Have you ever seen a wall that looks like stone or suede but is not? Well, chances are that it was painted with limewash. Dating back to ancient Egypt, limewash is considered to be one of the oldest forms of wall paint. Because it is a natural compound made out of limestone, it was accessible and had many functional purposes.
Conventionally used on exterior walls, limewash is popular today because it is a non-toxic, eco-friendly way to add depth and texture to your interior walls. Easy to apply and maintain, here is an 8 step guide on how to paint your walls with limewash.
Because limewash was used as traditional paint, it became less popular with the advent of modern-day chemical-based paints. As people seek more environmentally friendly options that are kid and pet safe, it is no wonder that limewash has made a comeback.
Whether it is an accent wall you are after or a whole room with a subtle earthy feel, limewash is a great option for many reasons.
What Exactly is Limewash?
Limewash is an ancient type of paint, increasing in popularity again, due to its non-toxic, eco-friendly, and potential odor-absorbing qualities. Limewash is made of limestone that is crushed, burned, and slaked with water to turn it into a putty texture.
Once the limestone has been made into a putty, it is then left to mature. When it has matured, the putty is then mixed with water and ready to paint with, not requiring any more effort than regular paint. Limewash is available in either a powder format that you need to mix with water to form a paint-like consistency or it can come pre-mixed as putty but still requires the addition of water to thin it out.
Unlike regular chemical-based paint that sits on the surface of the area painted, limewash requires porous surfaces (like brick or walls primed with an acrylic primer) to hold on to for the full effect. Limewash is a forgiving material to paint with because if you scratch or scuff the surface that you have painted, you can just reapply the limewash to that one spot to restore its earthy-textured look. Based on the brush used, you can achieve different textured effects on your walls.
What Effect Does Limewash Have?
Historically, limewash could be colored with other organic materials and was an aesthetic way to decorate walls but as with most ancient commodities, limewash also had many functional purposes. Because limewash is alkaline, it has anti-bacterial properties, and it was often used to paint farms to help stave off diseases.
In England, it was thought that limestone fused with the stone of buildings and acted as a protectant against weathering and fire damage. While these forms of limewash grew outdated, it is not uncommon to find ‘limed’ wood furniture to this date and to encounter it in the most Instagram-worthy destinations (think the Frescos of Italy or the dreamy walls of French country-side homes).
Limewash has a suede or stone-like effect adding depth to any area you are trying to paint. It typically comes in white or neutral earthy tones so it is easy to match should you choose to paint with limewash on all the walls of a room or just one accent wall. It can also make for a chic or rustic photo background depending on how it is styled.
The base color of limewash is white but when alkali-resistant natural colorants are added, you can find it in other tones such as beige, taupe, browns, and grays. It has a soft-chalky texture that adds to the visual suede look. Aside from the visual effects, limewash has many functional benefits preferred by homeowners and interior decorators today.
The Benefits of Limewash Over Chemical-Based Paints
In recent years, chemical paints have become known as a top environmental hazard. This is where naturally derived paints like limestone are favorable. Being made of rock, limewash is non-toxic, chemical-solvent-free, and is said to be hypoallergenic with its alkaline pH making it a difficult host for micro-organisms.
Limewash can be an easier material to work with as it is easy to retouch and repair any surface scratches once painted only needing restoration in the damaged area whereas, chemical paints can require a redo of the whole surface for an even finish upon repair. Limewash can also be used to repair fine cracks in porous surfaces.
Now that you know a little bit about limewash, here is what you will need before you start painting with it.
Items You Will Need to Paint Your Wall with Limewash
- Painter’s tape
- Tarp or Drop Cloth
- Acrylic primer
- Limewash paint (see best options below)
- Block brush
Why the Brush Matters
The type of block brush you choose can create variable textures. While a block brush with coarse bristles will create a rougher-looking stone-like texture, softer, finer bristles will create a smoother suede-like texture.
8 Steps to Painting Your Walls with Limewash
- Prep your walls by repairing any damages, filling holes, and allowing them to set.
- Prepare your room with painter’s tape and a drop cloth to protect surfaces not to be painted with limewash.
- Apply acrylic primer to walls to create a porous surface for limewash to bond with.
- Add water to your limewash powder or putty until you have a slightly thick paint-like consistency.
- Using your block brush, start painting the wall with short brush strokes in different directions (up, down, diagonal, side-to-side) for a natural textured finish, spreading the paint on your brush as far as it will go.
- Let the first coat dry (it should take a couple of hours). Note, that in humid climates or during rainy weather, the time to dry between coats may increase.
- After the first coat is completely dry, apply a second coat using the same method with random brush strokes. *
- Let the second coat fully dry and apply a third coat if you would like a darker color tone.
*Please note that limewash goes on much darker than it dries however, a deeper color tone can be achieved with more coats typically requiring a minimum of two or three and fully allowing the limewash to dry between each coat.
For an easy video tutorial watch this great video on Youtube below by Josh Rivera:
Best Limewashes You Can Use on Your Walls
1. Romabio Classic Limewash
Romabio Classic limewash is compatible with porous indoor and outdoor surfaces. Crafted in Italy from Dolomite limestone, this paint is easy to apply and distress for your desired textured finish. It is a very popular option when choosing to limewash your walls.
2. Carrera Lime Plaster by Vasari
A single bag of Carrera lime and marble plaster makes five gallons of paint when mixed with water, more than enough to do the walls in one room. This limewash can tolerate high humidity areas such as showers containing the conventional limewash benefits of being anti-microbial and also low maintenance and durable. Choose your bedroom or your bathroom, it can handle it all!
3. FirmoLux Marmorino Berlina Authentic Venetian Plaster
Designed for walls and ceilings this Firmolux Marmorino Berlina plaster is made from Dolomite limestone. This plaster ages well, absorbs excess moisture from the air, and can act as a slight sound barrier between rooms. It creates a beautiful effect on the wall and could be a great choice for your interior walls.
Is limewash environmentally friendly?
Limewash is environmentally friendly containing zero VOCs and chemical solvents. This earth-derived paint is alkaline making it anti-microbial and it is also humidity absorbing, minimizing allergens and the presence of harmful micro-organisms, thus improving air quality.
Is limewash cheaper than paint?
Because limewash is available as a powder or putty form that you can mix with water, it is a much cheaper option than regular paint along with its ability to cover a greater surface area from one bucket comparatively.
Is limewash waterproof?
Limewash is waterproof within reason and its porous quality allows it to absorb moisture making it suitable in high humidity areas like bathrooms and showers. Ensure each coat is allowed to fully dry before applying the next to allow it to fully set, maximizing its features.
Can you paint over limewash?
Because of limewash’s natural high alkaline quality, it can eat away and break down traditional paint. If you wish to paint over limewash with regular paint, you need to use a neutralizing product first to seal it off such as an alkali-resistant primer or sealer. You can however apply more limewash to an already limewashed wall.
Limewash has many benefits from its non-toxic nature, durability, and protectant qualities. The ease with which it can be applied is a bonus and on top of the functional qualities, it provides an appealing and ambient finish to any room.
Jamie is the Founder of My Home Dwelling. He is a homeowner and enjoys sharing his homeowner tips with others. He has real estate experience working as a new home construction Realtor. Jamie has worked on numerous residential construction sites helping with interior and exterior renovations. He loves refinishing furniture, DIY home projects, and sharing his knowledge online.