Shaving in the Shower: Why Does My Fogless Mirror Fog Up?

For men, shaving in the shower is a great way to save time, keep your bathroom counter clean, and even save money. But for it to work you need to be able to see yourself clearly so you need a mirror that isn’t fogged.

Shower mirrors fog because the mirror surface is colder than the surrounding air, causing moisture to condense on the surface as fog. Fogless mirrors work by either warming the mirror or by using a surface treatment that resists condensation.

Most anti fog shower mirrors fog more and more over time because the mirror surface treatment starts to lose its effectiveness, but in many cases it can be restored. Keep reading to learn more about how fogless shower mirrors work, how to clean an anti fog bathroom mirror, and the best mirrors we recommend from our hands-on testing experience.

Do Fogless Shower Mirrors Work?

Anti fog shower mirrors have been around for decades and with varying success. The simplest version that you can find at your local discount store is simply a small mirror with suction cups attached that sticks on to your shower wall for $10 or less. Fancier versions upgrade materials and options, some tie into your shower plumbing, all the way up to $1,000+ electronic models.

How Do Anti Fog Mirrors Work?

The basic mechanism why shower mirrors fog or get cloudy during a hot shower all comes back to condensation. In simple terms, condensation happens when warmer humid air comes in contact with a cold surface.

More accurately, condensation occurs when the air is saturated and can no longer hold the moisture at the given temperature, known as the dew point. When the surface temperature is at or below the dew point, moisture in the air will condense into water using nucleation sites on the surface. Here is a great reference with examples.

All anti-fog shower mirrors work using one or both of the following principles:

  • Warm the mirror surface
  • Use an anti-fog surface

Prevent Fog by Warming the Mirror

If the mirror surface is the same temperature or warmer than the surrounding air then condensation can not occur. This method is the only sure-fire way to prevent a mirror from fogging but it comes with its own complications. The mirror is either warmed by the shower water itself or by an electrical warmer.

You might think that electricity and showers give the same result as bathtubs and hair dryers, but the reality is they are quite safe. Electric shower mirrors use low voltage power, either from batteries or from a low voltage transformer installed in a dry area with only low voltage wires in the wet area. Electrically heated mirror are frequently lighted to provide maximum benefit.

The other method of heating the shower mirror is to use the same heat source that creates the humid air – the shower water itself. These mirrors either tap into the plumbing to divert a small amount of water through the mirror and then return it to the showerhead, or they use a reservoir that you fill with warm water each time you take a shower.

Prevent Fog by Using an Anti-Fog Surface Treatment

The easiest and cheapest way to make a fog free mirror is to use a polycarbonate mirror and apply a hydrophilic surface, most of the low priced shower mirrors take this approach because it is also very effective.

We don’t recommend bringing a glass mirror into the shower unless it is securely mounted. Showers are slippery, suction cups lose grip, and adhesive strips can fail, so a glass mirror is a recipe for broken shards and lacerations. Shower mirrors made from plastic or metal are virtually unbreakable and much safer in the shower.

Hydrophilic means ‘water loving’, in other words it attracts water. Everyone is familiar with how water beads up and forms droplets, the fog on a regular mirror is just hundreds of tiny water droplets that are growing. But on a hydrophilic surface the water will flatten out and form a thin sheet instead of beading up into droplets. The thin sheet of water over the mirror has minimal affect on the optical properties and you are still able to see your reflection clearly.

Alternatively, some mirrors use a hydrophobic surface. Hydrophobic means’ water hating’ so the surface repels water. Similar to how Rain-X works, the water quickly beads up and rolls off the vertical surface leaving the mirror unobscured. Hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces explained.

Rain-X does make a shower door treatment (buy on Amazon) but note that it is for glass surfaces only.

When they are new both methods of keeping a shower mirror fog free work equally well, but after a few months all mirrors seem to fog up more and more. The reality is that your shower is a difficult environment and the surface of your mirror needs to be kept warm, smooth, and clean so it can give a clear reflection.

Any scratches or surface pitting will degrade your mirror, as will any hard water deposits or soap scum residues.

How to Clean an Anti Fog Bathroom Mirror

First and foremost, don’t do anything that might scratch the surface or remove the coating. Polycarbonate and acrylic plastics are very soft and coatings are very thin and equally sensistive. No abrasives or harsh chemical cleaners.

