October 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Removing Silver Backing from Glass Mirror

I made a post a while ago about the idea of etching mirrors, but someone asked me about removing the silver backing without using the sandblasting or sand carving process. So I decided to make a descriptive post about how to remove the silver backing. This is more ideal for those that were looking to use this simple cream type.

Typically the coating that gives a mirror that reflective property actually consists of multiple layers. These are the layers that may be on the glass:

  • Gray or black paint (outer paint to protect the silver backing).
  • Copper coating is sometimes sandwiched in between these.
  • Silver backing

Paint Stripper

To remove this you usually have to remove the paint first with a paint stripper. Most paint remover products should work, but I heard this Citri Strip works well. Paint the stripper onto the gray and copper coating. Let that sit according to the manufacturers directions and wipe off. You may have to do this another time for the copper coating.

Silver Backing Remover

Muriatic acid used to remove silver backing from mirror glass.Then you would need to remove the silver backing which can be done with various substances. Here are a few that work:

  • MSR (known as Mirror Silvering Remover)
  • Muriatic acid
  • Nitric acid (which is more dangerous)
  • Toliet Cleaners such as Snobowl, Lysol, CLR, Limeaway, & Zep
  • Bleach

Here is a source for muriatic acid that you can use.

I hope this is helpful. If someone has a better way, please leave a comment below. Considering this information, you can create interesting designs into mirror glass without even etching it. All you would have to do is place a reverse stencil on the back of the mirror and use these chemicals.

More from Google:

Eric Robert
About Eric Robert
I am the owner and creator of this website. I got my start in etching many years ago. At first I wanted to start a business, but after finding a lot of cool information through countless hours of researching, I decided to etch as a hobby and build this website to help others. -Eric

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12 comments so far

  1. Chris South Africa

    October 26th, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks Eric for this tip it make my work faster and more profesional

  2. Ali

    November 8th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Please tell me some thing for glass design

  3. Charles

    October 9th, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    why would you want to remove the backing? and isnt the backing what makes it a mirror? seems to me if you remove the backing all you will have is another plain piece of clear glass?

  4. Eric Robert

    Eric Robert

    October 11th, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Charles- the post is meant for people that want to make designs into the mirror, not remove all of the backing. By either etching or removing a small section in the shape of a pattern, it really makes the image pop out. See here for examples: http://www.glassetchingsecrets.com/member/sandblasting-mirror/

  5. Angie Sharp

    January 14th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Thx for this info…have been looking for this info for about 10 years! Do you know where to get the MSR?

  6. Eric Robert

    Eric Robert

    January 19th, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Angie, I found this place to be the cheapest: http://angelgilding.com/A2124.html

  7. Crafts by Terry Nastase on facebook

    March 30th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I am doing what I call photo mirrors, I remove the grey backing & the copper lining from the back of the mirrors in the area or areas I want to place a photo so there is still mirror around the photo. I have been looking for an easier way to remove the grey backing. The “Citristrip” works excellent. Thank you for this idea. I remove the copper lining with toilet bowl cleaner which works great. Now my projects will be less time consuming & easier to do. Once again thanks for the idea

  8. Crafts by Terry Nastase on Facebook

    March 30th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    The “Citristrip” works great for removing the grey backing from mirrors. Thanks for the idea. I design photo mirrors & was looking for a more faster method of removing the backing. I use toilet bowl cleaner for the copper lining which works great. Once again Thank You Eric for this idea, makes my projects less time consuming.

  9. Eric Robert

    Eric Robert

    April 9th, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    You’re very welcome. Thanks for letting me know it was helpful!

  10. Milton

    May 21st, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Hello, my name is Milton. I have been engraving/ etching mirrors since I was a teen using a drimmel tool. why take the silver off, just scratch the design right into it..I write backwards and reverse paint with acrylic paints making all sorts of paintings. Because I do it in the back of the mirror, the mirror is still fully functional and AWESOME! Check out some of my work on Miltonsmirrors.com or Pinterest.com/miltonsmirrors..

  11. Eric Robert

    Eric Robert

    May 21st, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Milton, there are other types of etching methods as the post discusses. It is for cream etching which can not remove the silvering.

  12. David

    February 17th, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I have been doing a lot of fine detailing on mirrors over the past decade or two. One tool that I have found for working with mirrors, that simply is irreplaceable is a wood burner. Set on high, and using the various tips gives great results. Simply melt away the area you want clear, and then give it a good cleaning with windex, and you can paint it, put colored foils etc. behind it, and even have lights that can shine through it.

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