How to Distress a Mirror

Danielle Fernandez

In addition to adding a sense of light and extra space to a room, a vintage or antique mirror makes a classy and elegant focal point. These stylish wall additions can be rather costly, however. Achieve the same tarnished and faded effect by distressing a newer, inexpensive mirror yourself.

Distressing adds texture, drama and interest to the mirror's reflective surface.

In a few hours, you'll add decades to the modern mirror using paint thinner, muriatic acid or household bleach and some basic household cleaning supplies.

  1. Remove the frame and backing from the mirror. Set it aside. Place the mirror down on your work surface, with the back side facing up.

  2. Apply a thick layer of paint stripper to the back of the mirror. Leave the stripper on for about five minutes.

  3. Remove the stripper using a cotton rag to reveal the mirror's reflective surface. You may need to repeat the application of paint stripper solution or, if the paint is particularly stubborn, lightly scrape it off with a putty knife. Take care to not scratch the mirror's reflective surface.

  4. Wipe the surface with a clean rag dampened with water, then dry with another clean rag. Pour some of the muriatic acid or household bleach into an empty spray bottle.

  5. Spray the muriatic acid or household bleach onto the mirror where you would like the distressed look to appear.

  6. Allow the liquid to sit until the reflective surface has dissolved to your liking. The amount of time varies depending on the strength of the acid, but it may be ready in as little as a minute or two. Blot up the liquid with paper towels.

  7. Wipe the back of the mirror with a damp rag and then allow it to dry thoroughly.

  8. Apply a thick coat of black paint, focusing only on the spots you've just distressed. Allow it to dry. Apply another coat of black paint to the entire back of mirror to protect the reflective coating. Allow it to dry.

  9. Use sandpaper or steel wool to rub away some of the frame's finish while waiting for the mirror to dry. Alternatively, you can apply and then wipe off a layer of paint thinner to distress the frame.

  10. Reattach the frame and backing.

  11. Tip

    Cover your work surface with thick plastic or several layers of newspaper to protect it against spills and other damage.


    Work on this project outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Wear protective eye wear, a ventilation mask and chemical-resistant gloves.