What No One Ever Tells You About One of 2024’s Trendiest Wall Treatments

published Mar 13, 2024
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living room with warm textured paint walls, gray sofa, and pale neutral rug/carpet

Thanks to social media, interior design trends rise and spread faster than ever. One trend you’ve likely been seeing across Instagram and TikTok? Limewash paint on walls. But while limewash paint is a current favorite, it’s not new. In fact, this  “trend” has been around for centuries.

“Limewash is one of the oldest ways to add color and texture to walls,” says Mallory Micetich, Angi home expert. “It is a wall finish found a lot in Europe and, due to social media, is something more U.S.-based homeowners are considering.”

That’s not just because of the cool old-world look of limewash. “I find limewash appealing for two reasons,” Micetich says. “It’s environmentally friendlier than traditional indoor and outdoor paints, and they’re meant to get better with time. It’s simple to use, odorless, long-lasting, and versatile.”

If that sounds appealing to you and you’re ready to try limewash paint yourself, then you should cover your basics in order to get the best finish. Micetich, Sourya Venumbaka of Sové Home, and home decor YouTuber Alexandra Gater share how to get professional-looking results — and what no one ever tells you about limewash paint.

What is limewash paint? 

Limewash paint is made from crushed limestone that’s mixed with natural pigments and water; painting it on walls gives surfaces a soft, cloud-like appearance.

The saturation of limewash paint depends on personal preference, but no matter what, it’s inevitable that you’ll be able to spot hand-painted brush strokes once the job is through. 

Credit: Diana Yen

Where will limewash paint work?

DO start with an ideal canvas when working with limewash paint.

“One of the challenges with limewash is that it is really only good for specific surfaces, like plaster, stone, and brick,” Micetich says. “If you don’t have those surfaces within your home, then you might have to hunt to find a limewash product that works with what you have.”

Where should you avoid limewash paint?

DON’T use limewash paints in humid areas without precautions.

Gater notes that applying limewash in rooms that will get a lot of moisture, like kitchens and bathrooms, presents the additional need to seal the application in place.

“But some say that sealants take away from its natural-looking, textured finish,” she adds. “I’ve actually never used a sealant with limewash, so I’ve stayed away from using it in bathrooms and kitchens. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but it just requires a bit more maintenance and research beforehand.”

No matter what, be sure to clean the surfaces and let them dry completely before any work with your limewash paint begins. “Because it’s a thinner and more transparent paint, you don’t want to see any dirt or debris,” Micetich says.

Should you mix limewash paint with water?

DO mix limewash paint with water to get that wispy, light effect that’s a limewash signature.

As for favorite limewash paints of the experts, Gater prefers Pure Original and Portola limewashes, while Venumbaka also recommends Vasari.

DON’T, however, make the mistake of pouring water directly into your limewash.

Too much or too little water will make the limewash look lighter or darker. Once there’s too much water mixed in, you can’t take it out. “Instead, have a separate tray of water beside your limewash paint tray,” Gater suggests. “Dip your brush into water and then paint.”

By separating the water from the limewash, Gater says that you’ll have more control over the finish, accomplishing just the shade you have in mind. 

What kind of paint brush should you use for limewash paint?

DON’T use a roller or regular paint brush for limewash paint.

Limewash is best applied with its own brush, which Micetich describes as being “long-haired” with a wide handle.

You may be tempted to use a roller simply for speed, but this is not a quick process. Every stroke builds the ideal texture and color, so trust that investing in this brush is a wise choice.

DO paint with limewash using a specific X pattern.

The limewash brush is key to getting the right look, but it’s only part of the story. “This brush will help create the ‘X’ pattern you paint on the wall to create the cloudy texture you’re aiming for,” Gater says.

And speaking of that aforementioned “X” technique, Venumbaka has this to add: “Different limewash brush patterns, such as ‘cross-hatching’ or ‘drag down,’ will give you different visual results,” she says. “Look them up and choose the one you prefer.”

How do you use limewash paint?

DON’T take breaks when applying the limewash paint.

Unlike painting with a traditional can of paint, you shouldn’t start and stop the application process once you’ve begun.

In fact, Venumbaka says that you shouldn’t even procrastinate on this project once you’ve got the limewash on hand. “Don’t wait months before opening the paint can,” she says. “I did and the paint had dried and the consistency was off.”

DO finish a full coat of limewash paint in one go.

Limewash will dry in splotches if you do the work haphazardly, so once you start painting, it’s best to finish a full coat in one go.

“When applying limewash, you want to do it in thin coats,” Micetich says. “After you’ve applied a coat, let it dry completely before applying another coat. It generally takes about three to four coats of paint to get the desired look.”

DO add more coats of limewash paint for drama.

As you work, you may notice that the limewash is drying lighter than it appears in the can. (It’s a good idea to do swatches ahead of time, just like regular paint, but sometimes you only get a real feel for a color when you go for it.)

If you like that subtle look, then feel free to stop. But more coats will bring about more drama.

And one more piece of advice during the process: “Wrap your brush tightly between uses so the limewash doesn’t dry, rendering the brush unusable,” Venumbaka says.