We’ll show you how to antique a mirror in the easiest way without scratches! This is a great way to turn dollar store mirrors into vintage lookalikes!
Remember back in the Long Long Ago when new things were prized and held sacred?
You went to a furniture store and bought new furniture because it was, well, new, and that’s what you wanted!
But somewhere along the windy, bumpy, and pothole-strewn road we call life, new things became totally square.
Only weirdos and freaks wanted, blech, new furniture!
Old became the new new.
And the older the better!
Shabby Chic became a thing, and suddenly the race was on to see who could embrace this new Hobo Haute Couture to the fullest.
Rodeo Drive was replaced by the Roadside Drive-by.
And secondhand store owners everywhere let out a tremendous whoop of joy as penny-pinching DIYers picked over their offerings in search of old furniture pieces they could hide under a layer of distressed chalk paint.
Distressed became the pumpkin spice of the DIY world.
Everything was distressed to the bejesus and back again!
Folks would spend hours of their precious time to paint something only to sand half off half of the paint right afterward!
It was madness.
It is madness!
But hey, even I eventually cottoned to the rehab/refurb/repurp movement – my babes and I are building a business around it!
There was one thing that seemed safe from the lunacy, though.
One thing seemed untouched by the FOB (Fake-Old Brigade).
Beautiful, pristine and spotless mirrors.
Ahhhh, there’s nothing like a perfect mirror to put a spring in your step and remind you that everything is awesome and so are you!
And if you ever came across a worn out mirror in a beautiful frame, you could always pop over to your local glass shop and have a new mirror made!
Well, not so much, apparently.
Handan has recently informed me that nasty old mirrors are now en vogue.
Yep, gone are the days of flawless reflections.
These are the days of black spots and gold spots and otherwise worn-through and worn-away silvered backing on mirrors.
Hey, look, I don’t decide what’s in fashion. I mean, what do I know, right?
Yeah, we all know the answer to that – I know nuthin’!
But I have a wife who knows everything.
And she’s telling me that antiqued mirrors are hot right now.
But if you don’t own or can’t find an actual old mirror, well don’t worry madam, because I’m going to show you how to antique a mirror to make it look like it just warped in from the 18th century!
Better still – our method gives the most authentic look of all the antiqued mirrors we’ve seen.
And the best part?
Our method eliminates the scratches that plague all other mirror antiquing methods!
Yep, my babes cracked the code!
So enough of my yapping. Let’s get to it, so you can get back to shabby-chicifying all your old crap!
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DIY Antique Mirror
- Mirror (we used 8 x 10 dollar store mirrors)
- Citristrip stripping gel
- Chip brush
- Nitrile gloves
- Plastic taping knife
- Spray bottle
- Organic solvent respirator (highly recommended)
- Paper towels
- Glass cleaner
- Metallic Champagne Bronze spray paint
- Flat Black spray paint
How to Antique a Mirror
Step 1 – Prep your work area
Citristrip can get messy, so you’ll want to lay some plastic sheeting or several layers of paper on your work surface. We used several large sheets of brown paper that our movers had given us 6 years ago. Handan had them squirreled away all this time just waiting for the chance to put them to use!
Step 2 – Lay the mirrors
Lay your mirror or mirrors face down on your covered work area.
Step 3 – Apply the stripping gel
Pour a blob of Citristrip on the back of each mirror. A blob is slightly more than a dollop, but much less than a glop.
Brush the stripping gel all over the mirror backs.
Let the Citristrip work its magic for at least 30 minutes. Others will tell you not to wait too long or the gel will eat through the mirrored coating.
They are entirely full of crap. Depending on your mirror’s coating, anything from 30 minutes to 1 hour is great.
For Dollar Store mirrors 30 minutes is a perfect amount of time, but you’re golden even if 40 or 50 minutes pass.
Step 4 – Scrape the mirror
Take your 4 inch plastic taping knife, and wrap a rag around it. These mirrors scratch easily, so you want to be as gentle as possible.
