Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the cloudiest of them all?
Let’s be honest; a hazy mirror pretty much defeats its purpose… But getting rid of unwanted stubborn stains often seems like a never-ending chore. While some regular dust can be easily removed with a microfiber cloth or even a paper towel (I mean un-paper towel), cleaning a really cloudy mirror can be a nightmare, especially since those reflective surfaces act as a magnet for fingerprints, toothpaste splatters, and makeup smudges.
We've all been there, spending what seems like hours trying to get that full-length mirror in our bedrooms completely clean, strictly forbidding anyone to go near it and even resorting to chemicals that are far from skin-safe or eco-friendly — ahem, Windex —, and if you're reading this, it's probably because you still find yourself in that same situation.
However, my years of experience in green-cleaning have enlightened me, and I have good news for you: soon, you'll be able to check yourself in any mirror in your home without just staring at the reflection of stains laughing at you and your apparently poor cleaning skills, because today I'll teach you everything you need to know about how to clean a mirror that is hazy! AND not only in an effective but an eco-friendly way. So without further ado, let's get to work!
What causes mirrors to get cloudy or hazy looking?
Before discussing which cleaning methods are effective and which aren't, let's clear up the million-dollar question: why do mirrors get so cloudy-looking in the first place? Well, three words — their reflective nature.
Have you ever seen the back of a phone with a glassy finish? Chances are your own phone is covered in smudges, because any surface that is somewhat reflective is more likely to attract any kind of dirt and develop a "greasy" or "oily" residue that spreads across its surface with just a single touch.
Mirrors continually and visibly display all sorts of smudges and imperfections such as dust, product stains from previous cleanings, lint, dried soap and water droplets, fingerprints, and scratches due to that very reflective nature. Oh, and don't get me started on bathroom mirrors! Those can be a complete pain in the neck to clean because they are constantly subjected to moisture, water, and soap, all of which will quickly get them dirty and cloudy with each sweeping motion.
Furthermore, another thing that makes mirrors get that hazy look is multi-purpose sprays. Never, I repeat, NEVER use multi-purpose cleaners on mirrors. These liquids usually leave residues that not only can be toxic, but will also make your mirrors hazy. Plus, soapy cleaners leave behind a residue that may contribute to streaks, so avoid those as well.
There's also a different type of mirror cloudiness that occurs when mirrors are exposed to excess moisture or abrasive cleaning products, which is usually referred to as "mirror rust”. These stains are much darker than the typical ones that appear when a dirty mirror is cleaned over and over again, but I'll touch on this specific type of mirror damage later on.
Can a cloudy mirror be cleaned?
Of course, a cloudy mirror can be cleaned! Don't let the stains on it tell you otherwise. Whether it’s fingerprints, makeup particles, paint stains or limescale, all dirt can be cleaned off a mirror — you just need a little patience and the right products.
Now, if the cloudiness on your mirror is mirror rust, there's not much you can do about it. Mirror rust appears when water or chemicals get between the layer of silver and the backing of the mirror, causing the bond to break and the silvering to chip off behind the glass, and no cleaning product — whether it's chemical or natural — can repair that damage. In this case, the only thing I suggest you do is take a deep breath and then decide whether it's worth fixing it or buying another one.
If you want to fix your mirror, you'll have to re-silver the mirror or use mirror-like spray, two things that can be a pain to apply and, TBH, are far from being eco-friendly. But let's say your mirrors don't have this issue. Rather their only evils are dirt stains that don't seem to go away, just spread... In that case, what can you use to clean them? Green products!
What natural, eco-friendly products work best on mirrors?
While there are numerous products on the market for stain removal that make the task "easier," many of them are a) highly toxic, b) non-biodegradable, and c) worse for the mirror's surface than any dirt. That's why — as usual — I encourage you to make your own DIY cleaning products using household ingredients. That way, you'll know exactly what you're putting on your mirror, save money, and won't guilt-trip over the environment while winning the battle against your reflective frenemy. So, let's get into the good stuff.
My secret weapon against dirty mirrors probably won't come out as a shocker for anybody, but that doesn't stop me from revealing it with a little cliffhanger. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you — drum roll, please —... Vinegar! Most mirror cleaners work by being somewhat acidic, and this low-cost, all-natural ingredient is acidic, too, so it acts as a solvent. It is a must-have in my eco cleaning kit because, besides being very effective, it's not harmful if it comes in contact with the skin or is inhaled — which means you can use it with full confidence even if you have kids or pets at home.
