Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Milk Paint Recipes & Suppliers

Why did we ever stop using it? Milk paint was the most long lasting and highly regarded form of paint for thousands of years until the industrial revolution brought about the mass manufacturing of goods. The paint can was invented, milk paint would have spoiled in the can, more chems & metals were added to paint each decade, and the rest is a history that now leads most people like zombies to the unhealthy paint aisle in Home Depot. Over 50 years of advertising from these companies & suppliers has people believing that toxic paint mixed with mildewcides, ammonia, metals (at one time lead), and formaldehyde is somehow superior to the long lasting qualities of how paint was originally made - safe and 100% natural. In reality chemical based VOC paints are of far less quality because of the serious health hazards involved with out gassing - these companies are ripping us off by trying to can their poison and save face by telling us these additives are making a better product for our homes, when it's only better for their bank accounts. Read more about how toxic VOC containing products in our homes effects our health & indoor air quality on the EPA's website HERE.
Luckily you can still buy completely non toxic milk paints or even make your own! This is probably the healthiest most organic choice of paint out there... if you know of something better (pretty) please share info about it in the comments section. :)

Here is list of DIY Milk Paint Recipes:
Milk Paint Recipe on Appropedia - One of the best tutorials!
Fabric Milk Paint Instructions at Helium
Powdered Tempera Milk Paint Recipe at
Milk Paint Supplies at
Milk Paint Recipes and Pigments at

Here are Milk Paint Suppliers Who've Made It For You:
Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. (see photo above)
The Real Milk Paint Company
Happy Painting!


Mokihana and Pete said...

We have used milk paint on the outside of our tiny mobile home called VARDOFORTWO. The paint is great, but you need to be aware of the limitations or the need for maintaining a good seal on the exterior when you use milk paint. We chose milk paint from Homestead House in Ontario, CA because they have used it on the outside with beeswax to seal. That's what we've done.

Milk Paint needs to be dry and then sealed to keep it from spotting. Beeswax, hemp oil, or a clear sealant from folks like AMF are options to seal. We're right now deciding whether the lingering milk smell will disappear after the weather warms up.

I agree that the safety and no voc features of this ancient paint were the reasons we went with it. We're still learning about it ... hoping to live within our tiny home this spring.

LOL, Mokihana

The Oko Box said...

Hey Mokihana!
Thanks for sharing your experience. I read on one of the websites it did not work well on exteriors, except some of the DIY recipes said it could be put outside i think if it was mixed with borax or something else extra.
How long has yours smelled like milk? Besides it's limitations and the milky smell did it give you any type of MCS reaction? And did you use pigments in it too?
To have completely natural paint with absolutely no VOC's seems totally worth working with it's natural limitations....
anything else you learned that you want to share would be appreciated!!!
Thanks xoxo

Liberty said...

hi Leslie,

thank you for sharing about milk paint!
I really loved having a paint that I could make at home out of simple ingredients and I think it's great that you are letting people know about it!

I have done some do it yourself milk paint recipes using cottage cheese and borax in the past.

They do smell like milk but it did go away for me.

Some important things in my experience:

1. milk paint is NOT water safe. As Mokihana mentioned, it needs to be sealed. i have first hand experience that the borax recipe is not water proof or even water resistant.
It is also not entirely wear-and-tear resistant - eg a wooden chair I painted with it has the milk paint wearing off where my arms go. I hadn't sealed it however.

2. borax and lye both have precautions that need to be taken if using. (including that the finished product can irritate skin when applying so I used gloves)

3. unless extremely diluted, I found the borax recipe shrinks - this means if there is any finish under it, it will pull it into a 'crackle'. that's fine if it's the look one wants but otherwise can be a disaster (oops can you guess I found this out the hard way?! LOL)
Even if there's nothing underneath, this shrinkage means that one definitely needs more than one coat and should wait until the first coat has cured somewhat (I'd say at least 24 hrs) before adding the next coat.

4. for those with MCS doing a home made recipe, when the borax is working and making the paint active, there are fumes that I personally reacted to. Don't know if that's true for the lye recipes as I haven't tried that yet

All in all,I really like milk paint.

Next time I'll look into getting dry curd cottage cheese so I don't have to go through all the rinsing and straining.

Another neat note is that this recipe - when made thick, can be used as a pretty powerful glue!

p.s. I didn't use actual pigments but one could try things natural like turmeric. That would be a neat experiment!

The Oko Box said...

Hey Liberty!
Thanks for the awesome tips. I have heard other people with Chem sensitivities say they sometimes react to borax too. It's good to know about the smell going away and the staining issues. I wonder if the staining could be used to one's advantage too, like possibly creating shadow art with water stains before sealing it in the oil or wax? I have to say, I rather smell milk then VOC's !!!

Liberty said...

hi Lelie,

oops - I realise I wasn't clear about 'water safe'. It doesn't stain - it simply mixes in with the water and then comes off if anything rubs it! Or, if it's on a vertical surface and it gets wet, it will mix with the water and slide down. it depends just how wet it gets. slightly damp may be okay as long as nothing rubs or touches it until it has re-cured.

I find borax very useful for certain cleaning projects around the house and I find I'm okay with it as long as I
a) don't breathe any in
b) don't get it on my skin (or wash it off immediately if I do)

The Oko Box said...

I just ordered some Barn Red SafePaint from the old fashioned milk paint company ... will keep ya pposted what my experience is with it. The customer service was awesome and personal - and I am looking forward to having paint that doesnt outgas anything sick into the house. :)

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Anonymous said...

Miss Mustard Seed has recently launched her very own brand of Milk Paint in the US. I am very excited to announce that I will be the UK dealer. My website is in the process of being updated but please have a look at the link to Miss Mustard Seed on my site for more details. Debbie

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