distemper paint

Distemper Paint – What Is It And How Do I Remove It?

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Chances are if you live in an older home built before the 20th century you have distemper paint on the walls. It’s an annoyance as it can be difficult to remove and nothing sticks to a wall with distemper paint on it.

Continue reading below to find out what exactly distemper paint is and how to properly remove it from your walls.

What is Distemper Paint?

new distemper paint on wall

New Distemper Paint

Distemper paint is is a mixture of whiting and glue that was widely used in the past to paint and seal walls. Whiting is chalk or lime and is was combined with glue to form a thick sludge mixture. It was the preferred method historically because when it dried it tightened up and would fill any small holes or cracks in the walls and ceilings.

Distemper paint is soft and chalky to the touch and if you run your hand along the wall the paint will leave traces of dust on your hand.

Most people remove distemper paint because nothing will stick to it when they want to repaint or decorate.

How Do I Remove It?

removing distemper from wall

Removing the distemper paint off your walls may prove difficult at first. However, if you're looking to give your home a more modern look with a fresh coat of paint or wallpaper, you’ll need to completely remove all of the distemper paint.

Follow the steps outlined below to properly remove distemper paint from your walls.

Prepare The Work Area

tripping the distemper paint can get messy. Lay down some canvas drop cloths and cover any nearby furniture. Wear old clothes as they will likely get covered in paint residue.

For a complete set of tips on painting preparation, check out our article on How To Paint With No Mess.

Wear Your Proper PPE

wear proper ppe

Before stripping the distemper paint from the walls make sure to put on a pair of gloves and safety glasses as you will be using harmful chemicals.

Chip And Brush Away All Loose Paint

cracking distemper paint

Start by chipping away any loose paint on the wall and sanding down any peeling spots. Brush away all remaining dust and debris from the wall.

Strip The Distemper Paint

It’s now time to strip the distemper paint. For best results, you can apply a paint stripper to the wall such as King Strip from Amazon.

DIY Doctor also recommends using wallpaper paste to wet the distemper paint and easily strip it off the walls.

Scrape Off Remaining Paint

scraping off distemper paint

The distemper paint should now be soft and easy to strip off the walls. For best results use a paint scraper and slowly scrape off all remaining paint.

Apply A Stabilising Primer


Decorator priming a putty wall before applying a decorative layer of plaster

Now that the remaining distemper paint has been stripped off, DIY Extra UK recommends applying a stabilising primer to the wall immediately. This will help seal the wall and ensure the finished coat of paint goes on smoothly and sticks well.

Apply A Fresh Coat Of Paint Or Wallpaper

painting with a roller

After the primer dries you’re now ready to give the wall a fresh coat of paint or apply wallpaper to the walls.

Final Thoughts

Although removing distemper paint can be a difficult and time-consuming experience, it’s well worth removing it once and for all.

Hopefully, you feel comfortable removing it using the techniques outlined above. Once removed, you can start to give your home that modern finish that you’ve been looking for.

Make sure to share this article on social media if you know someone who can benefit from it.

About the Author Dylan

Dylan Bair is a Building and Construction Industry Content Marketer and Copywriter. He is a builder by day and writer by night. When he is not working you can find him traveling the world, surfing, snowboarding and camping

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