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How to Restore Old Mirrors

Updated February 21, 2017

Old mirrors can often show signs of age through loss of silver or other wear and tear on the frame of the mirror. However, finding a good mirror is not always easy, and restoring an old mirror can save you some money. Many people also grow attached to their mirrors, which can have antique or sentimental value. If the mirror is suffering from minor damage you should be able to restore it yourself; if the damage is more extensive, you may need to seek professional help.

Remove the mirror from any frame it may be in. Use a screwdriver to carefully remove the mirror from the back of the frame. Make sure to wear gloves to avoid cutting yourself on any jagged or chipped glass, which is common in old mirrors.

Place the mirror facedown on a towel.

Determine the amount of work needed to restore the mirror. If the mirror has large cracks, heavy chipping or substantial missing silvered areas, you may want to consider seeking professional help.

Faux fix small areas of missing silver by applying mirrored tiles over the spots that are missing silver. Tape the mirror tiles into place so that when you look at the mirror, the tiles will face you. Removing tape from the mirror is difficult, so apply the tape as accurately as possible on the first try.

Use a resilvering kit to try and restore your mirror further; however, these kits generally produce only modest improvements. Re-silvering a valuable antique mirror with a kit is not advisable; if the damage is substantial, you should probably seek professional help.

Sand and paint the mirror frame in order to restore it. Before painting the frame fill in any nicks or dents with paintable silicone caulk. Painting the mirror frame may require several coats of paint, especially if you are painting over bare wood.

Put your mirror back together, making sure to re-screw all the screws tightly. In some old mirrors the screw holes may become stripped and you may have to drill new ones. If this is the case, be sure to fill the old holes with silicone caulk.

Tip

Most old mirrors are not highly valuable and not worth a large investment to restore. Take your mirror to an antique dealer to help you determine its value and decide if you would be better off purchasing a replacement.

Warning

Although resilvering kits may be an affordable option, they can present a health hazard. Scraping old silver off a mirror may release harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury.

Things You'll Need

  • Re-silvering kit
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint primer
  • Paint brushes
  • Screwdriver
  • Gloves
  • Spray paint
  • Rags
  • Dust sheet
  • Flat craft store mirror tiles, 1/8" thick
  • Heavy-duty tape
  • Towel
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About the Author

Ariel Phillips is an editor and writer living in Portland, Ore. He has written for "n+1 Journal" and "The Rumpus Magazine," among others. He maintains an interest in a variety of subjects, including art, culture, the environment, media, the sciences and sports. He earned bachelor's degrees in art and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.