I work at a public library and we recently had a sidewalk chalk hour for families. Someone gave us a tip that if we brush milk with a paintbrush over the finished chalk drawings, it helps seal them and makes them last longer. It has been several weeks, two heavy rainstorms, and a hail storm, and all of the drawings we brushed with milk are still there! The ones we didn't brush with milk are long gone. What are the chemical properties of milk that make it do this to sidewalk chalk?

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    $\begingroup$ I suspect the protein in the milk acts as sealant: ehow.com/… and richesonart.com/products/paints/richesoncasein/…. $\endgroup$
    – Karsten
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ Casein has been used in paint and glue since time immemorial $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ Did you use whole milk (4% fat) or skim milk (~0% fat, normal casein)? Next time, do a "chemical" experiment. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


Proteins coagulate, i.e., harden. Egg, as well milk, is used in tempera, too.

Ah! A teachable moment -- have the children's section display cardboard box sarcophagi, painted with tempera made by grinding colored chalk and milk or egg. This would actually have some authenticity, from the citation above, as an alternative to making canopic jars with the remains of dinner.


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