Another natural ingredient that works wonders on mirrors is hydrogen peroxide, another staple in my eco cleaning kit — and in my first aid kit. This is a cheap, odourless, green cleaner and disinfectant that will definitely help you bring back the shine of your mirrors in a breeze.
Talking about products that we can find in our first aid kit, isopropyl alcohol — a.k.a rubbing alcohol — can also be used as a quickly evaporating mirror cleaner, and the best thing about it is that it can be mixed with all of the ingredients above to boost its stain-cleaning power.
However, if DIY stuff isn't your cup of tea and you just want to log on to Amazon, buy a mirror cleaner and have it delivered to your doorstep — been there —, I've got you covered: meet ATTITUDE's Window & Mirror Cleaner. I've previously talked about this brand here at The Eco Hub as their cleaning products deserve a standing ovation, and this one is no slouch.
Not only will this glass and mirror cleaner leave your mirrors sparkling like never before with a light citrus scent, but it will also do so without harming our Mother Earth as it is ECOLOGO Certified, cruelty-free and vegan. Plus, ATTITUDE is a proudly Québécois brand! You can never go wrong when supporting good local products. If you are looking for an eco-friendly cleaner that disinfects or the best all-natural laundry detergent or refillable cleaning products or natural cleaning products for the home! They've got ya!
P.S: I'll be mentioning below a secret mirror-cleaning ingredient that, spoiler alert, you can find it in your pantry right now, so keep scrolling! Trust me, that will 100% come out as a shocker.
Chemicals to Avoid When Cleaning Mirrors That Make Them Look Dingy
When it comes to chemicals that can make mirrors look dingy, the first cleaning agent that pops into my mind is ammonia, especially if you have tinted mirrors. When ammonia is used on tinted mirrors, it can cause the tint to chip and discolour, become hazy or cloudy, or even peel off completely.
Bleach is another chemical that I do not recommend at all, because although many people use it to clean mirrors, this liquid may leave streaks and make them look dull over time.
Alkaline cleaners are an absolute no-no when it comes to cleaning mirrors, as they often contain highly potent bases such as potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide that, while they do dissolve fats and oils, can damage both the surface, the edges, and even the back of the mirror. As a general rule of thumb, do not use any highly abrasive chemicals on your mirrors, both for their wellbeing, your wellbeing, and the environment’s wellbeing.
There's also people who use WD-40 to clean their mirrors for some crazy reason, and to that, I just say PLEASE NO, and... Why? I mean, WD-40 is a lubricant, not a cleaner.
How do you make mirrors shine?
I know the feeling of wanting to rip the dirty mirror off the wall and break it into a thousand pieces every time those stubborn stains appear, but besides bringing you bad luck — if you happen to be superstitious —, this is a highly dangerous and unfeasible solution, so what's the best way to clean a mirror that is cloudy and actually make them shine? In addition to the natural products I listed above, another tool you can add to your arsenal is a steamer.
Steamers can clean just about anything without the use of harsh chemicals or any extra products, so all you have to do to clean your mirror is attach a squeegee attachment — which usually comes with the steamer — to the nozzle of the steamer, turn it on, wipe the surface up and down, and just allow the steam to work its thing. BTW, not so long ago, I did a post on the best handheld steamers and how to use them, so go check it out if you want to have an ace up your sleeve to fight dirt on your mirrors in the best way possible.
What do you need to clean cloudy looking mirrors?
While you can use vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and alcohol on their own as mirror cleaners, if you really want to know how to clean a mirror that is hazy like a champ, the best thing you can do is to mix them together and create a custom mirror cleaner.
As for the recipe, it's not complex at all. You'll only need four ingredients: white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, water, and... Remember the secret ingredient I mentioned a couple of paragraphs above? Well, that ingredient is cornstarch! I know what you're thinking, "say whaaaaaat? Cornstarch in a mirror cleaner?" yup, that's the ace up my sleeve! Let me show you the role of each ingredient in this solution, and the amounts you need:
- White vinegar (dissolves any unwanted residues adhered to your mirror) - ¼ cup
- Rubbing alcohol (powerful disinfectant) - ¼ cup
- Water (the base of everything) - 2 cups
- Cornstarch (absorbs oil and grease, bye fingerprints) - 1 tbsp
Simply grab a spray bottle and a funnel, pour in the 2 cups of water, the ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol and the ¼ cup of vinegar, add the tablespoon of cornstarch, and voilà. All that's left to do is screw the spray nozzle back on the bottle, shake it vigorously, and start using your new eco-friendly DIY cleaner.
