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You know those quaint stone cottages we all fall in love with, the ones that dot the Irish countryside (or used to), fueling our vision of romantic country living?  Well, I live in one of those.  It’s been sensitively modernized, but the interior retains the rough stone walls, now sealed with a coat of white…something.  I’m not sure what the ‘white something’ is: it could be whitewash (maybe), it could be paint, it could be a substance I have no inkling of.

The sitting room has a wood stove.  Wood stoves are a god send during the winter – or any time of year here in Ireland!  Once those stones heat up, they radiate out delightful warmth for many hours.  There is a down side though.  If you know anything about wood stoves, you know they occasionally belch smoke.  Smoke and the ‘white something’ do no play well together. In fact, if they spend significant amounts of time together, the stone walls eventually look like this: photo 4 (3)

Not sure how visible the soot is, but trust me -these stones look pathetic!

Having never lived in a stone house, or in a climate where treating ‘damp’ is a yearly occurrence (more on that later), I had no idea what to do.  Should we paint the walls?  Is there a special cleaner?  Do we pray?  Since I was not prepared to invest the considerable time and effort to paint these nook-and-cranny surfaces, I opted for cleaning.  I got myself a sturdy, deep bristle brush and a sudsy bucket of water; moved all the furniture to the centre of the room; put down several towels under my work area, and then let the elbow grease flow.

After 2 hours, I had this:

can you see the 'clean' line?

can you see the ‘clean’ line?

And after 4 hours, most of the walls looked like this:

photo 2 (6)

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