This is a step-by-step DIY “how-to” on painting and sealing terra-cotta clay pots with food-safe paints and a natural sealant.
I used two food-safe/plant-safe paints that are all natural – milk paint and linseed oil paint. The pots were sealed with a natural oil.
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This is the finished product!
Milk Paint on the left in yellow, with pure Tung Oil sealer on the inside. Linseed oil paint is on the right with Tung Oil sealer on the inside and outside (under the paint).
Milk paint that comes in powder form is all-natural, the binder is casein and the pigments are natural oxides. It has basically no odor when wet. I used The Real Milk Paint Brand. Milk Paint is suitable for the exterior of the clay only, as it cannot hold up over time to damp conditions and watering.
If you want to use this on the exterior of the pots, then you can add an exterior grade sealer like Tung Oil over top (but still only on the exterior of the pots).
The linseed oil paint is also all-natural. The one I used is Allback brand. Linseed oil is the binder and there are no solvents, just natural pigments, and fillers like clay. It has a natural linseed oil smell.
I ordered samples of The Real Milk Paint, the sunflower yellow is what I ended up using.
These are the brushes I ordered from Amazon, they were affordable and of very decent quality, plus the sizes were perfect.
The sample sizes of milk paint are perfect for small projects you can buy all of the colors on Amazon.
I sealed the inside of both of the pots with Tung Oil using a rag. This reduces the permeability of the pots but it doesn’t make it waterproof. It can still breathe somewhat. I applied 3 coats. (Be careful with how you dispose of your rags with Tung Oil, they can self-combust if not disposed of properly).
The pot with milk paint on the outside was sealed inside and on the bottom with Tung Oil.
The pot with linseed oil paint on the outside was sealed on all sides with Tung Oil.
I also sealed the saucers.
Wipe it on and wipe off the excess.
The Tung Oil should be pure, 100% tung, and with no solvents added. The Real Milk Paint makes a pure one.
If you only intend on sealing the inside be careful with drips or smudges getting on the outside!
I made the line with this medical tape (shown in the picture below) because it works really well.
I mixed milk paint powder with water in a 50/50 mix and applied two coats. It didn’t need long to dry in between.
This is the brush and medical tape I used for both pots.
This white paint is the all-natural linseed oil paint from Allback in white.
I applied 3 coats of linseed oil paint and made sure each coat was totally dry before adding the next one (at least 24 hours between coats).
The first coat dried in about 24 hours, the second and third coats took longer to dry. Make sure to apply thin coats.
If your humidity is high or your temperature is low it takes much longer to dry.
Medical tape sticks well to terra-cotta, that’s why I used that. The line was mostly clean!
I go much more into the sealer options for terra-cotta here if you don’t want to use Tung Oil as the sealer. There are other paint options as well in that article.
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Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.