Learn how to transform a salvaged window into a mercury glass window pane mirror using spray paint and vinegar!
I love the look of mercury glass and antique mirrors, but the real deal can be so pricey.
So I figured out how to make my own — easily and cheaply using salvaged windows and specialty mirrored spray paint. And I’m going to show you how to make a faux mercury glass mirror from an old window.
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I always find old windows at yard sales, thrift stores , salvage yards and even on the side of the road. Those are my favorite because they’re free. If you don’t luck into a free one, keep looking. You shouldn’t have to pay more than $5 or $10 for an old window to turn into a mirror.
I’ve made a lot of these mercury window pane mirrors using this technique, and I’m always thrilled with the result. Maybe that’s why this tutorial is one of the most popular blog posts.
In this tutorial, you’ll see photos of two different ways to transform mirrors in progress — one made with Krylon Looking Glass Spray Paint and the other with Rustoleum Mirror Effect Spray Paint. Both work equally well, and they’re priced similarly. You should be able to find them in craft stores, home improvement stores and online.
How to Make a Mercury Glass Window Pane Mirror
- an old window
- lead paint test kit
- Rustoluem Mirror Finish Effect Spray Paint or Krylon Looking Glass Spray Paint
- Sandpaper (optional)
- Paint (optional)
- polycrylic sealer
- Glass cleaner
- Paper towels
- A spray bottle filled with 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup white vinegar
- sawtooth picture hanger
The first step to making an old weathered mirror is to clean the old window well, to knock off years of dirt and chipping paint.
Be careful with this step, especially if you’re using a pre-1978 window. It may well be painted with lead paint, and you’ll need to be careful that you, your kiddos and animals don’t ingest the paint chips or dust. Before beginning work on your mirror transformation, I recommend using a lead paint test kit to confirm that it’s safe.
If you do find that your window has been painted with lead paint, don’t despair. Miss Mustard Seed had a great post on safety precautions when dealing with lead paint. I encourage you to check it out and follow her tips.
Following any necessary safety precautions, sand any loose paint, and use glass cleaner to clean both sides of the window.
Once your window is clean and dry, shake up the Looking Glass or Mirror Effect spray paint for a couple of minutes — until your arms get so tired you can’t shake anymore.
Now, it’s time to start painting. These mirrored paints have a strong smell, so do this outside or in a well ventilated space. I recommend wearing a mask, too.
Apply a coat of the mirror spray paint to the back side of your window/mirror. This is the side you’ll want to be facing the wall. Use a smooth, left to right sweeping motion.
Let the first coat dry for about a minute — then grab your spray bottle with the vinegar-water solution.
While the paint is still wet, spritz the backside of the glass with the vinegar and water solution and blot gently with a paper towel. This will remove flecks of paint and help to create the mercury glass look of the mirror. Work quickly, as the mirror spray paint dries quickly.
Apply a second thin coat of the spray paint, then spray with the vinegar-water solution and blot. Continue layering and removing paint until you have the crackled look you want. Make sure you check how things are looking from the front of the mirror before continuing with the next coat of paint and distressing.
If you prefer a solid mirrored surface to the mercury glass effect, you can skip the vinegar-and-water distressing. Just continue adding thin coats until you have the mirrored look you want. (Make sure to check the other side to see how the coverage looks from what will be the front of your mirror.)
Depending on how much character and patina the original window had, you may not need to do anything to the wood frame.
This one was perfect, as is. I love the original green paint and the chippiness of it! But the first window pane mirror I made needed some color.
So, I painted the wood frame on the front side of my mirror with a couple of coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I think I used Provence, but I can’t remember. It may have been Duck Egg Blue, or a mix of both. They’re very close, though Provence tends to be brighter and more vibrant, while Duck Egg Blue is more muted.
Normally, I finish my chalk painted pieces with wax, but I wanted to make sure to encapsulate the old paint, so, I sealed it with polycrylic. You could also use polyurethane.
The final step is to add a sawtooth hanger or hanging wire on the back of your mercury glass window pane mirror.
Then stare lovingly at your handiwork.
If you make a window pane mirror using this tutorial, please share a photo of it on my Facebook page. I’d love to see it.
You can also use this same process on glass vases and candle holders. Be sure to check out these other projects using mercury glass mirrored spray paint and old windows: