We’ve all seen it at some point—those ugly dark spots and black edges on mirrors. It’s called “desilvering,” and it’s common in moisture-prone areas like bathrooms.
If you have a mirror with desilvered edges, your first instinct might be to replace it. But you have other options. It’s possible to address mirror desilvering without breaking the bank or sending waste to your local landfill. Keep reading to learn how.
The chemistry of desilvering
To give a mirror its reflective quality, one side of the glass is coated with a compound called silver nitrate. Next, a layer of copper sulfate is applied over the silver nitrate for protection, followed by a coat of paint.
Even with these protective layers, moisture and cleaning products can seep in over time. This can lead to oxidation, which is what ultimately causes desilvering.
Moisture is a mirror’s worst enemy
Excess moisture is the most common cause of mirror desilvering.
Whether it is spraying cleaner directly on the mirror or water from the sink, the moisture can seep behind the mirror and cause damage over time. With repeated exposure, the mirror can eventually become desilvered.
To prevent mirror rot, make sure your bathroom is well ventilated and don’t allow water to splash against the mirror.
If you have a high-profile bathroom faucet, consider replacing it with a low-profile model. Or install a washer in the faucet to reduce water flow and prevent splashing.
Can you resilver a mirror?
It’s possible to replace the silver coating on the back of your mirror, but this is a time-consuming, expensive, and messy option.
If you have a plate glass mirror that’s glued to the wall, it may be impossible to remove without shattering.
Worse, the chemicals involved in a resilvering project—like paint thinner—are toxic. Odds are you’ll also end up spending a pretty penny on tools.
It’s why resilvering is generally not recommended as a DIY project. If you decide to go the DIY route, make sure to get a pair of safety glasses, a good pair of gloves, and a chemical breathing mask.
Another option is to have your mirror professionally resilvered, but it’s hard to find businesses that offer this service. If your mirror is an antique, a family heirloom, or has sentimental value, it’s worth trying.
Reframing is a budget-friendly DIY option
Using a mirror frame kit is a clever way to cover up desilvered edges without having to replace your mirror or remove it from the wall. The frame is custom cut to the exact dimensions of your mirror and adheres directly to the glass. It’s a popular option for DIYers, since it’s an easy and affordable “no-demo reno.”
Check out the infographic below for more information about reframing your mirror and other options for tackling desilvered edges.