Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

June 6, 2012

How to Antique a New Mirror

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 decided to upcycle one of the large mirrors, and turn it into a unique piece of art to hang above the fireplace mantle.

The first step was to "antique" my mirror to give it some patina and character - and mask the "bathroom-ness".  I used this HGTV tutorial for antiquing mirrors, but found a flaw with it, so I'm outlining how I antiqued my mirror below.

How to antique a mirror


Some important reminders first, because this project 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 (like a dust mask) and be sure to work in a well ventilated area.

Safety gear for working with muriatic acid

Above all, always refer to the manufacturer's instructions.

I'm normally the worst when it comes to safety gear.  I routinely wear "safety sandals" (ie. flips flops I don't mind getting paint on, but that do nothing to protect my toesies from saw blades), consider glasses I don't mind ruining "eye protection," and spray paint in poorly ventilated areas (have you ever blown your nose and it came out blue?).  But I was super serious about this.  I even followed proper WHMIS protocol and created a workplace safety label when I decanted my bony-hand (corrosive) chemical into a spray bottle. 

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.


How to antique a mirror using muriatic acid:

I started with this plain, sheet mirror.

Projects to do with old bathroom mirrors

Here's what the back looked like:

How to remove the backing from a mirror

I laid it reflective side down on a work surface and applied my 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 waiting 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 it 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 don't spray too much on the middle of the mirror.

I tried dabbing it, as per the HGTV instructions, and it lifted all of the finish off, not just speckled areas.  It took way too much of the metallic backing off.  So 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.

Here are a couple photos of what the acid did:

How to remove foil backing from mirror
Steps 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!

I used Krylon Brushed Metallic Satin Nickel (the same colour I used for the necklace-to-keychain transformation).

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
Upcycle an old bathroom mirror
How to antique glass - step by step tutorial

You'd never guess this came out of the bathroom!  Click on the link to see how I stenciled a poem on my antiqued mirror and finished it off with a simple frame.



  1. Very cool! Can't wait to see the finished product! :)

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

  3. This is the best tutorial I've seen yet for antiquing a mirror! Can't wait to see the finished product :-)

    1. 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. looks great so far! can't wait to see the finished product tomorrow!! :)

  5. Wow! I can't wait to see what it's going to look like. :)

  6. Can't wait to see the final result :) Love your nerdy outfit

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

    2. Need a bit more 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

    3. Sorry I meant silver paint

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

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

  9. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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?


    1. Hi! So happy you found your way here. I have a search feature on the right hand side to skip to any post/theme you want, or you can find the finished project under my DIY projects page (just under my header). To speed things up, here you go:

      I have never turned a glass sheet into mirror, but have seen it done. Here is a link to a spray paint you can use:

      And here's some inspiration:

      Hope this helps!

  13. Where did you find your mirrors? Thanks!

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


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