Series continued from here.
If you've read Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, then you are familiar with whitewash. I always thought of it as simply old-fashioned homemade paint, until I read Randy James's Why Cows Learn Dutch: and Other Secrets of the Amish Farm.
"The stone walls and wood ceiling are chalky from a thick coat of whitewash that is required by the milk inspector. The whitewash is a limestone based paste that's sprayed or painted on. It helps keep the barn clean, and it is too alkaline for insects to nest or lay eggs in." pg. 20
That last sentence started a research project because I immediately decided that I would whitewash the inside of the new chicken coop rather than paint it. I found lots of information with lots of recipes, but you know me; simplest is best, so I used the recipe from Randy James's book. I call it "Amish Whitewash" because it's what the Amish dairy farmers of Geauga County, Ohio used.
1 gallon water
2 pounds salt
7 pounds hydrated lime.
No preparation instructions were given.
What follows are notes from my research.
Use warm water, dissolve salt. Stir in lime until dissolved. Apply with sprayer or paint brush.
|Consistency is about like lumpy pancake batter, but it thickens over time.|
Safety precautions: The lime is fine so wear a respirator while mixing. I read on one site that it's caustic so I wore gloves. I got it all over me however and had no problem, so the gloves aren't necessary (but do see the notes below on different types of lime).
- This is a wash, not a paint. It won't go on or dry like paint.
- Doesn't stain clothing and washes right out.
- Not waterproof so this recipe is for indoor application only.
- Dries to a chalky finish which will rub off
- Needs to be reapplied every year or two
- Not toxic to animals
- See notes below on different kinds of lime
The salt makes it stick to the surface during application. Some recipes call for the addition of glue or paste to keep it from rubbing off after it dries. I didn't do that this first time but I might in the future.
The solution thickens as you go, and with experimentation I found it best to keep adding water to keep it the original consistency. It goes on thin and watery looking, but whitens up considerably as it dries.
|Bare wood on left, wet whitewash in middle, dried on right|
I gleaned more details from Housewifery: A Manual and Text Book of Practical Housekeeping by Lydia Ray Balderston (1919).
"Whitewash is much used on fences, outhouses, cellars, and chicken coops, to kill bacteria and vermin, to deodorize, and to improve appearance."
"Lime water may be used to rinse milk pans and bottles, and chambers. A 3 percent. solution is known to kill typhoid bacteria and a 20 per cent . solution will disinfect excreta. This requires from one-half to one hour."
It is important to note that there are different kinds of lime. Hydrated lime is not the same as the lime put on gardens or sprinkled on the barn floor.
- Hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) - also called slaked lime, builders lime, masonry lime, pickling lime (food grade). Due to its alkalinity it is no longer recommended for pickle making, but it is used for industrial waste water treatment.
- Agricultural lime (calcium carbonate) - also called barn lime, garden lime, lawn lime. This is the stuff that's used to mark the lines on sports fields.
- Burnt lime (calcium oxide) - also known as quicklime. This is the lime that is caustic. It's common use is industrial: manufacture of pulp, paper, glass, steel, insecticides, and fungicides.
- Dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate) - used as a soil amendment, also fed to goats as a source of calcium.
- Limestone - as a soil amendment to correct pH, supply calcium and possibly magnesium
- Calcitic - contains about 40% calcium and 0.2% magnesium
- Dolomitic - contains about 21% calcium and 11% magnesium
How did it turn out? Not bad, I'd say.
|Two views of the freshly whitewashed chicken coop. I even did the nest|
boxes! Once it dried I used bagged lawn clippings for litter on the floor.
Brightens it up quite a bit don't you think? (Photos of unpainted here). Because it whitens as it dries it was hard to tell if I was applying evenly. It didn't turn out like a good paint job, but hopefully that will improve with practice. I learned to keep it fairly liquidy (like pancake batter); also, that a second coat can be applied once the first is thoroughly dried. Even so, as a non-toxic, no poison method of insect control, I'm well satisfied. I plan to treat the goat shed the same way.
For a more permanent homemade paint, see Eric Sloane's The Seasons of America Past.On pages 145 and 146 are several recipes including one for an outdoor red paint. His collection of old recipes use linseed oil instead of water, which would make them better for exterior use.
For a very interesting article about how whitewash is used in Ireland (including how natural dye plants are used to color it), check out Restoring Mayberry (with thanks to rabidlittlehippy for first sharing the link with me).
- Why Cows Learn Dutch: and Other Secrets of the Amish Farm by Randy James, Kent State University Press, 2005
- Which liming material is best? by Rebecca Lines-Kelly, NSW Dept. of Primary Industries, 2004
- Hydrated Lime Beckart Environmental
- What is Lime? Graymont
- Housewifery: A Manual and Text Book of Practical Housekeeping by Lydia Ray Balderston, Lippincott & Co., 1919
How To Make Amish Whitewash: Make your own whitewash, paint and wood stain is now available as an eBook. It includes What's Up with Whitewash?, All About Lime, Safety Precautions, Basic Whitewash Recipe, How To Make Your Whitewash More Durable, How To Make Your Whitewash More Waterproof, How To Color Your Whitewash, Care And Maintenance Of Whitewash, Glossary, Resources, and A Collection Of Recipes for Whitewash, Homemade Paint, and Homemade Wood Stains. List price $1.99, it is available in epub, mobi (Kindle), pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt, and html formats. Visit Kikobian.com for where to buy.
Next post - "A Barn Door for the Chicken Coop."
Next post - "A Barn Door for the Chicken Coop."