What Are Mirrors Made Of?


What mirrors are made of is a mystery to many people. If you are curious like many other people, you may have thought about what mirrors are made of quite a few times. We have written this post to answer this question in the most comprehensive manner possible. Our team of researchers has gathered all the facts and we will tell you everything you need to know in this post.

What are mirrors made of? Every mirror is made of a base material and a reflective covering. The most common base material used by manufacturers nowadays to produce mirrors is glass. But other base materials that could be used include metal and stones. The reflective covering, which produces the image reflections in the mirror, is often made of metals. Some common metals used by manufacturers include silver, nickel, tin, chromium, and aluminum. Nowadays, most manufacturers prefer to use aluminum but many still use silver too.

 Humans have always been fascinated by the possibility of seeing their reflections of themselves. And not understanding the components of mirrors, some people have built fears and superstitions about how mirrors form images. Some people even believe that mirrors are magic material that creates a parallel spirit world on the other side. But then, mirrors do not just exist by themselves; they are made. As you read on, we will show you the different components with which mirrors are made.

what are mirrors made of
Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

What Materials Are Used To Make a Mirror

The materials used to make a mirror nowadays are glass, aluminum, and chrome. While glass is often used as the base material of the mirror, aluminum and chrome are typically used to make the mirror’s reflective surface. Other base materials that have been used in history, or that are still being used include polished stones, black obsidian, metals, and plastic substrates.

Nobody seems to use polished stones and Obsidian anymore. The advancement of science and technology has replaced these with better base materials, such as glass, metals, and plastic materials. Out of these materials, glass has become the choicest option for making mirrors. It is often coated with a reflective metal to make a mirror. You can also check out this article that discusses what color a mirror is. We have shared an in-depth discussion about what creates color in a mirror.

As you read on, we will give you a brief explanation of the different base materials that are used to make mirrors:

The Different Base Materials for Making Mirrors

The base material of a mirror is usually made of one of the following:

Glass

There are different types of glass, with different physical and chemical properties. But they all contain the same primary component, Silica. Another common name for silica is industrial sand. Glass is very transparent, rigid, and has a smooth surface. And because of these properties, they are very befitting base materials for making mirrors. What’s more, it is easy to mold glass into different shapes during the manufacturing process.

Plastic

Plastic materials are often used to make mirrors for children. Glass is not safe for children to play with, so plastic comes in as a good alternative. Polycarbonate and acrylic mirrors are the two most common types of plastic substrate mirrors. They are named after the type of plastic the mirrors are made of. Between polycarbonate and acrylic, polycarbonate seems to be the stronger option that hardly breaks.

Metals

Metal is another common base material for making mirrors, but it is not as common as glass. To make mirrors with metals, manufacturers polish the metal so that the reflective coating can easily stay on it. Without polishing, the surface of the metal will not be smooth enough for the reflective coating.

Polished Stones

This option is already obsolete, but it is important that we still talk about it. In earlier times, people used rocks and stones like obsidian to make mirrors. When these stones were polished well they were able to reflect images quite clearly. However, the advent of technology has created easier and better methods of creating mirrors.

Video – How Are Mirrors Made?

Back in the days, mirrors used to be very expensive and rare to find because they required careful and skillful polishing of metals and stones. But these days, mirrors have become commonplace. This video explains how mirrors became a common household item and the different materials that have been used to make mirrors in the course of history. Click the play button below to watch the video.

Why Do Manufacturers Prefer To Use Glass for Mirrors

Glass is easier to work with than most other substrate materials for mirrors. We found that plastic materials are easier to work with than glass. But manufacturers still prefer glass over plastic because glass is more rigid than plastic. What’s more, the smooth surface that glass materials present is very ideal for the reflective coat to stay on.

What Is The Reflective Coating of Mirrors Made Of?

Metals are the main materials used for the reflective coatings in mirrors. Metals like copper, aluminum, silver, chrome, and gold are often used as reflective coatings for mirrors. But the most commonly used materials are aluminum and silver. Silver is a more reflective metal than aluminum, but most manufacturers still prefer aluminum above silver. Aluminum is more durable and unlike silver, it doesn’t tarnish (develop brown spots) when it is exposed to air.

