White Brick: Painting vs. Whitewashing

November 10, 2020

White brick is trending! And we here at Old Mill Brick get a lot of questions about painting brick, so we thought we’d break it all down before you grab your coveralls and paint brushes. We’ll walk you through the different options and let you know what our recommendation is.

In this post, we’ll focus mainly on interior applications.

Paint vs. Whitewash


Painting your interior brick will easily give you an opaque, solid color of white. To get this result, you can use a high-quality latex based paint, ensuring you prime/seal the surface first. Paint requires more maintenance than whitewash as it could peel or yellow over time. A latex based paint will not allow your brick to breathe. And as brick is porous it could cause some degradation if moisture gets trapped between the surface. Note this for any brick exposed to high humidity or moisture and don’t paint deteriorated brick for the same reason. If water is a concern, you can use a mineral based paint as it allows for more breathability.


Whitewash is designed to add a thin layer of paint that will tone down the brick color, but not necessarily cover it completely. However, you can use multiple coats of whitewash to get a solid color finish. You can also mix paint with whitewash to get your desired results. Home Depot recommends a 50/50 split in their tutorial on how to whitewash brick for a more traditional transparent whitewash result.

Whitewash penetrates the brick, allows it to breathe and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance to maintain its look. 

What is Limewashing?

Limewash is a form of whitewash. It is made from limestone, minerals and water. It can be used for both interior and exterior projects. Limewash creates more dimensional coverage than whitewash but can be more expensive.

What is German Smear?

German smear is another technique used to mute the color of your brick and is a mortar wash that is 70% mortar and 30% water. German Smear gives your brick a rustic finish; one that is reminiscent of old European countryside cottages and castles. Bob Villa has a great how-to tutorial on how to get this popular look.

Can Old Mill Brick be Painted and What Do You Recommend?

Yes! Our brick can be painted. And we recommend… limewash! It’s our option of choice over paint for overall results and lasting performance. And you have the ability to go full solid white or let some of your brick color shine through.

Our limewash of choice is Romabio Limewash.

Happy Washing!

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