Cleaning, Repairing, and Preserving Old Mirrors

People usually don’t stop to think what enables a mirror to reflect an image. Mirrors aren’t solid sheets of magical material that naturally reflect images. Most people look into a mirror on a daily basis, but they don’t realize that a mirror is simply a sheet of glass with a delicate reflective backing. The reflective backing is protected by a coating of special paint. If the protective paint on the back of the mirror is scratched, the reflective backing of the mirror can easily become damaged. The damaged area of the mirror will be very visible.

Old mirrors sometimes begin looking very worn, and an old mirror that appears to be spotted, streaked, and foggy, more than likely has a damaged reflective backing. All the cleaning in the world won’t remove the spots, so what is a person to do? How can an old mirror be restored and repaired to its former glory?

Repairing Old Mirrors

Old mirrors are naturally going to show their age. A few spots or streaks on an old mirror can add character to an antique dresser, cabinet, or other piece of vintage furniture. If your old mirror just has a few spots or streaks, consider keeping that mirror just as it is. After all, antiques aren’t supposed to look like new. The bumps and bruises they receive over the years add to their character and charm.

If you absolutely must have an old mirror that looks like new, old mirrors can be repaired through a process known as “resilvering.” Unfortunately, resilvering a mirror can be very expensive. Even a do-it-yourself resilvering kit is expensive, and the results aren’t always satisfactory. Replacement is usually the most cost-effective method of “repairing” a badly damaged mirror.

A simple quick-fix for a mirror with a worn reflective backing is probably in your kitchen drawer, cabinet, or pantry. Although this quick-fix isn’t a perfect solution for a mirror with a worn reflective backing, it can certainly help disguise the damage. A smooth piece of aluminum foil can be taped to the back of a mirror to disguise a worn or damaged area. The foil might work well enough to camouflage the damage, and more than likely no one will notice the damage unless you point it out. If you decide to try taping aluminum foil to the back of a damaged mirror, keep in mind that removing the tape may further damage the reflective backing. Try this method of disguise at your discretion.

Cleaning and Preserving Mirrors

Never clean the back of a mirror. Cleaning solutions can permanently damage the reflective backing. If the back of a mirror is dirty, simply dust it with a feather duster. A little leftover dust is better than a mirror that’s permanently damaged!

Clean your mirrors with either commercial window cleaner, or make your own mirror cleaner by mixing four tablespoons of white vinegar, denatured alcohol, or ammonia with 2 quarts of water. A mirror cleaning solution can also be made by mixing warm tea with detergent. Lint-free paper towels work better than rags for streak-free cleaning and drying.

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