The best way clean your mirror is to keep in clean from the start. Nothing you can do to clean your mirror will be as effective as preventing the buildup in the first place. Use your towel to dry your mirror after every shower and it will greatly improve your experience and extend its life. That is easy to say but if you are like us, this plan won’t last very long and you need to clean your mirror.

Spray the surface with a 50:50 mixture of distilled white vinegar and water and let is soak for 5-10 minutes, then gently wipe with a soft cotton or microfiber cloth. Vinegar is a great cleaner that dissolved hard water stains and cuts through soap scum, for best results wipe the mirror dry and don’t rinse with water.

Vinegar gives the best result but the you can also use a small amount of soap or shampoo. Dish soap is the best because it rinses clean but the body wash and shampoo you have right there in the shower also work. If you use soap or shampoo be sure to rinse the mirror clean and then dry. For added effectiveness, finish with a drop of shaving cream wiped over the mirror and then dried with a clean cloth.

How to Remove Scratches From a Shower Mirror

There really isn’t a good way to remove scratches from a plastic mirror, and if you follow our recommended method to get the best results from the cheapest shower mirrors you don’t need to worry – simply discard the damaged mirror and replace with a new one.

If you really want to try to salvage a mirror, your best bet is to get a polishing kit for cloudy headlights (here is our favorite on Amazon) and follow the directions. The gentle polishing abrasives in white toothpaste can give similar results with a bit more effort, use a white toothpaste and rub with a soft cloth.

The Best Fogless Shower Mirrors for Every Use

Many people fall into the trap of ‘If I spend a bunch of money then I will get a product that solves all my problems’. This simply is not true for fogless shower mirrors. All fogless shower mirrors will fog if not used properly. We used a shower mirror that connected to the water supply and while it worked well, it didn’t justify the additional cost and had the same problem as cheaper versions when hard water deposits and soap residue formed.

You see the same comments in user reviews of shower mirrors online, people don’t understand how fogless mirrors work and then give a poor rating when the real issue is user error. The simple ‘trick’ to make every mirror fogless is to simply spray the mirror with warm water from the showerhead for a few seconds to warm it up to the same temperature.

Upgrading your showerhead is one of the simplest and best changes you can make to your shower experience. Learn how to install one in this article, even if you are renting.

The mirrors have low thermal mass, so spraying them directly with water for 5-6 seconds will give you several minutes of clear shaving time. Spray longer or repeat the process if you need more time. You get all the benefits of the fancier models for a fraction of the cost.

Most people are better served buying a relatively cheap mirror and replacing it every 5-6 years. Our family has evaluated dozens of shower mirrors over the course of years and we continuously rotate new products in for side-by-side testing with our current favorites.

The Best Fogless Shower Mirror

Our top pick overall boasts a mirror that is 6.5-in wide by 8-in tall that rotates freely on a pivot to adjust for the perfect view. The ToiletTree Deluxe Larger fogless mirror (buy on Amazon) easily removes from the bracket so you can fill the reservoir with water each shower, and has a shelf to hold two razors and the included squeegee.

The included adhesive holds the mirror firmly, even on uneven textured surfaces like tile or stone, and removes cleanly (follow the surface preparation instructions carefully).

The Best Fogless Shower Mirror With a Light

Unless you have a very dark shower you are better off with our top pick overall – the LED lights on shower mirrors are disappointing overall and don not provide as much light where you need it to really be useful.

The best one we’ve found is the ToiletTree LED Deluxe shower mirror (buy on Amazon) that has many of the features of our top pick and for a similar price. The mirror surface is the same size, but the large bezels for the lights make it larger overall and it has a horizontal orientation.

The Best Cheap Fogless Shower Mirror

For about half the price of our top choice the HONEYBULL Shower Mirror (buy on Amazon) gives solid performance, with some caveats. The most important note is this mirror requires a perfectly flat mounting surface for the best result with the suction cup mount. It will lose suction even on glossy subway tile if the surface is not flat and clean.

Because the HONEYBULL relies on an anti-fog film coating to remain clear, they recommend you keep it away from water to maximize performance.

The Best Fogless Travel Shower Mirror

Travel shower mirrors need to be compact, lightweight, and unbreakable – the Shave Well Company Fog-Free Travel Mirror (but on Amazon) hits all these points and more.

At 6-in tall by 4-in wide the mirror is large enough for easy shaving at the thickness is just right at 1/8-in. You can hold it in your hand or hang it from the included suction cup.

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