500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Whitewashing in the truest sense


Most people are aware of the quantity of man-made chemicals we now carry in our bodies – with all sorts of nasties even being present in breast milk. Fire retardants are particularly vile, and, as with most modern day decisions, ‘you pays your money and you takes your choice’. Fire retardant on pillows: you are less likely to set fire to your head, and more likely to get cancer.

Whitewash is essentially a mix of calcium hydroxide, chalk and water. I can buy it ready made for 165kc for 15kg – so it’s much, much cheaper than paint. It appeals to me for the same reasons we’re experimenting with Shellac. Once I’ve got the basic repair and decoration finished I plan to experiment with pigments added to the whitewash – though I will certainly not be using pig’s blood as they did to produce ‘Suffolk Pink’ in the old days. I was thinking more along the lines of leaves and berries for a Dulux style hint of colour.

I’ve been painting with the whitewash for a few days now. If you get it on your skin it’s incredibly drying – it’s important to wash it off quickly or your hands will become dry and cracked (rescued only by the Body Shop’s Hemp hand cream).  I’ve been using a domestic whisk to mix the paint – which settles over time into a watery layer over the heavy, cream cheese consistency, lime. Once mixed together thoroughly whitewash should have the appearance of yoghurt.

A few days ago I used paint which hadn’t been mixed properly thinking that it might save me time on additional layers – it went on well, however when I came back to it today I found that it had cracked into small squares and was loose or peeling off the walls on about half of the places I’d painted. My only excuse was I was rather unwell with a horrible cold, but it was a bad job. Mike said it could have been the paint itself, but I know that I tried something different and it’s worked well in the other rooms. Lesson learned. I then had to sweep down the walls again, vacuum up the mess and start again. The brilliant white emulsion is faster and doesn’t rub off on other things (like a paint made of chalk does), but I’m far more concerned with our health and the health of the house – why add VOCs to your home if you don’t have to?

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