Re-Silvering Old Mirrors
We are not specialists in re-silvering old mirrors. We include this page to answer some of your questions and give you a few tips. Remember that a mirror is nothing more than glass with silver on the back of it. Old mirrors are special only if the glass itself is special.
If you are willing to crate up your old glass and ship it out, please contact us for the names of a few of our customers who re-silver mirrors. However, no one is going to guarantee that your glass will not break in transit.
Reasons not to re-silver an old mirror
- When you take an old mirror out of its frame, you run the risk of breaking and/or scratching the glass.
- Scratches in the glass are more visible when the silver is bright and new.
- Mirroring is a very wet process. You will need a tub large enough to hold that glass and a workshop.
- Successful mirroring requires practice. Be sure to make 2 or 3 small practice mirrors before working on your valuable antique.
- Antique mirrors are very popular - see Antiquing Mirrors
A possible alternative to re-silvering
The alternative to re-silvering your old glass is to remove all of the silver and paint and then buy a new mirror cut to size and place it behind the old glass in the same frame. The old glass and the new mirror must be perfectly clean before you put them together.
This trick does not work if:
- The frame is not strong enough to support the extra weight and extra thickness of the additional glass.
- Your mirror has a design engraved into the glass. The back of the design will be reflected by the mirror behind it.
- The trick does work if your mirror only has beveled edges. The back of the bevel is flat so it will not create a double reflection.
In the photo above we re-silvered the scratch on the left and then painted it with "mirror repair" silver paint. We painted the scratch on the right with the same silver paint without re-silvering it. Both scratches are still visible.
If you can feel the scratch with your fingernail, you can not remove it by hand. Machine polishing will distort the glass and hence the reflection.
It is sometimes possible to re-silver a small section on an otherwise perfect mirror. The best you will get is a black line between the old silver and the new. It is more difficult to re-silver a small scratch than a large one. We offer absolutely no guarantees for this process.
- For this process you will need a Mini Silver Kit and extra fine pumice
- Polish the scratch with a paste of distilled water and pumice to smooth the edges.
- Follow our Mini Silver Kit Instructions to clean, tin and silver the scratch. You can always add a second layer of silver on top of the first layer.
- Protect the new silver with Black Mirror Backing Paint (included in the Kit) or silver "mirror repair" paint.
How to re-silver an old mirror
To re-silver an old mirror properly, you must remove it from its frame, strip it down to plain glass and clean the old glass very, very thoroughly.
- Use Multi-Strip and plastic scraper to remove the backing paint.
- Use our Mirror Removers and cotton balls to dissolve the silver and copper (if your silver has a copper backing).
- Use our Sheet Glass Mirroring Kit to re-silver the glass. You may need to build a large mirroring bench to accommodate your glass.
- See our video on silvering flat glass.
Tips on cleaning an old mirror
- Clean the mirror face by spraying glass cleaner on an old towel or T-shirt and then wiping the glass. Water is the enemy of mirrors. Do not spray the cleaner directly on the glass.
- Never use a dust cloth or vacuum to remove the dust from the back of an old mirror. Leave it dusty. The integrity of the silver depends on the integrity of the backing paint. Suction and friction can loosen the backing paint and expose the silver to further corrosion.