I tried the TikTok limewash paint hack that costs less than $15 – this is what you need to know before you do too

Get the modern rustic look of limewash thanks to this DIY hack that mixes regular paint with water

A modern rustic style room with a chaise longue and limewash walls
(Image credit: Beth Davis)

Limewash walls have been all over my Instagram feed this year, and for good reason. The mottled paint finish produces a beautifully rustic look while somehow still looking fresh and modern so I've been keen to test out the trend myself for some time. 

That was, until I found out about how this paint idea is applied. This ancient painting method uses a century-old technique that involves larger strokes and a wide, long-haired brush to achieve that distinctive textured and cloud-like effect. The paint, traditionally made of crushed limestone and water to form a paste, is also more difficult to come by than your regular emulsion, with limited colors on offer and a higher price tag. As a firm fan of the roller and lacking self-confidence in my artisanal brush stroke abilities, I was put off trying limewash walls in my own home, admiring them from afar instead. 

So, you can understand my delight when I came across a TikTok tutorial for DIY limewash effect walls that used regular water-based paint and claimed to cost less than $15! With my new bout of optimism, I decided to take to my bedroom walls to try out the trend. This is what I learned in the process. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She's committed to helping readers make the best choices in their homes through sharing practical tips and guides that make home renovation simple. For this piece, she shares her experience of trying out TikTok's DIY limewash paint hack for authentic looking walls.

How to achieve DIY limewash effect walls 

a kitchen with a limewash wall and extractor

(Image credit: Margaret de Lange c/o Pure & Original)

Real limewash paint is known for its characteristic, chalky appearance. It penetrates the surface of your wall, creating a mottled matte appearance with variegated colors (resembling the look of a plastered wall). This DIY version has the same effect, but involves thinning paint by mixing it with water, then applying it to the wall in circular motions using a cloth instead of a brush. 

As with any paint job, you should start by preparing your walls. While this step isn't as vital as it would be if you were going for a smooth application with a matte, satin or eggshell paint finish, you should still sand your walls and apply a primer before you try this limewash paint hack. This will allow you to have a blank canvas to emphasize the mottled color effect. It's a good idea to do this even if you have white walls as it will help your paint job to last longer. 

Buying your paint

a kitchen with a textured limewash wall


(Image credit: Pure & Original )

The next step to achieving the look is buying your paint. Since traditional limewashing results in an off-white in color, even modern versions that have pigment added tend to stick to more neutral earthy tones since these are the best way to bring out the nuanced shades that add depth to your wall.

The TikTok tutorial by @chrystalspalace (opens in new tab) mixes five or six different shades to create a more complex color. Now I know what you're thinking, buying six tins of paint won't come cheap! Well, this is where tester pots become your best friend. I went down to my local hardware store and purchased five paint samples for a few dollars each (I went for a selection of warm taupe tones).

The perfect paint consistency

a limewash living room with organic shape niches and furniture

(Image credit: Kristian van der Beek. Furniture design: Tim Neve)

Now, you'll need to mix your paint with water. You could use a paint mixing tray, like this one from Amazon (opens in new tab), or an old washing up bowl will do the trick if you have one (I used the latter!). I found that it's best to put the water in first to stop your paint from sticking to the bowl. 

I used around one part paint to three parts water. The measurements don't have to be exact as you can add more water or paint as needed, plus the consistency of the paint brand you're using will factor into this. About 30% paint to 70% water is a good ratio to aim for - you're looking for a thin, watery consistency. After adding the water, I slowly tipped small amounts of the sample paint in, stirring as I went. 

Applying the paint

a bathroom limewashed to look like tadelakt

(Image credit: Pure & Original)

Finally, apply the watered-down paint to your wall using a lint-free cloth or an old rag. I found that these tack cloths from Amazon (opens in new tab) worked really well, since they're designed for professional woodwork and painting. 

Dip the cloth into the thinned paint solution and rub it onto your wall in circular motions, blending outwards to achieve the marbled look. Although I'm usually a perfectionist, I really embraced the imperfect appearance of this limewash effect. Don't worry if you make a 'mistake', simply work around it, blend it into the rest of the wall and trust the process!

Make sure you distribute the paint evenly to ensure the color remains consistent, though. I found the best technique was to keep moving across the wall until the cloth had no paint left on it. This results in the perfect modern rustic look.

If the color looks too light or thin for your liking, don't worry. It's a good idea to do at least two or three coats to achieve a more dimensional look (just make sure you use the paint sparingly so that you don't end up with a block color wall). It's certainly a time-consuming process that demands patience, but the results are so worth it. 

All in all, the limewash accent wall in my bedroom took around two hours and cost about $15, making it the perfect weekend project for you to try. Not only is it a far cheaper alternative to genuine limewash, but it's less commitment, too; when you're tired of it, you can simply paint over it. I'll certainly be carrying this paint hack with me across every home I own!

@chrystalspalace (opens in new tab)

♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim (opens in new tab)