Can I Repair Scratched Mirror Silvering with Aluminum Foil?


Scratch with aluminum foil

Most old mirrors have defective silvering and misleading blog posts commonly claim that scratched mirror silvering can be repaired by taping aluminum foil on the back. We tested this and similar hacks and found that none of these methods work!

Silver mirroring is so perfectly reflective that any scratch or defect in the silvering is extremely obvious. Painting the scratch with silver paint, or taping silver leaf or aluminum foil to the back does not disguise the defect. A much better solution is to purchase a new mirror.

Trying to Fix Scratches in Mirror Silvering

Scratch on reverse of mirror

A deep scratch that goes through the paint and the silvered surface will show whatever is behind the mirror. Scratches like these always seem to occur in the most conspicuous part of the mirror!

Let’s see if the folk tales about mirror repair methods really work.

Aluminum Foil

Scratch with aluminum foil

Many blog posts claim that aluminum foil, smoothed down and taped to the back of the mirror, will successfully disguise a crack.

This fix is repeated numerous times by irresponsible bloggers but, see for yourself, it simply does not work. The appearance of the foil is much lighter than the smoother, optically perfect silvered mirror.

Silver Leaf

Mirror scratch unsuccessfully repaired by silver foil

We have supplies of real silver leaf (used for antique restorations) so we tried burnishing this silver to the back of the scratch, in case it may work better than kitchen foil.

No luck! As the photo shows the difference between silvered mirror and the silver leaf is very obvious.

Silver Airbrush Paint

Mirror scratch unsuccessfully repaired by silver airbrush spray

Painting the scratch with silver airbrush paint. We try very high-quality Spaz Stix brand “Ultimate Mirror Chrome” paint designed for airbrush spraying. This paint has a 4.6 Amazon ranking and is popular with hobbyists.

The results are just as disappointing as the metal foil attempts. After four coats, the difference between the brighter spray paint and the mirror is obvious.

Lesson Learned – Don’t Believe Everything You Read!

Numerous cheerful home repair “experts” repeat these crazy hacks and even get high rankings on Google. One great example is the erroneous idea that cracked china can be fixed with milk! Make up your own minds from the images on this page: the conclusion is that paint or metal foil may slightly reduce the prominence of a scratch, but in no way eliminates the damage.

In many cases, it is much better to simply replace the damaged mirror. Read this article to learn how.

Approximate Retail Prices of Mirrors

Consider buying a new mirror rather than trying to fix a scratch – see typical prices below.

The prices of mirrors vary widely from shop to shop and in different parts of the US. Use the approximate retail prices, in the table below, as a guide to decide whether it is worth your time and effort to strip and re-silver an old mirror. Notice the weights of the various thicknesses – consider choosing a lighter-weight mirror for easier hanging.

Thickness
(inches)
2 Sq. Ft.3 Sq. Ft.4 Sq. Ft.
1/8″$21 (3.4 lbs.)$24 (5.1 lbs.)$27 (6.8 lbs.)
3/16″$35 (5.1 lbs.)$39 (7.7 lbs.)$42 (10.2 lbs.)
1/4″$48 (6.8 lbs.)$54 (10.2 lbs.)$66 (13.7 lbs.)
Weights and approximate retail prices of clear mirrors in the USA. Prices are for clean-cut (that is not polished or beveled) clear glass mirrors suitable for inserting into a frame.

To Buy a New Mirror, or Paint the Old One?

Learn all about using silver spray paints from this post in which we test 8 products to find the best.

Our conclusion is that “Mirror Effect” spray paint (available here from Amazon) from the Rust-Oleum company is the #1 choice for silvering a mirror.

Unique Mirror Resources from Artistry in Glass

Mirror Design & layout

Mirror Installation & Removal

Mirror Repair & Restoration

Artistry in Glass is your source for antique repair in Tucson

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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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