A lot of you have been asking for a tutorial on this technique, dating back to last year at the Cottage House Flip when I first tried it out on this ReStore mirror…
Now that I’ve done a few more and have a good process down, I’m finally ready to share it step by step! Watch below to see how it’s done:
And just because I love you guys so much, I’m breaking it down via written tutorial as well 🙂
You may remember seeing these lovelies in the One Room Challenge reveal…
And here’s the latest addition!
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!
I took photos off this process for the last three mirrors you saw above, so I’ll share parts from each so you can see how they all turned out (spoiler alert: they were all a bit different).
Along with your mirror, here are the supplies you’ll need:
- Spray bottle
- Paper towels
- Paint stripper (CitriStrip orange gel is safe for indoor use and it’s the only one I recommend!)
- Black or dark gray paint (spray paint is best)
- Optional gold/bronze paint
- Putty knife
- Paint brush
I highly recommend trying this out on a spare mirror first. It takes some practice to get the technique down!
For the One Room Challenge, I ordered two of these mirrors from Bellacor with the intention to antique them:
And here’s my latest mirror I picked up for $30 off Craigslist:
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 gray in color. 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 CitriStrip on for nearly an hour, but all mirrors are different. These ones had a super thick painted layer that needed extra time.
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.
On my first mirror, I didn’t press too hard with the putty knife in fear of leaving scratch marks. I ended up having to apply a second coat of Citristrip which is dangerous, because it can start to eat away at the reflective surface.
On my latest mirror, I got it all up on the first attempt but scraped too hard, leaving scratch marks:
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. Here you can see the back of the first mirror with some of the gray paint still there. The bleach water won’t penetrate through this surface, so if you want yours very lightly aged then you can leave some of the gray paint. I like having a blank canvas to work with though so I can control where all of the age spots are. There’s a lot of different ways to do it!
After my first mirror was all cleaned up, I mixed 1/4 parts bleach with 3/4 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 aging.
This is the fun part, where you get to watch it magically transform before your eyes! Within minutes the spots will begin to darken (this is still the back of the mirror).
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!
Hold your mirror up to a light source to get a closer look:
You can see where the bleach has dissolved the mirror down to the clear glass, and those are where the aged areas will be. Important: 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! That happened to the mirror above and I had to remove larger sections of mirror to get rid of it. It ended up being more distressed than I wanted. Here’s how that same mirror looked against a background (the dark spots are the clear glass):
If you remove too much mirror by accident, you can minimize 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 color. That’s what I did on my first attempt after removing almost all of the mirror finish by accident:
I still think it turned out pretty nice—and FYI, that spray paint is what you would use for doing this technique on a piece of glass instead of a mirror. It’s just a different look!
After realizing I had removed a bit too much from the first Bellacor mirror, I took my time with the second and focused on the edges, using a lighter mist towards the center:
The gold surface on the back of the mirror is so pretty, you could even just use this as the front side if you wanted!
Here’s how it looked after a few minutes. Try spraying the bleach water and leaving some areas as alone while dabbing other parts up with a sponge right away for different effects.
Once you are happy with the level of distressing, it’s time to turn it back over for paint.
You can use gray or black paint here, but I love the way gold tones look. I covered the back in Maison Blanche’s Organza in Old Penny, which is a shimmery wax coat that gives it a realistic rusty look.
If you aren’t using spray paint, you want to make sure to avoid brush strokes so I dabbed on the paint:
You can apply lighter coverage in some areas and come back with a second coat of black or another color for added dimension and depth. Or even just leave it as is and let some of the clear glass show through—it all depends on the look you’re going for!
I was really pleased with the results of the second mirror:
And here it is back in the frame:
The Old Penny organza ended up being a perfect match to the rusty colored frame. If you have a mirror frame with metal in it, try to match the finish if you can.
On the Craigslist mirror, I liked the gold frame but wanted to tone it down a bit. I applied a mix of Oil Rubbed Bronze and Antique Gold Organza (both from Maison Blanche) and gave it a light distressing.
I also applied some of the Oil Rubbed Bronze organza to the backside of the mirror. And here’s how it turned out…
Love that arch.
I originally bought this mirror for the entryway of our Heights House, and now that we’ve redesigned the home I’m not sure where to put it.
I’m considering selling it… but it’s just so gorgeous!
Although, used mirrors are cheap and plentiful online so I can easily recreate this. Maybe I can start selling them… they’re more fun to DIY than painting furniture!
Have you ever antiqued a mirror? If you have any tips, please do share in the comments! There’s always room for improvement, and hopefully with practice the results will become a little more consistent.
Last week on YouTube we posted an update on what’s been going on with our single family and 5-unit properties, so if you missed that, make sure to watch it here. I’ll be sharing more in an upcoming blog post along with the latest news on plans for our new home.
Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week!