11 Sep 2018

How to antique a mirror

Here, Jenna Sue of Jenna Sue Design explains how to give a modern mirror an antique feel in just a few easy steps.

If you Google how to antique a mirror, you’ll find a variety of methods, many of which have you use muriatic acid, which is a harsh chemical. Save yourself the trouble – regular bleach and water work just fine. It’s important to note that every time you do this your results will be a little different, it’s just as much of an art as it is a science, and you have to let go of trying to make it ‘perfect’. Practice will certainly help though.

Step one

I removed my mirrors from their frames, but you don’t necessarily have to do that if it makes more sense to leave them in. You do need access to the entire back of the mirror though, which is where you’ll be doing all the work. On the back of the mirror you’ll see a painted layer, which is usually grey in colour. Underneath that is the reflective surface and, finally, your glass. You’ll need to remove the back layer of paint to get to the reflective surface, and gel stripper is the way to go.

Brush it on as thick and evenly as possible – you want the paint to come up nice and smoothly. I left my paint stripper on for nearly an hour, but all mirrors are different.

Step two

Next comes the trickiest and most important part of the entire process – removing that first layer. You want to scrape it off completely without breaking through the thin reflective surface below. It’s a very delicate balance. I’ll be honest, this part is not fun and it’s quite messy. But if you get it right, it’s smooth sailing from here. Fine steel wool can help remove some of the stubborn paint, but again be careful not to rub too hard.

Step three

I mixed one-quarter parts bleach with three-quarter parts water in a spray bottle, and began misting the back of the mirror.

I like to focus more on the edges which is where mirrors will naturally age. Use a finer mist for an even appearance, and throw in some larger droplets for random spots of heavier ageing. This is the fun part, where you get to watch it magically transform before your eyes. Within minutes, the spots will begin to darken.

Use a sponge to blot some of the areas for a more natural look. You can experiment here to find the technique you like.

The longer you leave the bleach water on, the more it will eat away at the reflective coating and the darker your age spots will be. Do a little bit at a time, flipping the mirror over frequently to monitor your progress. Keep in mind that you can always add more, but you can never bring the reflective part back. Make sure to pat down the back before flipping it over so the bleach doesn’t drip and create run lines – not a good look!

Step four

If you remove too much mirror by accident, you can minimise the damage by applying a ‘mirror-effect’ spray paint to the back. There is no paint out there that can mimic the reflective qualities of a real mirror, but you can at least get to a nickel colour.

Step five

Once you are happy with the level of distressing, it’s time to turn it back over for paint. You can use grey or black paint here, but I love the way gold tones look. If you aren’t using spray paint, you want to make sure to avoid brush strokes so I dabbed on the paint.

You will need:

• Bleach
• Spray bottle
• Paper towels
• Paint stripper
• Optional gold/bronze paint
• Black or dark grey paint (spray paint is best)
• Putty knife
• Paintbrush
• Sponge

Further information....

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