One project I did a long while ago that I’ve been dying to show you is how to antique a mirror. I custom cut up a long door mirror into pieces, used paint stripper and bleach to antique it and it’s been decorating my house ever since. I had seen a few ideas for how to antique a mirror on your own and wanted to try it out, but without expensive harsh chemicals. I heard about using bleach and voila, it works! Here is the run down of how I did it.
First, the supplies you need are:
- Paint stripper – I used Citri-Strip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel
- Bleach and water
- Spray bottle
- Paint scraper
- Plastic/protective gloves
- Safety glasses
- Paper towels
If you wanted to cut mirror and re-frame it like I did, you’ll also need a new frame and a glass cutter tool. I’ll show you how to cut glass in another post, so stay tuned for that.
Take the Back off the Mirror
For this project I started with 2 old door mirrors we had acquired over the years. You know the ones you can get for about $5 on sale at back to school time? Yep, those. I had an idea to cut them and make “tiles” for a larger frame and antique them to look old and interesting. I started with 2 mirrors and a frame, took the backs of the mirrors and took them out of the frames. Make sure you wear gloves and safety glasses for this. Mirrors are sharp!
Then I ended up cutting up these mirrors to piece together into another frame, so I had to cut them to size, but if you are not doing that, all you have to do is remove the backing of the mirror you already have if it is framed. Store bought mirrors come with cardboard or something else on the backs. You can carefully take that off, and save it to put back on the mirror when you are finished antiquing it. So don’t rip it up. It might be held in place by staples. Use a flat head screw driver and pliers to pry them up and pull them out. That will keep the back in one piece. Don’t be afraid to take it apart, you can always put it back together.
Remove the Back of the Mirror Film with Paint Stripper
Next comes the stripping of the mirror backing. I used paint stripper to remove the layer on the back of the mirror to get to the reflective film that actually is the mirror. Most mirrors have this backing and it didn’t come off with bleach alone, so I brought out the Citri-Strip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel, which is an eco-friendly low-odor paint stripper. it’s safe to use inside and is my preferred product for this kind of work. I put on the stripper with an old paint brush in little blotches on the mirror.
This is where it gets a little tricky. You don’t want to glob it on, or it will actually take off the mirror and you’ll just be left with a piece of glass. Wear your safety gloves and glasses and wait only a few minutes for it to work, about 5-8. This was the first time I had done this, so it was totally an experiment. Since I had these mirrors around the house and wasn’t using them, I wasn’t afraid to try something new.
Below top left you’ll see with how little stripper I started with. The rest of the pictures are after waiting a few minutes and then gently scraping off the stripper with a scraper. See that gold layer underneath the grey backing? That is what you want to get to. It’s the part that actually is the mirror.
Again, here is where you can be creative. You can put on as much or as little of the stripper as you want. It’s all in the look you are going for. Each of my mirrors came out different and I used paper towels to clean up the stripper and backing. Put it in a plastic bag and throw it away. You can gently wipe off all the remaining stripper with a damp paper towel, just to make sure all of it is gone and it’s still not removing your mirror surfaces.
Spray the Back of the Mirror with a Bleach Water Solution
Once you have stripped off as much of the backing as you want, then you use the bleach to actually created the antiqued look. The paint stripper alone will remove both the backing and the gold layer if you let it. So again, be careful about how much you use and how long it sits on the back of the mirror. I found that when I scraped off the paint stripper with the scraper, it made straight lines on the mirror. This was not what I wanted so I tried to be random with it. I bet you could use a towel to blot or rub it off to get a more random, rounded look.
Then I used a spray bottle with about 3/4 water and 1/4 bleach to lightly spritz the back of the mirrors/the part you just used the paint stripper on. This will give it that antique look, in a random pattern so it doesn’t look like you took a paint scraper to the mirror. Now be careful with the bleach! Although it will evaporate for the most part, it will also eat away at your mirror fast!
Here are some of the pieces I worked on. I put them on the green foam so you could actually see how much of the mirror came off. See the round splotches? That’s from the spray bottle of water and bleach. But see on the top left the straight lines? That’s from the paint scraper, so I tried to get rid of that for the most part. I wanted “aged by the elements” look, not “scraped by hand” look. It’s all in what you’re going for.
If you haven’t done this before I would say less is definitely more. Use less paint stripper and less bleach to get the look you want because you an always reapply them. Once all the reflective film is gone, you can’t put it back. (unless you use Krylon Looking Glass Mirror-Like Spray Paint, – which is definitely another technique. See how many options there are to make something your own?
There were some pieces that I went a little crazy on, and wished I hadn’t removed so much of the film. I ended up putting a piece of grey fabric behind the mirror tiles when I re-framed them so it looked kind of diluted. Otherwise you’d see the back of the frame through the mirror. I’ve seen some people put patterned fabric or paper behind them too which would look neat.
Here is who my mirror came out. I’ve used it over the mantel for a while. It looked really fun at the holiday season. This is 6 “tiles” of the mirror cut and fit together inside a 2 foot x 3 foot poster frame.
You can see how each mirror part came out different, which I thought was neat. If this was one large mirror, I might have antiqued it more around the edges and less in the middle. Here it is with some different lighting and you can really see the grey fabric I put behind it. Since the mirrors didn’t cut exactly the same, getting them to fit evenly inside the frame was tricky. I made sure to secure them since they essentially were just touching along the edges, that was what was keeping them in place.
More recently the mirror moved to the dining room where it’s currently getting blinged up for the holidays! This is what it looked like during the summer. You can see how some of the edges of each square piece are not antiqued. Next time I would have paid more attention to that so the pieces looked connected.
Here is the mirror last fall at Thanksgiving when I made a feather boa wreath and gave a fall touch to my Dollar Store hurricanes. I love the look of this mirror with a wreath over it, can’t you tell?
Now that you know how to antique a mirror, think you might try it? Let’s hope Google doesn’t punish me for the amount of times I’ve used the word stripper in this post! But if you have any questions, please leave a comment and let me know.
See all my DIY projects here.
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