If the cornstarch situation doesn't fully convince you and you want to stay in the traditional lane, then just dilute the vinegar and alcohol with water and put each solution in different bottles. In order to dilute the vinegar, add 1 cup of water for each cup of vinegar, and to dilute the alcohol, add 2 cups of water for each cup of alcohol. As for hydrogen peroxide, you don't need to dissolve it as it isn't that strong. Its composition is quite similar to water so just pour it as it is into a spray bottle.
Also, a few other things you can add to your cleaning arsenal are a sustainable squeegee for the bathroom mirror, some newspaper sheets, or a plain brown paper bag. These types of papers are a miraculous trick as you can scrub any mirror without worrying about scratching it or getting lint on it. However, always use old newspapers, as the ink in the new ones can stain. Long story short, these and the DIY mix will be all you need to clean your mirrors! Now, let's have a quick look at how to use everything.
How To Clean A Mirror That Is Hazy
Ok, so you've got your homemade eco-friendly cleaner, your sheets of newspaper/brown paper bag, and your squeegee. Now, how do you clean your cloudy mirror? Follow these steps!
- Before applying any liquid, wipe off any surface dirt that can be easily removed with a microfiber cloth. If you don't do this step, you'll only put more work on yourself.
- Spray your natural cleaning product on the mirror and let it act for a couple of minutes.
- Using newspaper, start scrubbing the mirror at the top left side and keep moving downwards in an "S" pattern to prevent streaks.
- On difficult spots such as limescale on bathroom mirrors, you may need to spray some of the solution on a cleaning cloth, press it on the area for some minutes and then remove the liquid with a squeegee. The acidity of the vinegar will help in softening the stains and will make them much easier to remove, especially if you then use a squeegee.
- Re-spray the solution on the mirror if necessary and repeat the cleaning process.
- Once you are satisfied with the result, wipe everything dry with the same "S" pattern using another microfiber cloth or some newspaper, and enjoy a spotless mirror!
Pro-tip: When cleaning your mirror, if it has a frame or stand, take the time to clean them as well — and clean them first. Cleaning mirrors should always go hand in hand with cleaning their frames as it is often inevitable that the products used splash the top, sides or bottom of it and re-soil the mirror itself, or even damage the finish of the frame. Basically, a clean mirror is not complete if it isn't clean in its entirety!
Why is my mirror still foggy/hazy looking after I clean it?
Have you just finished the energy-and-time-consuming job of cleaning your mirrors but are still frustrated? Did you use a considerable amount of cleaning product and elbow grease but some streaks and stains are still enjoying their place? Don't panic just yet, there are still some reasons why your mirrors may not be squeaky clean, and the good news is that these aren't difficult to fix.
- Most of us don't take into account the type of water we use to clean, and while this doesn't matter much in other situations, when it comes to cleaning mirrors, the water you use can make a big difference, especially if you have extra hard water. If you're making your homemade cleaning product or diluting your natural ingredients with this type of water, consider switching to distilled water. Since it doesn't have the minerals that are found in hard water, it won't leave any traces or buildup on the mirror.
- Wipe your bathroom mirrors with a cleaning cloth, newspaper, or squeegee after every bath. Trust me; these few seconds can save you from scrubbing tons of buildup on the weekend.
- This may sound silly to you, but the motions you use to clean your mirrors really matter. It's key that you clean using an "S" pattern from top to bottom, and this simply has to do with gravity. If you do it the other way around, as you work your way up, you'll be messing up what you've already cleaned down with product residue.
- I'll say it again: mirror rust is a real pain! If your mirror looks foggier with the passage of time, it's not necessarily a result of poor cleaning or excessive dirt. Over time, water or any strong, chemical cleaning product you used in the past to clean the mirror has probably gotten behind the glass and damaged the back of it — the only thing on this list that can't be easily corrected. This is the worst-case scenario, and most likely not yours, but I mention it again just in case.
- Last but certainly not least, mirrors require frequent maintenance! It is crucial to be aware of the importance of cleaning mirrors on a regular basis, in order to avoid excessive dirt build-up that will make them more difficult to clean in the future.
So, if your mirrors are the pride and joy of your home, make sure you keep them clean the right way — by pampering them frequently with both effective and eco-friendly cleaning products. Believe me. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing your smile reflected in the bathroom mirror without a single smudge on it or on your conscience.
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