Removing a mirror from a wall: 4 simple steps (with images)


Pulling mirror away from wall

Many large mirrors are attached by an adhesive called mastic and are difficult to remove from the wall. Using safety goggles, gloves, and protective clothing, follow these simple steps – apply duct tape in case of breakage, soften the glue with a heat gun, and carefully separate the mirror from the wall using cut-out wire, or wooden shims, then pull the mirror away from the wall.

It is easy to smash mirrors, creating dangerous shards, and earning seven years of bad luck (irrational superstition). This website explains ways to remove wall mirrors safely and without breakage.

Safety warning glass is dangerous!

Important safety information. Mirrors can be dangerous and even life-threatening so always use safety equipment and when in doubt, consult a licensed glass professional

Artistry in glass cannot be held responsible for actions taken based on the information given on this website. Please seek professional help if you are in any doubt.

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Consider your options before you start!

Mirrored walls were very popular in the 1970s through the 1990s, creating an ultra-modern or deco look, but are now somewhat out of style. You may wish they were gone but, study this post and bear in mind that a considerable amount of work is involved and a great deal of damage is done to the underlying drywall during mirror removal. Consider decorative options before you embark on a costly mirror demolition project.

General precautions for mirror removal

For all removal projects, it’s a good idea to spread out a drop-cloth or other form of protection below the mirror. Secondly, unless it is obvious that the mirror will detach very easily, it’s best to apply masking tape so that, if the mirror does crack, you will be protected from dangerous shards. Duct tape will hold the broken pieces together.

Important safety equipment

safety equipment for mirror removal
Always use protective goggles, gloves, and safety equipment when handling glass & mirror

Tools for mirror removal

essential tools for mirror removal

The essential tools for mirror removal include a hammer or mallet, pry-bars, wooden shims, and a utility knife. In some cases, additional tools are useful:-

Optional tools for mirror removal

Optional tools that are helpful in some mirror removals include cut-out wire (available from an auto-parts store) and a heat gun (to soften the adhesive).

Easy and difficult mirror removals

Each mirror removal project is different. Some mirrors are very firmly glued to the wall with lots of adhesive (called mirror mastic) while others come away very easily. If your mirror has three sides accessible (below left) it is easier to remove than a mirror installed flush to the sidewalls (below right).

Easy removal and difficult removal
If a wall mirror is jammed into a niche or alcove (above right) it is hard to remove because only one side (the top) is accessible.

In either situation (easy or difficult) the image below gives you a preview of what the mastic (glue) will look like when you finally remove the mirror.

Splodges of mirror mastic
Most mirrors are glued with flattened globs of thick black mastic.

Easy mirror removal – three sides accessible

If the sides of the mirror are accessible, as well as the top, the removal is generally easier because shims or pry bars can attack three sides of the mirror. Follow these steps to remove your mirror:

Step 1: Remove any mirror clips that might be holding the mirror in place.

Remove any mirror clips

Step 2: Apply duct tape to the mirror. This is a safety measure to protect you from dangerous shards if the mirror breaks. The duct tape will hold the glass together.

Apply duct tape for safety

Optional step: use a heat gun to soften the adhesive.

It is probably not worth buying one especially but if you have a heat gun in your tool box, or a hair drier available, this step is worth a try.

Use heat gun to loosen mastic
Heating the mirror may help to loosen the adhesive

A heat gun can really help but needs to be used with care. Keep the gun 18 inches away from the mirror and keep it moving constantly to avoid cracking the mirror. Apply heat for at least 20 minutes for best results.

Step 3: use wooden shims and/or pry-bars, to gradually release the mirror from the wall.

Wood shims used to separate mirror from wall
using pry bar to remove mirror

Pry bars or wooden shims?

Use your common sense to decide between shims or a pry-bar – or use both methods. Protect the drywall and get extra leverage with a scrap of wood behind the bar.

Cut out wire for mirror removal

Optional method – cut-out wire

If shims are difficult to insert, cut-out wire sometimes works. Make your own using piano wire with dowel handles or order from Amazon. Backward and forward sawing, cuts through the adhesive. The wire should be 12 – 18 inches longer than the width of the mirror.

