Mirror Material | Steel vs. Acrylic

What Are Mirrors Made Of?

Throughout history, the superstitious have said that a broken glass mirror brings forth seven years of bad luck. But these days, the most common reaction would simply be to sigh, shrug, and buy a new mirror. We’re quite fortunate to live in the era of plastics and easily acquired high-polished surfaces for our mirror material. Because glass alternatives provide that crucial mirror reflection with superior safety and style in mind.

Let’s explore two cheap mirror alternatives to glass mirrors. Both provide the same high-quality reflective properties and a number of other positives to boot!

When to Use Acrylic

mirror finished acrylic sheet
Acrylic mirrors are a perfect starting point for DIY projects. Acrylic is inexpensive and is a breeze to fabricate and machine. It is 50% lighter and eight times as strong as glass. Also, acrylic provides superior shatter resistance to glass.

Acrylic is an especially safe option as well. When it is cut, or in the situations where it does shatter, it doesn’t leave sharp edges like glass or stainless steel. It is also much easier and safer to install than glass.

The one notable downside of acrylic is that it is less rigid than glass and can warp if improperly mounted. We recommend a rigid backing like sheet metal or plywood to provide structural support. You also want to make sure it’s fully sealed to prevent any hidden moisture pockets that might distort your mirror.


  • Inexpensive
  • Resistant to environmental degradation
  • Durable
  • Easy to machine
  • Easy to install
  • Very lightweight


  • Can be prone to warpage without a rigid backing

Use an acrylic mirror if cost, lightweight, and general safety are the most important aspects of the project. They also work well on boats as long as they are properly installed.

When to Use Stainless Steel

mirrored stainless steel sheet
Boasting seven times more tensile strength than acrylic, 304 Stainless Steel is not just durable, it’s the most commonly-used stainless for all types of applications. If you work with metals, you already know about its high resistance to rust and its ubiquity in the kitchen. We recommend using mirrored stainless steel if you need a solid, heavy-duty alternative to glass and acrylic, all while demanding crystal-clear reflections.

While durable, 304 stainless begins to tarnish when exposed to sodium chloride (salt). However, the mirror-polish (#8) on our stainless sheets improves corrosion resistance by removing crevices where pitting can occur. With proper maintenance, 304 mirrors will last for years in almost any environment.


  • Extremely durable
  • With maintenance, can last for a lifetime
  • Stronger than acrylic


  • Heavier than acrylic
  • More expensive than acrylic
  • Requires regular upkeep in marine environments

Use stainless steel if your main concern is general durability or if you need extra weight. With regular upkeep, this can also work well on boats.

But What Makes A Mirror Reflective?

When light hits a mirror, no matter the material, it is reflecting every color on the visible spectrum. Most household objects absorb some colors and reflect others, which gives us the perception of color. As an example, when light hits copper, it absorbs every color except for the wonderfully aesthetic reddish brown we know and love. Mirrors are also reflective due to their smooth surfaces at a microscopic level, differentiating them from other flat white surfaces like paper.

Would you like to know more?

Steel, Aluminum, and Bronze all make for good mirrors! If you want to learn how to polish metal to a mirror finish, we have a blog post for that.

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