Household mirrors are exposed to a lot over the course of their lives. From excess moisture, dirt, dust and stains from products such as food, household cleaners, toothpaste, shaving cream and soaps, mirrors attract dirt and grime pretty easily.
All of that wear and tear tends to accumulate on mirrors in the form of spots, and these spots tend to deepen and grow while seeming impervious to typical run-of-the-mill household glass cleaners. This can cause quite a bit of frustration for homeowners, as their otherwise perfect mirrors have spots that seem impossible to get out. But a few special products and processes can make the mirrors a centrepiece of a great home.
What causes mirror spots?
The main culprit that causes mirror spots is moisture. Black spots on a mirror are caused by excess moisture seeping into the mirror foundation, either from areas with a lot of moisture such as bathrooms or from moisture accumulating through the back of a mirror via a wall or a door. Excess residue from cleaning products can also cause black spots, especially along the edges of the mirror.
Moisture is also the cause of white hard-water spots, as the excess moisture serves as a magnet for dirt, dust and particles from food and cleaning items. The more particles that are picked up, the stronger and harder to clean these hard-water spots are.
Removing the spots
With the causes of mirror spots identified, here are steps that can be taken to clean the glass and restore the luster of the mirror.
1. Wipe down the mirror
The first thing that needs to be done before cleaning the mirror spots is removing any existing moisture that might be on the mirror. Do this by utilising a clean, lint-free towel and rubbing it firmly over the mirror's surface. Doing this not only picks up moisture, but it can also whittle away some hard dirt and debris from the more stubborn spots.
2. Prepare cleaning solution and wipe down again
After the first wipe, it's time to prepare the cleaning solution. It's important to avoid anything with ammonia when preparing the solution, as ammonia will deposit even more residue on the mirror. Instead, get some white vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda and mix it with warm water. Make sure the solution is four parts water, one part vinegar/lemon juice/baking soda.
Once the solution has been mixed, take another clean, lint-free cloth and dip it into the solution until it is moist but not soaking. Take the cloth and rub the mirror firmly in a circular motion. The acids and enzymes from the vinegar or baking soda should start to break up the mirror spots, if not eliminate them entirely.
3. Scrape at the hardest spots
Some of the spots on the mirror will not come up on the first rubdown. For stronger/more stubborn mirror spots, there are two ways to go. One is to use steel wool and spot rub the problem areas. The coarse nature of steel wool will break up the stingy particles, allowing them to be picked up and wiped away on the next rub.
The other method to breaking up stubborn spots is scraping at them with a razor blade. A thin razor blade on a smooth, somewhat-moist surface slices the rigid outer layer of the spot, allowing for the particles underneath to be wiped away with the moist cloth. Be careful applying the razor though -- you don't want to scratch the glass surrounding the problem spots.
4. Wipe again
Now that the spots have been spot-treated with steel wool or razor blades, repeat the process of step two and wipe the mirror in a circular motion. However, before dipping the rag in the cleaning solution be sure to add water to that solution. The solution needs to be more diluted with every rub to limit the amount of residue that is deposited on the mirror with every rotation.
Continue to do this until the mirror finds its desired cleanliness. It shouldn't take many more wipings to achieve this.
5. Dry the mirror
Take a dry, clean, lint-free cloth and wipe down the cleaned mirror to get rid of any moisture and residue. Be thorough with this process, as leftover moisture was a main contributor to the formation of the spots that were just cleaned. It's important to make sure that the edges of the mirror are dealt with, as that is where a lot of the leftover residue accumulates.