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Lime paint: advantages and disadvantages of ecological wall paint

Before the invention of synthetic resin emulsion paint, lime paint was the most common wall paint. Today, the ecological color is particularly popular with building owners who want to create a natural and healthy indoor climate and prefer natural colors. In addition to many advantages, the historical color variety also has some disadvantages. We have put together the pros and cons for you.

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What is lime paint?

Lime paint traditionally consists of slaked lime (also called sump lime) and water. The natural color has a long tradition. Long before emulsion paint was invented, people had whitewashed their houses with lime to protect them from wind and weather. The historical paintwork has been making a comeback for several years now. The reason: Lime paint is highly permeable and has a moisture-regulating effect indoors. Since it also has a high pH value, it has a germicidal effect and is well suited for rooms whose walls are prone to mold formation.

The application has also become easier. Instead of mixing yourself, you can now buy ready-to-use lime paints in a wide range of colors. These often contain additional binders and mineral pigments. This increases the otherwise rather poor coverage and abrasion resistance of lime paints. Lime casein paint contains, for example, oil or quark. If you buy a finished product, be sure to pay attention to the ingredients. It also depends on how the paint is applied and on which surfaces you can use it.

What are the advantages of lime paint?

The natural color with a long tradition has the following advantages:

Easy to paint over

An already whitewashed wall can be painted over with lime paint as often as you like. Even if a lime casein paint was used. The opacity increases with each coat, so that one or two coats are enough to paint over it.

Natural look

Fans of natural colors choose lime colors precisely because of the special look. You know that a house painted with lime turns a little darker in wet weather and the color appears a bit transparent. If the exterior paint dries, it will shine in bright white again. Walls painted with lime paint often appear uneven, streaky or cloudy. And that is exactly what makes it so charming. Lime has a completely different effect than emulsion paints, both inside and outside. Whether you like the natural touch is a matter of taste.

If your paintbrush or brush is dipped in water before dipping into the paint, the paint will be thinned even more and the look will appear washed out. This technique is called "Al Fresco". If you want to consciously avoid approaches, Nadine Schrader from the natural paint manufacturer Auro recommends "working wet on wet. You always brush a little bit into the already painted, still damp surface".

Growing range of natural shades

White is the traditional color for lime paints. Other colors are possible by adding pigments. The color palette is rather manageable. Very strong colors cannot be mixed. Make sure that the pigments are suitable for lime paints. Lime paints cannot be colored with tinting paints from the hardware store.

The fastest way is to buy ready-to-use lime paints. Enriched with mineral pigments and binders, these finished products also have a higher opacity.

Environmentally friendly and healthy

Lime paint consists of slaked lime and natural pigments. This makes the color - like other natural colors - ecological and sustainable. All components are biodegradable. Lime paint is also breathable and resistant to mold and bacteria. It is therefore particularly suitable for bathrooms, kitchens and all walls that are prone to mold formation. Lime paint ensures a healthy living environment.

Good for allergy sufferers: preservatives are not necessary due to their germicidal effect.

What are the disadvantages of lime paint?

There are reasons why lime paint was almost forgotten until some time ago. These are the disadvantages of lime paint:

Many coats of paint necessary

In order to obtain a relatively even surface, lime paint is traditionally heavily diluted and processed in several jobs. Often four to five coats of paint are necessary. Only then are coverage and durability satisfactory. This may still be possible for a single room. But if you want to whitewash your whole house from the outside, you can plan a few weeks vacation or better hire a professional. Because each layer has to dry off first. This is the only way for the paint to set completely and you can assess how high the opacity is after each new layer. If the surface is very absorbent, a primer will help.

By the way: Lime paint is applied with a ceiling brush (lime brush). The paint is too fluid for a paint roller.

Temperature susceptibility

Lime must not be applied to exterior paints in direct sunlight. It then dries too quickly and does not have enough time to set completely. Temperatures that are too low are also unfavorable during the setting time. No wonder that the lime paint - despite many advantages - had almost completely disappeared from commercial construction. The age-old paintwork has only been back in vogue with environmentally conscious builders in the past few years. The number of suppliers of lime paints is growing all the time.

Lime coatings do not adhere well to other layers of paint

Painting over lime with a new layer of lime paint is no problem. The situation is different with walls that have been painted or wallpapered with oil, synthetic or natural resin paints. The lime dissolves the old paint layer, the substrate is not stable. The result: the lime paint is peeling off. If it is still your choice, you have to prepare the underground accordingly.

The reverse is also true. If you want to paint over a whitewashed wall with emulsion paint, the old paint must be completely removed (high-pressure cleaner). Then you prepare the wall with a deep primer.

Mineral substrates are best for painting with lime paints. "The color is also mineral," explains Nadine Schrader, color expert at the natural paint manufacturer Auro. So you work "in System2". Substrates such as plaster, concrete, sand-lime brick are ideal.

Mold spots and efflorescence

Lime paints and lime plasters are very sensitive to discoloration. Contact with iron leads to mold stains. On surfaces containing gypsum, there is efflorescence or sulfur corrosion (lime becomes gypsum), especially near the ground and when there is high humidity.

Low abrasion resistance

If you run your hand over a whitewashed wall, a thin layer of powder often remains on the skin. Unlike emulsion paints, lime paints do not have perfect abrasion resistance. So you have to ask yourself beforehand how important this point is to you. If you will never or rarely touch the whitewashed walls anyway, that doesn't have to be a major disadvantage. If you lean against a wall in certain places while standing or sitting, lime may not be a good idea there.

High-quality lime paints have better rub-off properties. So be sure to get advice in the building materials trade.

Protective equipment necessary

Lime paint has a very high pH value. What is good against mold can damage your skin and eyes. Nadine Schrader recommends wearing protective goggles when painting alkaline paints. "And also protective gloves for sensitive hands."


If you manage your lime paint yourself, the costs are manageable. Ready-to-use paints that have already been enriched with binders and pigments are more expensive. Depending on the manufacturer, the colors can get really expensive. The range extends from 2 euros to 50 euros per liter. How expensive the paint is ultimately also depends on the technology and the desired coverage.

For which rooms is lime paint suitable?

Lime colors are suitable for the whole house. Both inside and outside painting. They are particularly suitable for rooms where moisture occurs, says Nadine Schrader from Auro. If the walls in the bathroom, kitchen or outside are damp, the color tone can change or the areas appear slightly transparent. This is typical for a lime paint. Once the wall has dried again, the original color returns.

Conclusion on lime paint

Lime paints have a moisture-regulating and antibacterial effect. They are suitable for all rooms and as a natural facade coating. Ready-to-use mixtures make it easy for DIY enthusiasts to try a natural color. Unfortunately, lime paint does not go well with paints that contain solvents. If an old coat of paint has to be removed first, the whole thing will be very time-consuming.

In order to be able to correctly assess the uneven, natural look of a lime paint, you should take a look at examples in person. Some providers also send original color cards or sample bundles.

You are not yet convinced of lime paint, but want a natural color? Then take a closer look at the alternatives to lime paint: Here you can read everything about silicate paint, this article is about clay paints.