Sometimes it’s easy to know exactly how to bring new life to an old piece of furniture. Often all it takes is a fresh coat of paint or new hardware on a worn looking item and you can end up with a restored version of what once looked drab and dull. Some categories are a little more tricky though, and the solutions may not be quite as obvious. From time to time I’ve spotted a great vintage mirror at a flea market or thrift shop, but if the mirror had dark spots on the glass, well, I’ve just left it there because I didn’t really know how to fix the problem. I saw this really cool geometric mirror for a great price at the thrift store the other week, and instead of running from my “black spot fear”, I decided to face it head on and figure it out instead. It turns out there are a few tricks you can use to either totally repair, minimize, or conceal the damage that was caused from moisture on the silver backing of the mirror.
If you have a mirror you’d like to fix, you’ll notice that there are two types of black spots: some of the spots are opaque areas of damage on the reflective coating and others are actually where the backing has been scraped or eaten away so you can see through past the back of the mirror (in other words, if you put your finger over that spot on the back of the mirror you would see your finger through the front of the glass). Depending on the type, placement, and severity of spot, here are your options to help give your mirror a second life:
Resilver the mirror: OK, this is definitely the most involved option to resolve the problem. Resilvering is basically removing the protective, silver backing of the mirror and reapplying those layers again on the back of the glass. It is a more technical process (see a full tutorial here), and I think the larger the mirror, the harder it would be for a first timer. But it is an option if your mirror’s black spots are overwhelming and totally beyond any other repair (and actually, I think it looks like fun to try!).
Use aluminum foil: Say what?? Yep, this trick works really well if you have the kind of spots where the backing has been scraped off and you can see through to the other side of the glass. All you need to do is smooth out small pieces of aluminum foil and tape them with clear tape to the back of the mirror. The reflective foil is seen from the front and is much less noticeable when you hang it back up again. Since you probably already have tape and foil on hand, this is an easy solution for a few trouble spots.
Mirror-like spray paint: This is a similar option to the aluminum foil (this is what I used) and essentially does the same thing if you have the clear spot issue. If you have a bunch of small areas all over your mirror, it’s probably more efficient to just spray the whole back so any little spots get covered and you don’t have to foil 20 different areas.
Paint a frame to conceal trouble spots: A lot of times old mirrors will have the most spots around the very edge of the mirror because that’s where water got splashed or steam from a bathroom would creep behind the mirror over the years. While you can use the above tricks to fix or minimize damage on the edges, you can also tape off a border or design, use a few coats of spray paint, and create a new frame that covers up the spots instead! I’ve found that most spray paints will hold up just fine when cleaning the mirror with glass cleaner, but you can always buy a small craft mirror and test out your paint first if you want to make sure it won’t wipe right off during cleaning.
See?? That original dark area looks SO much better. Since moisture is what caused the spotty damage in the first place, you’ll want to make sure you also protect your new mirror from further damage by using a layer of protective polyurethane on the back of the mirror as well (do it before taping the foil or after using the mirror spray paint if you are doing those options). While it does still have that imperfect “vintage feel” to the glass, the makeover process made such a difference to this forgotten treasure, and I will definitely think again before walking away from another cool mirror find in the future! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.