How to Remove Backing Paint on a Mirror

A close picture of a mirror with an elegant frame.
  • 2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Safety gloves
Face mask
Tarp or drop cloth
Paint remover
Paint scraper
Steel wool
Old toothbrush
Glass cleaner
Paper towels

Removing the backing paint on a mirror will essentially leave you with a piece of glass that you can see through while still having a slightly reflective surface. Hanging something like this will create a conversation piece in the home and it leaves some options for unique home décor ideas. For example, when you hang it on a wall, the wall color will show through. You could also want to affix a picture to the back of the mirror.

Step 1 - Make Sure Safety Comes First

When working with glass and any type of chemicals, you should always take safety measures. You need to work in an area with plenty of airflow, so open up windows to allow any fumes to escape. Always put on gloves before you begin working and do not forget the safety glasses as well. The chances that the chemicals will fly up and hit you in the eye are slim, but the chances of you scratching your own eye are a lot higher. Use a face mask too. Lay a tarp or drop cloth to protect your work area from any chemicals you’re working with.

Step 2 - Remove the First Coat

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The backing of a mirror is actually comprised of several layers, including a coat of silver, a coat of copper paint, and a coat of base paint. Each of these will need to be removed to get the look you want.

Paint remover is a toxic chemical and an incredibly powerful solvent, so work with it very carefully. It can damage your skin, wood, and vinyl flooring, and can cause migraines.

Pour some of the paint remover onto the back of the mirror and spread it with a paintbrush. Once the back is fully covered let it sit for 1-3 hours. Afterward, grab your paint scraper and start removing the base coat paint. It should come off in large chunks or strips, but you will have to reapply the stripper consistently as needed until the entire coat comes away.

Step 3 - Continue with Steel Wool

Take a piece of steel wool to the remnants of the base coat as well as the copper coat that’s next. Buff it in circles until you get to a point where the back of the mirror has a vaguely dull and silvery look.

Step 4 - Add Bleach

Take a small amount of bleach and apply it to the back of the mirror. Spread it around and scrub at the silver backing with an old, used toothbrush. You can also alternate the toothbrush with your steel wool to clear away the silver fully. The silver will sometimes take on a black tinge before it wipes away completely, but all you have to do is keep repeating these steps until the rest is removed from the glass.

In the event that bleach doesn’t do the trick, you can try to hunt down a substance known as MSR or mirror silvering remover. This product is best found in online stores.

Step 5 - Clean the Glass

Use glass cleaner and paper towels to scrub your project clean after you're done. It is important at this point to be vigilant in removing what is left of the chemicals you used, so continue spraying the mirror piece with cleaner until you’re satisfied that it’s as clear as you can make it.

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