This is the key to a non-scratched mirror! Don’t skip the rag!
30 minutes + plastic knife + rag = perfectly scratch-free mirror.
Using medium pressure, scrape the backing off of your mirrors. Note that most of these plastic taping knives have a beveled edge, so there is a right side and wrong side for scraping. If you use the wrong side, you’ll still get the backing off, but the scraping will take much longer.
After each mirror, shift the rag so a clean section is against the blade, otherwise you’ll wear through the rag and you’ll risk scratching the mirror.
Once you’ve cleared off the majority of the backing, wipe off the rest of the Citristrip with a clean rag.
This is also an important step. Once you’ve scraped the backing off, you want to get that stripping gel off of there.
Tip: leave a tiny bit of backing on each mirror. This will make it easy to identify the back of the mirror after you wash it. You’ll need to know front from back in later steps.
Step 5 – Wash the mirrors
This step is important. Not only does this remove any last traces of stripping gel, but the mirror antiquing process won’t work well if the mirror back is dirty or has some Citristrip still on it.
Experience talking here.
Step 6 – Prepare your bleach solution
You can antique your mirror with any solution of 50% bleach and 50% water or stronger. We used 100% bleach, as it gives the quickest results. Pour your desired mix into a spray bottle.
If you’re doing this project indoors, and if you’re sensitive to bleach fumes like I am, you may want to consider wearing an organic solvent respirator. There’s no way I could have antiqued so many mirrors without this life-saver on! You may also want to wear nitrile gloves for this step. But bleach only irritates my lungs, not my skin, so I went gloveless.
Step 7 – Spray bleach on the mirror
I did this project in our utility sink, the bottom of which is pretty low. I found my back started hurting after a few mirrors, so to ease my job a bit, I put a Tupperware container in the sink and then put the mirrors on the container. This small step relieved a ton of strain on my back.
Spray the mirror (remember, you’re doing this antiquing process on the back of the mirror).
You can play around with where you spray the bleach, but most mirrors tend to age from the edges and corners, so you may want to concentrate your spray there. I mixed things up since I antiqued so many mirrors.
Step 8 – Let the bleach work
Very soon, you’ll notice areas turning dark. Here’s where you can get creative. In spots, you can let the bleach dissolve the reflective coating completely. In other spots, you can blot the bleach with a paper towel when it has only darkened an area. Experiment with this process. It’s always different and it is fascinating to watch!
My favorite technique is to spray the whole mirror and then wait for some areas to start dissolving. Before the process gets too far along, I cover the whole mirror with a paper towel and wipe off the bleach.
I then spray it all again and watch how the antiquing is progressing.
To stop an area from dissolving any further, just blot with a paper towel.
Watch and blot. Watch and blot. Watch and blot.
Step 9 – Rinse
When you’re satisfied with the result, rinse the bleach off with water.
Step 10 – Clean the mirror back
Use glass cleaner to clean the back of the mirror before painting.
Step 11 – Painting
Bring your mirrors outside and set them on a work surface with the backs facing up.
Painting is a two step process.
First you’ll want to spray very lightly with Metallic Champagne Bronze. We tried a few different colors for this step, and this one was the clear winner.
Like you-can-still-totally-see-through-the-glass lightly. The mirror below was actually the most heavily sprayed with bronze.
Once you’ve given all the mirrors a light mist of bronze, fully spray the backs with flat black.
Step 12 – Clean and reframe your antiqued mirror
When the black paint has dried, you can clean the mirror’s face and then put it back in its frame.
So you may be saying to yourself, “Well that was cool! Now I know how to antique a mirror!”
To which I would nod my head and say, “I know, right? It’s totally awesome!”
But now you may be asking, “So why did you antique so many mirrors? What are you going to do with them all?”
To which I would wink at you and say, “Well that’s the big secret isn’t it, madam! You’ll just have to wait a little while to find out!”
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