THE term whitewash, now somewhat loosely used, originally applied to a simple mixture of whiting (chalk) and water, without any fixing agent. This mixture has long been employed in ordinary dwelling houses, but for ceilings only, and its chief attractions are cheapness, fineness of texture, whiteness, and the ease with which it may be removed when necessary.
Limewash, which rivals whitewash in popularity, is a simple mixture of either slaked or hydrated lime and water, but this type of wash is not nearly as smooth working, nor as white, as that made from whiting. On the other hand, it is easier to apply, is more hygienic, and can be used for both interior and exterior work. Lime-wash possesses the property of permanently fixing itself to the surface coated. Although this may be an advantage out of doors, it is liable to produce a rough and overloaded surface after repeated applications to indoor work.
The two materials, whitewash and limewash, do not take to each other very well. If limewash is applied over whiting, the colour will dry patchy and the work will probably flake off. If, on the other hand, whiting is applied over lime- wash, the surface seldom dries out free from yellowish stains. The need for testing old surfaces is apparent, and fortunately this may be quickly done by rubbing with a wet cloth. If the costing washes off it is whiting or distemper; if not, and if its surface is of a dead flat, roughish nature, it is limewash.
Whitewashing a Ceiling
This operation is more easily accomplished when the floor space is cleared of furniture. Heavy pieces can be left in the room if protected by dust-sheets, and wallpaper can also be protected by pinning up large sheets of paper. Carpets should be rolled up and removed.
It will not be necessary completely to wash off the old material, as in distempering; a light wash over with clean water (applied by brush) is quite sufficient to remove the surface dust, and if cracks are stopped at the same time with a mixture of plaster of Paris and whiting, the surface can be whitewashed immediately afterwards. It is, in fact, much easier to apply whitewash while the ceiling is still damp from the washing off.
Always commence at the lightest end of a room, applying the white- wash as quickly as possible and working from left to right in a series of narrow (about eighteen inches wide) strips. Keep the whitewash rather thin, and stir every few minutes to prevent settling.
The best results will be obtained by applying a very liberal coating and laying off in a variety of directions. A ceiling cannot be completed without some splashes, but it should be possible to avoid the unsightly mess so often seen. Here are a few hints which cannot fail to produce cleaner results: (I) commence the work with a ‘dry’ brush; (2) do not dip too deeply into the whitewash, two inches is sufficient, followed by lightly tapping the wet bristles against the side of the pail to remove surplus colour; (3) never stand the brush in the whitewash; (4) scrape the bristles on the edge of the bucket whenever the whitewash begins to work its way towards the base of the brush; (5) avoid slapping the ceiling with the side of the brush; and (6) a large brush, with bristles at least four inches in length, is less likely to cause splashes than one with short bristles.
Removal of Whitewash
This job is rarely necessary except when a surface is overloaded or flaking, or has to be papered. In the latter instance the job must be done thoroughly, but if the work is a preliminary to re-whitewashing, it can be carried out entirely by the aid of a distemper brush and frequent changes of water. It will be found that several applications of clean water will speedily remove the old material, and this can be supplemented, in parts, by a broad scraper.
Awkward details such as plaster mouldings, enriched corbels, etc. need careful treatment if the original shape is to be preserved. Such work is more easily and efficiently executed by the aid of a small brush and one or two pieces of wood shaped to fit into quirks and other hollow places . The excessive application of water may soften the plaster and add to the difficulties. It is most unwise to treat enriched plaster mouldings with any form of water paint; a flat oil paint is by far the best material for the job.
Limewash is used in factories, workshops, bakeries, cellars, chicken houses, and other places requiring an antiseptic and cleansing wash. It can be tinted in the same manner as other whitewashes by adding a lime-resisting pigment such as yellow ochre, lime green, Venetian red, lime blue, umber, or black, the dry colour being well mixed in water before combining with the limewash.
When required for outdoor use, its weather resisting properties are greatly improved by the addition of boiled linseed oil, melted tallow or soft soap; one pint of oil or fat is stirred, a little at a time, into a pail full of rather stiff limewash; the mixture is then thinned for use in the usual manner.