Introduction: Remove Silver Backing From a Mirror (To Clear Glass, Not an Antique Mirror Instructable)
From what I've gathered, most mirrors are layered in the following manner:
b) a coat of silver
c) a coat of copper paint
d) a coat of base paint
*You will need the following materials:
1. Plastic scraper (plastic putty knife will work)
2. Steel Wool (Grade 0, 00, 000, or 0000...I used Grade 0)
3. Paint stripper (one that works on glass, I used the eco-friendly stuff by NEXT)**
4. Bleach (depends on mirror size, but smallest you can find would be best)
5. Rags (I cut up some old shirts)
6. Paintbrush (something to apply the paint stripper with, i used a soft squeegee)
7. Toothbrush (an old one)
8. Chemical resistant gloves (Chemical proof if you want to be safer)
9. Kneepads (if working on floor)
80. Goggles (if you want them to prevent splashing, I wear glasses)
11. Latex Paint and Odor Respirator
12. Glass Cleaner or Soap & Water
13. Large Tarp or covered table
*Shouldn't cost you more than $30 (this is given that I had the tarp, glass cleaner, squeegee, steel wool, plastic scraper, and rags to begin with, and I didn't use knee pads)
**Don't get paint thinner, apparently that won't do much of anything, but I've never tried it
Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. This means intake and exhaust (cross-breeze) Contact your town or county for disposal of all the used materials you wish to get rid of.
Step 1: Set Up
Set up your work area and lay out your materials so that you have easy access to them. Dedicate one rag to wiping your gloves, this will get messy. Put on your goggles and kneepads if you need them, gloves, respirator and get ready to work.
Step 2: Strip the Paint and Scrape
Apply the paint stripper directly to the painted side of the mirror and spread it around with the paintbrush. Let it sit for 1 to 3 hours (overnight if you start this late in the evening like me). Grab your scraper and start pushing the paint off. It should come off in strips and chunk up (you may have to push hard at first). You may also get through the base coat faster than I did if you're using liquid paint stripper (mine was a gel).
Regardless, keep scraping, reapplying the stripper and scraping again until you can see a gold/coppery sheen through the remaining base coat.
Step 3: Buff the Paint and Silver
Grab your steel wool and buff the remaining base coat of paint and the copper coat of paint until everything looks dull and silvery (like the mirror was smeared with a thin coat of Vaseline).
At this point, you should be able see your reflection through the coppery-silver smear. You're getting there. You can keep buffing until more of the base paint, copper paint, and silver disappear. You'll have to go back and forth between this step and the next.
Step 4: Bleach the Glass
Grab your bleach and your toothbrush. Pour on some bleach (use sparingly and watch the splashes). Brush it around with the toothbrush.
You should see parts of the silver turn black and disappear, or completely disappear.
Step 5: Wipe, Rinse, Repeat
Wipe down the mirror. Inspect it. Repeat steps 3-5 as necessary until you have clear glass.
For an added artistic effect, you can leave a pattern of copper paint or buffed silver on the mirror and then wipe it clean and go on to the next step. I'm not sure if you can touch it or leave it laying around, you should probably paint it again before leaving it anywhere and coming back later.
Step 6: Clean the Glass
Once you have clear glass, use either glass cleaner or soap & water (the latter did the trick) to clean the glass.
Wipe off your gloves and wash them with soap.
Clean the glass again until it squeaks.
Step 7: Clean Up
Put everything you want to toss out into a plastic bag, or trash bag and call your town or county. They should be able to tell you how to get rid of it.
Step 8: Extra Ideas
I cleaned mine because I wanted to make a dry/erase board out of glass. To do this I took off the paint and silver and am now painting the back with white paint. I've heard roof paint works well, but any white paint should do. However, this might push you over $30.