Step 4: remove mirror. If the pry-bars and wooden shims have released the top edge of the mirror enough to allow your fingers to grip, carefully pull the mirror (use gloves) away from the wall. You will hear the sound of tearing as the mastic removes the paper from the drywall. With large mirrors, always have a co-worker to help you in case the mirror releases suddenly.

Pulling mirror away from the wall
Carefully pull the mirror away from the wall
Safety warning glass is dangerous!

Remember that mirror is very heavy. A 1/4″ (standard thickness) mirror 6 feet wide by 4 feet tall weighs over 80 lbs. (plus the weight of any attached mastic). Get help to handle large mirrors safely.


How do you remove a mirror that is glued to a door?

A mirror glued to a door is more likely to be attached by double-sided tape than with heavy black mastic. To remove the mirror first detach any mirror clips, then use a heat gun to soften the tape or adhesive. Then insert wooden shims or a prybar between the mirror and the door and try to release the mirror, Finally, using gloves, pull carefully on the mirror to detach it from the door.

Difficult mirror removal

If your mirror is jammed in, flush with the left and right walls, it will be more difficult to remove because only one side is accessible to shims and pry-bars.

First, follow the steps for “easy” removal outlined above. Apply duct tape for safety, soften the mastic using a heat gun or hairdryer, and try to insert wooden shims or a pry-bar behind the top (exposed) edge of the mirror.

Release silicone with utility knife

Check for silicone or caulking at the sides.

Using your utility knife, be sure to release any silicone that might be gluing the mirror to the side walls.

If the mirror is stuck and will not release from the wall it may be necessary to crack it. The best way is to use a glass cutter to create a straight, vertical break as shown below.

Remove mirror by cutting

Notice the location of the two wooden shims in the drawing above. They are positioned on either side of the score line to create tension in the slightly bowed-out glass and enable the cut to run.

Use suctions cups

If it is not possible to get your gloved hands behind the glass, use suction cups to pull the mirror away from the wall. Suction cups are affordable and very useful for handling heavy sheets of mirror or glass.


Can you cut a mirror that is glued to the wall?

It is not possible to cut a mirror that is completely glued to a wall. In order to cut glass, two steps are necessary: first, the glass surface (not the mirrored back!) must be scored with a glass cutter. Then the score must be broken or “run“. This is done by applying pressure opposite the score line – as shown above/left. So the mirror must be at least partly detached from the wall to apply the required pressure.

Repairing the drywall

After successfully removing a large wall mirror your drywall or sheetrock will be a mess. Black tarry mastic either remains stuck to the mirror with the top paper surface of the drywall attached, or it might have released from the mirror and remain stuck to the wall.

Splodges of mirror mastic
Residue of mastic left on drywall after removal of a wall mirror

In any event you will need to remove the old mastic and repair the damage to the drywall. Use tools like these pictured below and learn from sites like these to fix the damaged sheet rock.

Tools for drywall repair including putty knives and spackling
Buy a drywall repair kit – or assemble supplies like these to fix your damaged wall.

Alternatives to mirror removal

As this post has shown, removing large wall mirrors can be difficult and even dangerous. Furthermore, the process always results in expensive damage to the underlying drywall. So, before you begin, consider these decorative alternatives:

  • Paint the mirror with a stencil
  • Cover the mirror with curtains
  • Overlay with a picture frame
  • Hang artwork from the ceiling

Disguise wall mirrors
Ornate picture frame (left) and floor-to-ceiling curtains (right) serve to disguise outdated mirrors.

How to install wall mirrors

Learn all you need to know about wall mirrors.


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John

I was an exploration geologist and University Professor working in Botswana, Zambia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, and other countries before opening Artistry in Glass in 1986. In my more than 30 years of experience, I have brought my technical abilities as a scientist to the trade of glasswork. In this time I have become an industry expert in glass and glass-related skills. Watch out for special insider tips developed from my detailed knowledge of the glass business.

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