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.
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.
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.
- Paint and varnish stripper (I used Home Hardware brand)
- Spray paint (I suggest metallic)
- Large (disposable) brush
- Metal paint scraper
- Muriatic acid
- Plastic funnel
- Plastic spray bottle
- Rubber gloves
- Dust mask + eye protection
- Skin protection (long sleeve t-shirt)
- Well ventilated area to work in
- Paper towel/dry cloth
- Muriatic acid
How to antique a mirror using muriatic acid:
I started with this plain, sheet mirror.
Here’s what the back looked like:
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:
I patiently waiting a few minutes and then got to work scraping. It came off like butter!
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.
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.
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:
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!
Here is what the mirror looks like after it has been “antiqued” with this method:
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.