How Do You Restore Antique Mirrors?

To restore an antique mirror, remove the frame, strip the glass, apply silver leaf, and paint over it. This two-day project requires a screwdriver, soap, safety gear, water, rags, blocks, a pan, paint stripper, silver remover, sizing, a scraper, silver leaf, black paint, felt and waxed paper.

  1. Prepare the mirror

    Pop the glass out of the frame, and wash it with mild soap. Dry it with a rag, and set it on your work surface with the back facing up.

  2. Strip the backing and old silver

    Put on rubber gloves, apply paint stripper to the back of the glass, and leave it on overnight. On the following day, peel away the old paint, and swab the glass with a wet rag. Put on gloves, goggles and a mask, and then apply silver remover according to the manufacturer's instructions. Scrape off the old silver leaf.

  3. Apply silver leaf

    Place two wooden blocks along one edge of a shallow pan. Lay the glass in the pan with the back side up, and prop one end up on the blocks. Brush it with sizing. Place a sheet of waxed paper over a sheet of silver leaf, and gently rub it until the silver adheres to it. Lift up the waxed paper, and lay it on the glass with the silver side down. Rub the paper with a fingertip to transfer the silver leaf to the glass, and slowly peel away the waxed paper. Repeat until the glass is covered with silver. Let the glass cure for eight hours, and then rub the silver with a felt cloth, starting from the center and working out to the edges. Apply a second coat of silver leaf using the same technique.

  4. Apply black paint

    Cover the silver leaf with black paint, give it 12 hours to dry, and put the glass back into the mirror frame.