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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

How to repair mirror desilvering

Updated: Nov 22

Step-by-step tutorial on how to remove rust from the edges of a tarnished mirror and reduce the effects of unsightly desilvering aka mirror rot or oxidation.

A can of WD40 sitting on a tap in front of a bathroom mirror with water damage (desilvering)

Back in 2021, I was sponsored by WD-40 to create some TikToks from my bathroom to help increase awareness about their Fix it Challenge. The tiktoks demonstrated unusual, DIY-related uses for WD-40 and I thought you might find the ones I came up with helpful so I'm popping them up as super quick blog posts. For complete transparency, I have not been asked to do this by WD-40 and will not receive anything for doing so. There are also lots of hacks, tips and tricks over on my Instagram.

Close up of mirror desilvering

What is Mirror desilvering?

Desilvering is basically water damage and refers to that annoying process when the backing of the mirror deteriorates and you get black or brown spots. It is also known as mirror rot, water damage, oxidation or tarnishing. It is often seen in bathroom mirrors because of the high moisture levels in the air which penetrate the mirror edge and can also occur where moisture drips down the mirror and onto the bottom edge causing rust to form.

WD40 multiuse flexible straw pointed at mirror with rust and desilvering

The best treatment is actually prevention (more on that in a minute) as to 'resilver' the mirror you need specific chemicals and is really best left to the professionals. There are ways you can hide the damage such as by painting or taping a frame onto the mirror, or in fact by adding an actual frame, but after much research on the internet I couldn't find any good suggestions for actually removing the unsightly rust to make the damage less noticeable. As we have a mirror with this issue in our bathroom I set about testing an idea I'd had after seeing lots of rust removal hacks using WD-40.

What you'll need to treat a desilvered mirror

WD-40 multiuse can

Old toothbrush

Cleaning sponge

How to remove the rust from water damage / mirror desilvering

  • Point the straw under the mirror, getting as close to the gap in the join between the front and backing of the mirror (where the moisture has penetrated) as possible and spray the WD-40 whilst moving the can along the base of the mirror.

  • Leave the WD-40 to do its thing for 10 minutes or so.

  • Take an old toothbrush and place it under the mirror so the bristles are on the line of the join.

  • Angle the toothbrush so at least some of the bristles get into the gap and scrub backwards and forwards. You should be able to see the bristles moving the rust particles if you look through the mirror.

  • Give the underside of the mirror another spray with the WD-40 and repeat the scrubbing until all the rust has been removed.

  • Once complete mop up any WD40 from the mirror, tiles and sink area.

  • Be sure to throw away the old toothbrush or put it somewhere where it can't be used accidentally!

As you can see from the above photos, my bathroom mirror is obviously not back to its original condition but it looks so much better than it did with the rust and from a distance you can't actually see the damage. The WD-40 will also help prevent the rust coming back and the desilvering getting any worse which leads me on to preventing it in the first place...

I have seen mirror repair tape advertised which is reflective and designed to make the mirror look undamaged, but I didn't think the level of damage to my mirror warranted this. Let me know if you've tried this tape before and have any feedback.

How to prevent mirror desilvering

Like many home maintenance tasks, the key to preventing mirror desilvering or oxidation is to stop any moisture / water vapour being able to penetrate the mirror which can be done by applying a layer of sealant to the mirror edge. WD-40 can be sprayed on the mirror edge regularly in its capacity as a water repellant and this will help prevent the formation of rust. I've written a whole post about 5 clever ways to prevent mirror desilvering which you might like to read.

If you have a mirror that is beyond repair, I've curated a handy shopping guide (below) to inspire you!

a moodboard showing a selection of mirrors

Click below to shop (ad/affiliate links)

1. Floor mirror

2. M&S mirror

3. Bello

4. Dunelm pebble mirror

5. Wavy

6. Asymmetrical

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