Taking good care of mirrors

For years, every time I spritzed a mirror, I’d race to wipe it off before the drip reached the bottom of the frame. Anybody else do that? I thought getting water behind the frame wouldn’t be good for the glass or its ornate wood frame. Turns out, I was right not to get the bottom (or any) edge of the mirror wet. But I shouldn’t have been spritzing the mirror in the first place. 

So how do you take good care of mirrors?

• Avoid putting mirrors in very humid areas. The moisture can condense on the glass and eventually damage the mirror. What about the bathroom mirror? That’s what bathroom fans are for (well, one of the things they’re for). They don’t always do the job, though, so wipe the mirror dry before leaving the bathroom after a steamy shower.

• When you buy a new mirror, unwrap it as soon as possible to air it out and keep moisture from forming on it. 

• To prevent breakage, never store mirrors flat; stand them vertically.

• To clean a mirror, make sure you use a soft, lint-free, perfectly clean cloth. A rag with abrasive dirt—even a tiny grain—can scratch the surface of your mirror. 

• Don’t soak the mirror when you clean it. And definitely avoid getting liquid on the edges. The reason you don’t want to get the edge (any edge) of your mirror wet is because the water (or cleaner) can soak over to the back of the mirror and damage the backing and the mirror. There’s even a name for this, “black edge.” (You’ve probably seen those intrusive black splotches around the edges of old mirrors — although, to be honest, I sometimes appreciate the character those stains impart.)

• Use clean, warm water to wipe mirrors. That’s all it takes! Avoid heavy cleaning solutions with abrasives or alkali or acidic ingredients; don’t use ammonia, vinegar, chlorine bleach, or any other strong chemicals on the glass. You can also use a safe commercial glass cleaner or make your own, but keep in mind that many of the DIY recipes contain vinegar or alcohol, both of which are not recommended by glass experts. I’m sticking with warm water—which works! (Taking care of mirrors is easy.)

• For stubborn surface marks, experts recommend 0000 oil-free steel wool. (I have not tried this, and it sounds abrasive. But perhaps all those zeros keep it from scratching.) Don’t use solvents on mirrors. 

• Don’t spray water or any other solution directly onto your mirror. Spray it onto your cloth, and then use the cloth to wipe the mirror. Spritzing the mirror (like I always did) can result in the cleaner seeping through the edges and damaging the mirror backing. Admission: This sometimes takes more patience then I have when it comes to cleaning. I may still race that liquid to the edge occasionally.

I love how mirrors add expanse and reflect light in a room. My favorite is an antique Goodwill find, and it’s surprisingly unstained and lovely. Please tell us about your favorite mirror and share your tips for taking care of mirrors!

Do you know the difference between a flat mirror and a beveled one (and why the beveled one reflects light differently)? Here’s a good explanation.

You might also enjoy: Towel care and Caring for books.

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