showed after i sprayed metallic paint on it. You think i can add more stripper in those areas and start over. Wiping it really clean before applying final paint.

    • August 10, 2020 / 11:04 pm

      Yes, you can probably use the stripper to remove the paint and start fresh there.

  20. Linda Lynch
    May 10, 2021 / 6:42 pm

    Thank you for an excellent tutorial. I have read many and yours is very concise and the pictures very informative. The end result is wonderful.

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