My mama, a co-founder and member of our family cooperative, everydaygoodlife raises nubian dairy goats on her certified organic family farm. When we were experiencing warm weather right after Christmas we did some routine maintenance around her farm. Enjoy the read and recipe from Robin @riverblufffarm

Limewash | Whitewash

My love for limewash and old practices began early on as a girl listening to my grandmother’s stories about life on the Montana prairie poised on the western edge of the Badlands. My Dad’s French-Canadian family migrated to Montana on the Free Homestead Act of 1862 and staked a claim they would not be able to prove up. Even though I grew up in southern California, I always felt a romantic connection to the homestead life. 

My family moved to the Ozark mountains when I was a teenager and later I settled with my own young family on a farm in the Ozark Highlands on the bluffs of the Bourbeuse River.  At last, I found a bit of a homesteader’s life that was challenging, but right. I learned quickly that there’s never enough money to fix a dilapidated old 1890s farmhouse and outbuildings without some nod to the way farmers used to do things.  Whitewash is considered a poor man’s paint; however, this ancient and rich traditional method is full of wisdom and respect for our environment.

I embraced the limewash as an extremely cheap way to preserve and brighten the old wood in our sheds and fences - a few dollars versus a few hundred dollars in name-brand outdoor oil based paint. And this cheap alternative taught me more than saving some pennies.  It taught me to look closely at accepted modern practices of using petrochemical products and our environment and even animal health. There are amazing benefits to using limewash! 

  • Free of solvents

  • High pH level means microorganisms can’t survive; bacteria resistant

  • Breathable, no condensation and mold

  • Naturally controls odors

  • Preserves wood by soaking into the grain

  • Deters flies (and goats do not like to chew on a limed surface - Big Win)

  • Easy clean up with soap and water and does not stain/ruin your clothes

  • Last, but not least, a 50# bag of lime recently cost $10.00 and can make 15-20 gallons of “paint” for 50 cents a gallon. I like a thicker consistency, so my preference costs $00.67/gal

If you like to cook with an easy, don’t measure precisely recipe, you will love making your own limewash. There are no exact ratios; it’s more like making a pancake batter and all about the consistency.  The practice of limewashing is so easy, it’s hard to make a mistake you can’t live with. The limewash I made to paint the interior of our barn included salt and it worked great, but since then I have omitted the salt and make a lime putty and then add the water to the consistency I want.  The salt is supposed to improve the calcification performance, but I can’t say I have found a difference. 

Riverbluff Farm’s Limewash Recipe

Hydrated lime (not agriculture, garden lime - which looks more gray) Feed stores, home improvement centers or hardware stores sell hydrated lime. I’ve only found it in large 50# sacks, but I buy mine from the feed store and I want a large sack.


Before you start, there are some precautions to note:  Even though limewash is non-toxic and safe for animals, in the ‘making’ stage it can be caustic. When mixing, I recommend gloves and protective eyewear.  Some people use a paper mask to minimize any lime dust inhalation.  I’ll be honest, I’ve never used a dust mask, usually can’t find my gloves and just pull down my reading glasses if Im splashing the stuff.  I would prefer to find my gloves because the mixture sucks the moisture from my skin, but I’ve never had burns or rashes. It will sting if you splash some in your eyes, so be careful!

Okay, now you’re ready.  You will need a large bucket - I use a 5 gallon plastic feed bucket and a thick, cheap brush. Rollers do not work.

Water goes first to reduce the risk of billowing lime dust when water is poured over dry lime.

 Make a putty/paste with 50% water and 50% lime.  If you want to start small, use a 1lb can of water and stir in a 1lb can of lime, adding and stirring in more water if it is not holding together to make a paste consistency

Once you have made your putty, you stir in as much water as needed for the consistency you want.  Add water slowly and keep stirring.

Most recipes call for the consistency of whole milk, which you may think is too thin.  If you plan on more applications and want a really nice, smooth and even finish, use the thinner milk consistency. I use a mixture that is more the consistency of thick cream.  I only use one application in the sheds and barn and I like the look if it cracks a little or is not perfectly smooth and even.

That’s it.  I just slap it on going with the grain of the wood.

I have had so much fun brightening up the maternity ward of the goat shed and sharing with all of you!  I had left over wash and even though I’ve read that limewash won’t work on dry wall, I might give it a shot.  I’ll keep you posted… follow me on Instagram @riverblufffarm

Riverbluff Farm Barn and vintage vignette. Limewash in background was applied 6 years ago.

Riverbluff Farm Barn and vintage vignette. Limewash in background was applied 6 years ago.

The girls and goats go hand in hand.  Best help a Nana could ask for.

The girls and goats go hand in hand. Best help a Nana could ask for.