What Is Limewash Paint and Where Should You Use It?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated January 27, 2022
A purple sofa in a living room with white painted exposed brick wall
Photo: ExperienceInteriors / E+ / Getty Images


  • Limewash is an age-old paint that can be applied to interior and exterior surfaces.

  • Lime putty costs around $25 to $100, but it’s more affordable to mix it yourself.

  • Hard, nonporous surfaces are unsuitable for limewash, so opt for porous surfaces like brick.

  • You may need to prime your surface before applying limewash.

  • You can either DIY a limewash paint project or hire a pro.

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If you’ve ever walked into a home with a stunning, textured accent wall, you’ve probably basked in the warmth and depth that comes with a limewash paint job. While it might seem like someone took the time to laboriously apply a skilled hand, limewash is actually a simple paint that anyone can apply to their home to give it a warm, earthy feel. Here’s the 411 on everything limewash paint.

What Is Limewash Paint?

Limewash paint, also called whitewash, is one of the oldest paints ever used in homes. From the ancient pharaohs of Egypt to the Roman times, to traditional Belgium homes, and even back to some of the first plantations in the United States, limewash paint has appeared time and time again as a simple way to paint homes. 

Limewash has withstood the test of time due to all the benefits that come with the paint. A few perks to choosing limewash are that it’s:

  • Fire-resistant and an effective fire retardant

  • An antiseptic

  • An antifungal

  • A mosquito and bug repellant

  • Free of solvents

  • Hypoallergenic

  • Simple to use

  • Odorless

  • Long-lasting

  • Bright and decorative

  • And versatile 

True limewash is made of only a few ingredients: lime and water, so it’s an environmentally friendly paint choice. With these base ingredients, limewash is off-white in color. The paint comes either already mixed as wet lime putty, or you can mix it yourself by combining dry, hydrated lime and water. 

Some limewash paints contain pigments so that you can customize your paint job. Popular colors that enhance bricks include shades of brown and grey, though you can find limewash in any color. Limewash is commonly used on exposed brick walls, where the limewash has a way of bringing out the textures of the porous bricks beneath.

How Is Limewash Different from Regular Paint?

Limewash is far simpler than conventional paint; it contains very few ingredients compared to traditional paints whose ingredients list can look like a long paragraph in a hard-to-read font. Limewash paint has a grainy texture and must be applied to porous, toothy surfaces that won’t react to the lime, which has a very high pH level. It’s also much thinner than paint, resembling whole milk more than typical paint. 

Your best exterior paint completely coats the surface layer of bricks and other porous materials. Limewash, however, doesn’t dry and stick to the surface it’s applied to; instead, it seeps into the surface, leaving a matte, chalky texture once dry. This absorption helps to create the perfect textured wall or element in your interior design.

Cost of Limewash Paint

Limewash costs anywhere from $25 to $100 per gallon, which is similar to your standard paint. However, if you mix it yourself, you can save on costs. Lime itself only costs around $5 to $15 for a 50-pound bag. Since all you need to do is add water, you can really save money and spend even less on the paint. 

Hiring a pro to paint the exterior of your home using limewash adds more to your project. The average cost to hire a professional painter is between $2 to $6 per square foot, and the average cost to paint a brick house is $7,000. Because painting with limewash is a niche that requires a unique set of experiences, it might be more costly to hire a local pro.

Where to Use (and Where to Avoid Using) Limewash Paint

A woman painting with a brush her living room
Photo: AleksandarNakic / E+ / Getty Images

For limewash paint to successfully stick to the surface you’re painting, you need to make sure that the surface is both chemically and mechanically compatible with the lime. 

Incompatible surfaces will have an adverse reaction when lime is applied, while other incompatible surfaces aren’t porose or textured enough for the paint to stick. So, you’ll want to make sure that you choose a suitable surface before you start applying globs of limewash around your home. 

Let’s take a look at which surfaces to use and which surfaces to avoid so that you don’t end up painting a surface that reacts negatively to the limewash. 

Best Surfaces for Limewash Paint

The surface you choose can make or break your limewash project. Ideal surfaces for your limewash paint project include:

  • Lime

  • Lime-based plaster and renders on brick buildings

  • Porous and toothy cement-based mortars

  • Cement-based renders

  • Support beams that have been limewashed before

  • Brick, stone, cement, and terra cotta surfaces

Surfaces to Avoid Using Limewash Paint

You should avoid some surfaces when you’re considering where to paint with limewash. The following surfaces either react with limestone and breakdown, fail to bond with the surface, or fail to be absorbed if the surface is nonporous:

  • Drywall

  • Hard renders and plasters

  • Surfaces containing gypsum

  • Anything that has already been painted or sealed

  • Glass or other smooth surfaces that lack porosity

  • Wood

  • Any hard, nonporous surface 

How to Apply Limewash

You don’t need to be Monet or Michelangelo to have a beautiful accent wall or limewash finish; limewash is fairly straightforward to apply. 

Here are five steps to successfully apply limewash to your home:

1. Choose Your Limewash

You can buy limewash at any major home improvement store. If you’re hoping for a particular color added to the limewash, you may need to look online for companies that specialize in limewash products.

2. Prepare the Paint

If you chose a wet lime putty, then your limewash is already ready to go. If you’ve chosen dry lime powder, then you’ll need to mix the lime with water and slowly dilute the mixture until it’s creamy in texture. You might also need to purchase your own pigments if you want to add color to the limewash.

3. Prepare Your Surface

Your surface should be clean, and the surrounding areas should be covered to protect them from getting splashed with paint.

Some surfaces, like drywall, require a primer before you can paint with limewash. If your limewash doesn’t already contain a primer, apply a primer in two to three layers and wait for it to dry before you start to paint with the limewash. 

If your limewash paint has primer in it already, or you’re using a porous surface like brick or plaster, then you can skip this step. 

4. Apply the Limewash

With all of these steps out of the way, it’s finally time to apply the limewash! Always apply limewash in thin coats with a paintbrush. Avoid using a roller, as the paint will not get distributed properly. Make sure the paintbrush is a long-haired masonry one, which is firm in texture. You want a flat brush that will create strokes that have a feathery appearance.

Stir the limewash thoroughly before and throughout the application process, making sure the surface is absorbing the paint as you go along. Allow the paint to dry fully before applying another coat. You might need to apply three to four coats for a nice finish.

5. Maintaining Limewashed Walls

Once you’ve completed your paint job, avoid cleaning limewash-painted surfaces. The primary way to maintain limewashed walls is to simply touch them up by re-painting the limewash with a diluted limewash coat.

DIY Limewash Paint Vs Hiring a Pro 

Limewash paint is a great DIY option for your avid do-it-yourselfer. If you’re on a tight budget and want to save on your project, mix the lime and water at home and follow the steps above. For those who have a large, exterior paint job on hand, it may be more convenient to hire an exterior painter near you to get the job done fast.

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