How to Resilver a Mirror

Michelle Radcliff
antique mirror

Following the steps on how to resilver a mirror is not hard. However, acquiring the chemicals necessary for the procedure can be difficult. Resilvering a mirror is not a very feasible do-it-yourself project for the average person.

The Process on How to Resilver a Mirror

The types of mirrors that most people consider resilvering are usually antiques, a rare or unusual mirror, a beveled mirror or a mirror with sentimental value. The reasons vary from discolorations to gray marks, scratches or some type of other flaw.

It is important to first determine if it is worth the trouble to have a mirror resilvered. Resilvering will not improve scratches and chips on the front of the glass. Make sure the glass overall is in good condition before you attempt to resilver the mirror.

If you are lucky enough to be able to find a mirror resilvering kit, the process is not complicated. However, extreme care must be taken with the chemicals involved as they are extremely toxic. Safety glasses, gloves and a breath mask are recommended. The following steps show how the process is done:

Step One - Remove the Backing

The first step is to remove the painted backing that protects the silver and copper coatings that give a mirror its reflective surface. To do this, you will need a special paint stripper that can be used on glass.

Step Two - Remove the Old Silver

Next, you must remove the original silver coating. This is done using nitric acid. Make sure to properly dispose of these chemicals.

Step Three - Clean the Surface

Before reapplying the silver, it's important that you thoroughly clean the surface of the glass. Make sure there is no cleaning solution residue left behind or any fibers from the cloth.

Step Four - Re-apply the Silver

Apply the mixture of silver nitrate to the glass. It must be evenly coated and allowed to dry completely for 24 to 48 hours.

Step Five - Add the Protective Backing

Once the silver has dried completely, you will need to add the copper paint that seals the silver. Allow this to dry thoroughly and then finish by applying the final coat of gray paint.

The Problems With Resilvering Your Own Mirror

Knowing how to resilver a mirror does not make it an easy do-it-yourself project. The biggest problem with doing this yourself is being able to find the materials. Some websites that provide the instructions on how to resilver a mirror claim that you can buy a mirror resilvering kit online. However, none of these websites provide any direct links, nor do they provide the name of any site that supposedly sells these kits. A keyword search online for "mirror resilvering kits" did not yield a supplier of resilvering kits, either.

Assuming that you were able to buy all the materials needed to resilver a mirror, there is still the risk involved of handling toxic chemicals. There is also the problem of disposing of all the waste material from stripping off the old backing and silver. These chemicals should never be poured down the drain or on the ground.

The chemicals needed to resilver a mirror are also extremely expensive. Companies that resilver mirrors professionally do the mirrors in groups, because it is the only cost effective way to do this process. Buying resilvering chemicals to do just one mirror wouldn't be worth the cost. This may well be the reason why a resilvering kit is so hard (if not impossible) to find.

An Alternative Solution

Although searching for mirror resilvering kits online did not produce any vendors selling such kits, there are a few companies online that will resilver mirrors professionally for you.

Reflections Again Mirror Resilvering is located in San Jose, California. The company has been in operation for ten years and claims to have re-silvered thousands of mirrors. For items dropped off at their shop, the minimum charge is $25. They also charge depending on the size of the mirror at a rate of $20 per square foot. The minimum charge for an item shipped to them is $40.

Another place that restores and resilvers mirrors is called A Moment in Time. This is a family owned business located in Wellington, Kansas. Their specialty is antique and heirloom mirrors.

If you don't want to risk shipping your mirror, the best solution would be to try to find a local glass company that specializes in resilvering mirrors.

How to Resilver a Mirror