How to strip the finish off a mirror frame

This week, Jill Washburn, our Jill of All Trades, shows us how to strip the finish off of a mirror frame.  

Jill has an oval mirror with a mahogany frame in her bathroom. Over time, the steam and condensation running down the mirror have damaged the finish on the frame at the bottom. Jill decided that it had gotten too damaged to tolerate any longer and that it was time to take action. Here's what she did.

First, Jill removed the Masonite backing that held the mirror glass in place, and the mirror glass, itself. She marked the top of the Masonite and the top of the frame on the back, just so it's easier to put it all back together, and so the screw holes will line up for certain.

Next, she laid out some cardboard, to protect the surface that she was working on, and laid the frame on the cardboard.  

Jill used a stripping product called CitriStrip. It's a thicker gel. It's pretty easy to work with. Plus, the fumes are not horrible. Jill says it's a great product for a beginner, and it's available at all of the big box building supply stores, as well most local hardware stores.

Jill says you need to shake the stripper first and then pour it into a disposable container. Jill used a cheap, disposable paint brush (a chip brush) to paint on a thick layer of the CitriStrip.  

You will probably want to wear protective gloves and possible eye protection, depending on your project. 

After you've applied the stripper, you wait. You can help the process along, says Jill, if you can cover your project with plastic wrap, but it's not necessary. The CitriStrip stays wet for as long as 24 hours, depending on what you have it on and where you're using it.

After 30 minutes or so, you may want to check it to see if the finish is loosening. At that point, it was starting to work, but Jill decided to let it sit longer. She checked again at 60 minutes, and again at 90 minutes. At that point, It was ready to go on Jill's piece and she started scraping with a plastic scraper.  

The finish came right off.  She used a plastic stripping brush to get into some of the crevasses. Ultimately, there was still some residue left behind, so a couple of days later, she laid it all out again and did another coat of the CitriStrip to get the rest of the finish off. For that coat she used a green Scotchbrite scrubbing pad to really get all the rest of the finish off. When she was done, she wiped the whole frame down really well with paper towels to get all of the CitriStrip off.

That is Phase 1 for the mirror re-do. Next, Jill has to stain and finish the frame. 

She's got a couple of different options. She could just wax the frame, as is, with either a clear wax or a tinted wax. She could also stain the frame, and then put a wax finish on it. Or, she could stain the frame and put some sort of varnish or shellac or oil finish on it.

Finishing the frame will be a future Jill of All Trades segment (probably soon, because Jill wants the mirror back up in her bathroom), so decisions will have to be made soon. The advantages of a wax finish are that it is much faster to apply and dry, more forgiving of mistakes, and is easily renewed, if it starts to wear off. The disadvantage is that it's not as durable as a more permanent finish like a varnish or shellac. So Jill has to do a little research and a lot of thinking to determine what will work best in a room where steam/moisture is a regularly occurring issue.  

Stay tuned…


To watch Jill guide you through the process of stripping the frame, click on the video player above.