How Can a Mirror Be Distressed Artificially?

Mirrors can be given a distressed, antique look by simply using a few household materials to strip off some its paint and reflective coating at the back. With a little creativity, one can make an authentic-looking distressed mirror in a matter of hours and at a fraction of the cost of a genuine antique mirror.

For a distressed mirror DIY project, one will need the following items and materials:

  • a mirror
  • paint thinner
  • muriatic acid
  • paper towels
  • rags made of cotton
  • spray bottle
  • eye dropper
  • black spray paint
  • black artist's paint
  • paintbrush
  • putty knife
  • frame
  • protective gear like goggles, chemical resistant gloves and ventilation mask


Step 1

In a well-ventilated workspace, set the mirror face down on a stable workbench or table. The mirror should be taken off a frame and padding or cardboard backing should be removed.

Step 2

While wearing protective gear, start by applying the paint thinner liberally on the back of the mirror with the paint brush and leave it on for at least five minutes. Wipe off the thinner with an absorbent rag cloth and this should strip off some, if not all of the paint coating. This process may need to be be repeated until the reflective coating of of the mirror is revealed fully. Use the putty knife to remove any strips of paint that are flaking off.

Step 3

Using the spray bottle, apply a mist of muriatic acid on areas on the mirror that are to have the distressed effect. It will be a good idea to stay away from the center of the mirror for it to remain functional. For larger distress spots, use the eye dropper. Leave the acid on until the reflective coating has been dissolved. Blot out the acid with paper towels once the desired distress effect has been achieved. Wipe with a damp cloth to completely remove traces of the acid and let it dry.

Step 4

Apply a thick black paint on the distressed spots on the mirror with a paintbrush then spray the entire back of the mirror with the black spray paint. Let it dry.

Step 5

Mount the mirror on a frame to match the desired final look of the distressed mirror.