Making a Distressed Mirror

Why go to antique stores looking for the perfect vintage mirror when you can make your own?
By: Leah McCall and H. Camille Smith


Create a vintage mirror that looks like you found it in Paris.

Create a vintage mirror that looks like you found it in Paris.

Add decades to the look of a modern mirror by distressing it with acid and other readily available chemicals.

Materials and Tools:

framed mirror
paint stripper
muriatic acid, available at most hardware or tile stores
cotton rags (strips of old T-shirts work great)
paper towels
spray bottle
eye dropper
chemical-resistant gloves
protective eyewear
ventilation mask
putty knife
black artist's paint
black spray paint


1. Start by removing the paper or cardboard backing from the framed mirror. If possible, keep it in one piece so it can be reattached later.

This project needs to be done in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective eye wear, ventilation mask and chemical-resistant gloves throughout this process.

2. A modern mirror is essentially a sheet of glass backed with a mirrored coating, to antique this coating first remove the layer of paint which covers it. To remove the paint, brush a thick layer of paint stripper onto the back of the mirror. Leave the stripper on for about five minutes and then remove with a cotton rag. Depending upon the strength of the stripper, this step may need to be repeated until the silver backing is revealed. If necessary, lightly scrape the loosened paint with a putty knife. Be very careful not to scratch the mirror's surface.

3. After removing the paint, gently remove all traces of the stripper with a cotton rag.

4. Very carefully pour muriatic acid into a spray bottle.

5. Mist the muriatic acid onto the mirror where you want antique spots. This will create a spattering effect. For larger antique spots place drops of muriatic acid onto the mirror with an eye dropper.

6. Allow to sit until the muriatic acid removes the reflectant surface. This will take approximately one minute. Time will vary, depending on the strength of acid that's being used, so keep a sharp eye on the acid's effect and wipe off a small spot at regular intervals until the acid has antiqued the mirror at the level of desired satisfaction.

7. Use paper towels to blot the excess muriatic acid off the mirror. Next, lightly wipe with a damp cotton rag and allow to completely dry.

8. Using a paintbrush, add a thick coat of black paint to the spots on the mirror damaged by acid. This paint will show through.

9. Finish by applying black spray paint to the entire back of mirror, this will protect the mirrored coating. To add an additional protective layer, reattach the back that you removed in the first step. If the original backing was damaged, staple craft paper or poster board to the back of the mirror before adding wire and hanging.

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