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Does Your Reflection Look Yellow? How to Tell if it’s Time for a New Mirror

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The sole function of a mirror is to produce accurate, clear, crisp reflections. Shape, manufacturing processes, and the choice of raw materials all influence the original quality of the mirror, as well as its ability to hold up over time. Are your mirrors bubbling, yellowing or producing distorted images? Here are some of the ways that inferior mirrors fail.

Breakage: The (Nearly) Shatterproof Advantage of Plastic Over Glass

One obvious, yet major advantage of plastics over virtually any glass mirror is resistance to impact. This is especially important for transportation mirrors that are housed in moving vehicles. If you put a mirror on an arm mounted on the fender of a vehicle, it is very likely — if not inevitable — that something will hit it, or vice versa. The transportation industry almost always opts for plastic in such applications since shattered glass is much more sharp and hazardous. Not only are plastic mirrors far less likely to break, but in the extreme cases that they do, the pieces aren’t dangerous to people or animals.

The Funhouse Effect: A Distorted Reflection of Reality

High-quality mirrors reflect images exactly as they appear in real life. A faithful rendition of reality is the most essential duty that a mirror performs. A defective, warped, or inferior mirror reflects a distorted image in which the subject appears to be pulled, stretched or fattened. Good for a funhouse, but unacceptable in high-end mirrors.

Yellowing or Other Dampening of Clarity

High-quality, optical plastics are extremely durable and hold up well in ultraviolet light. This is imperative if a mirror is going to continue to produce crisp, clear, sharp reflections for extended periods of time. Inferior mirrors become yellow, foggy or otherwise off-color, diminishing image clarity and quality after exposure to natural sunlight.

Chemical Attack or Corrosion

High-quality mirrors employ suitable back coatings to protect against chemical attack. For example, the high-pressure sprays typically used in truck wash stations contain high pH caustic solutions and low pH acid solutions to remove smashed insects, and those acid or caustic solutions are very corrosive to the metals in mirrors.

In summary, mirrors can be scratched, succumb to attacks by chemical agents, turn yellow from UV exposure and — if they’re made of glass — they can simply break. The difference between manufacturing quality and raw materials that are stellar, versus those that are just good, can mean the difference between a mirror that needs replacing and one that lasts a lifetime.

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