The reflective coating of mirrors is usually very thin compared to the substrate material. But it is the part that forms image reflections when you look in a mirror. Aside from forming image reflections, the reflective coating also makes the surface of the mirror more resistant to scratches. As such, it makes the mirror last longer.

Let’s take a closer look at the common materials used for the reflective coating of mirrors:

Silver

Silver reflects as high as 95% of light, which is the highest reflectivity you can find among metals. What’s more, you can observe all light wavelengths from silver coatings. Its low emissivity and high reflectivity are especially useful for infrared applications. What’s more, it is the least expensive of all precious metals, so it is readily available.

Aluminum

Aluminum is also highly reflective (90% light reflection), but not as reflective as silver. Many manufacturers use aluminum for the reflective coating of mirrors because it is a non-ferrous metal that hardly rusts. What’s more, among all metals, aluminum offers the highest reflectivity for ultraviolet applications.

How to Make Mirrors?

Mirrors are made by first molding the substrate material, which is usually glass. After molding the substrate material, manufacturers often add stannous chloride to one surface of the glass before spraying the reflective coating on the same surface. If you have a clear glass material and a reflective coat spray, you can easily make a DIY mirror at home.

In high-precision industrial companies, the reflective coating is made by heating the metal in a special chamber or furnace. They heat the metal until it starts boiling, then they would condense it on the glass sheet to form a thin reflective coat.

At home, you can make a reflective coating for your DIY mirrors by making a mixture of silver nitrate, ammonia, and distilled water. This mixture produces silver in its pure form. Pour the liquid silver on the glass sheet and allow it to cool. But make sure to clean the glass sheet with rubbing alcohol and a soft clean cloth, and let it dry before you apply the coating.

Stannous Chloride in Making Mirrors

Stannous chloride is one of the chemical forms of chlorine, which plays a vital role in the manufacturing of mirrors.  It is especially useful during the silvering process, where reflective coating (silver or aluminum, or any other reflective material) is added to a glass substrate. Manufacturers usually treat the glass material with stannous chloride before applying the reflective layer. Stannous chloride is a reducing salt, so it helps stabilize the reflective coating when applied.

Related Questions

Are Mirrors Made of Sand?

Glass mirrors are partly made of sand. These glass sheets used for glass mirrors are made from a substance called silica, which is mined from the sand. Another common name for silica is d heat it to extreme temperature levels until it melts. After melting, it is left to cool and glass is formed. This glass in turn is used to manufacture mirrors. We have also shared this article that discusses what a Bluetooth electric mirror do. You can check out the article for an in-depth discussion about the topic.

Why Are Mirrors So Expensive?

Not all mirrors are expensive, but good and quality mirrors would cost a lot more than low-quality mirrors. High-quality mirrors are expensive because they are made with high-quality, costly materials that last longer and give a more accurate reflection. What’s more, a lot of time and skill goes into mirror manufacturing too.

A few other factors can affect the price of mirrors. These include the weight and size of the mirror, craftsmanship, and cost of the frame. Check out this article titled, why are bathroom mirrors so expensive for more information.

How to Clean Mirrors?

The right way to clean a mirror is to wipe in one direction with a clean cloth dampened with vinegar or lime. Some people prefer to mix a cup of vinegar (or lime) with a cup of water in a spray bottle to clean their mirrors. Make sure to wipe the mirror in such a way that there will be no stains, smudges, or streaks.

Some people also use water to clean their mirrors, but this is not advisable. If you use water directly on the surface of a mirror, the water can slip behind the coating of silver and create black tarnish marks. You can also check out this article that discusses how to remove paint from mirror frame. We have shared different methods that you can follow.

Conclusion

So far, in this article, we have explained everything you would need to know about what mirrors are made of. We have also added a brief description of how mirrors are made. The two main components of a mirror are the substrate material and the reflective coating. Most mirrors nowadays are made of glass substrates and aluminum coating.

Recent Posts