The Casein Connection: Milk Paint Goes Pro-Friendly

Milk paint was widely used on walls and ceilings, dating back to colonial times. Although there was no single recipe, the basic formula utilized lime as a solvent to dissolve milk proteins to form the coating's binder. Native clays and other natural fillers would give the paint additional body, and the pigment came from other nearby sources – earth pigments such as iron oxides, raw umber, and ochre. That may sound primitive, but many of those home-brewed finishes at work have withstood the test of time in Williamsburg and Mount Vernon. In fact, they're notoriously hard to remove. MIlk paint was rendered obsolete when pre-mixed coatings started appearing in cans.

The concept was revived in the 1970s when the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. started supplying its powered, pigmented mixes by the bag. But that product was seen as a craft paint suitable for small projects, not architectural use. Now a new formulation aims to restore casein-based coatings to their historic place on walls and ceilings.

Safe Paint™ is a completely non-toxic milk paint that can be applied by brush, roller, or spray gun. It's a water resistant coating that can be applied effectively to conventional or alternative building substrates. According to Anne Thibeau, president of Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co., Safe Paint is practical for residential or commercial use. “We've had people use it in restaurants and large retail stores,” she said. “We've gone into a lot of L.L. Bean stores, and other locations like that. They'll buy hundreds of pounds at a time, mix it up, and apply it with either roller or sprayer.”

The product earns the ‘safe' part of its name because it is free of ingredients that might be troublesome for chemically sensitive individuals, and also because it's a breathable coating. It's available to dealers in 20 pre-mixed colors, or in a tint-base that accepts universal colorants.

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