History of Linseed Paint
Why does paint fail today? We are facing an epidemic of
paint failure in America today. Many professionals and home owners
are analyzing the massive amount of information available on the
web and elsewhere. Paint companies are introducing new chemical
paint products to find a solution to the immense problem of paint
failure. The issue is made more complicated than is has to be. The
problem is the paint and not the surface it is painted on.
Petroleum paint is today replaced with Acrylic paints because of
the elimination of solvents (VOC's). Acrylic paint on an exterior
of a house, especially an old house without an interior vapor barrier
will suffer extensively. The paint will trap moisture on the inside
of the walls making the wood rot from the inside as the paint starts
failing. This is the hart of the problem. All these modern acrylic
paints do NOT breathe enough. Any wood replacement products from
hardy-planks (clapboard exterior siding made from a cement compound)
to vinyl siding does NOT solve the maintenance nightmare; it simply
shifts to a new material that still has to be maintained.
What is interesting is that when you research material that was
used 100 years ago, the word "paint failure" seldom comes up. Why?
Paint 100 years ago before all the fancy chemically made paint products
were introduced, linseed paint was used. It did not have any of
the problems. Linseed paint is clearly an excellent alternative
that is long lasting, with very long history and contain zero chemicals.
History of Linseed Paint
Paint failure was unknown 100 years ago. Paint used before
the 1920's contained primarily pigment, boiled linseed oil. Lead
was later extensively used until it was found to be causing serious
illnesses. Lead has been replaced since 1978 in the USA and since
the 1940 in Europe. The paint did not build up on the outside of
the wood surface and the linseed oil allowed any moisture in the
wood to easily escape. This eliminated any chance of paint failure
(paint flaking & peeling). Linseed paint preserved the wood very
well. We can see proof of this in several hundred year old buildings
in Europe and in the United States. Problems with paint were not
common during the 1800's and early 1900's. The paint job lasted
much longer than it does today.
The introduction of modern paint. In the 1940's after the
2nd world war, the paint manufacturing industry moved away from
the old tried and true methods of making linseed oil paint and began
heavily promoting chemical, petroleum and solvent based paints.
These new paint products were very inexpensive to manufacture but
did not hold up well, making it necessary to repaint every few years.
This was a perfect product for the paint industry, but not for the
When the introduction of the new petroleum paint products began
to be marketed in the early 1900's, the arguments for the new type
of oil paint were mostly:
- Drying time was claimed to be shorter. - Today, drying time
is about the same for linseed oil paint as well as Petroleum based
oil paint. You can paint every 24 hours.
- Bright new colors. Very bright colors are not easily achievable
with linseed paint, but the linseed paint colors are significantly
longer lasting. Linseed paint can last 50 to 100 years with minimal
maintenance. Maintain with the Purified Organic Boiled Linseed Oil and the linseed
wax. The last coat will work as the sacrificial coat.
- New high gloss surface. A high gloss can be achieved with linseed
paint by adding just a small amount of linseed varnish (also a
completely natural product) to the linseed paint or by applying
a linseed varnish as a top coat.
Modern paint. A major difference in modern paints is the
change in binder from the used of natural boiled linseed oil to
alkyd oil which is generally derived from soybean and safflower
oil. Use of synthetic resins, such as acrylics and epoxies, has
become prevalent in paint manufacture in the last 30 years of so.
Acrylic resin emulsions in latex paints, with water thinners, have
also become common.
Today we know the detrimental effects of exposure to chemicals
and solvents. So why use them in paint if they are completely
unnecessary? With the awareness of the danger of petroleum products
in the environment, we are entering a new period for the painting
industry. Legislation has been drafted to eliminate petroleum based
oil paint from the market and to ban solvents in paint.
Other environmental hazards. Mildecides and fungicides were
prevalent and popular until their environmental hazards were seen
to outweigh their benefits. New formulations which retard the growth
of the mildew and fungi are being used. Lead was eliminated after
1978 in North America and in the 1940's in Europe. Most recently,
volatile organic solvents in oil paint and thinners have been categorized
as environmentally hazardous.
Returning to linseed oil. The oil pressing industry vanished
back in the early sixties and today. Farm pressing of the flax seeds
are mainly done in the northern Europe, Saskatchewan Canada and
in north and south Dakota in the United States. The Canadian producers
export most of the flax seeds. Small local producers manufacture
linseed oil and to a large extent bottle it for use in outdoor wood
A safe paint is available again. Through the rediscovery
of ancient wisdom, there is finally an alternative to modern paint
hazards and failure. Linseed paint,
window glazing, purified
linseed oil, linseed wax,
linseed soap and linseed varnish
are completely compatible chemistry, making solvents unnecessary
in any step of the painting process. These are the best and safest
materials available to preserve our wood structures for future generations.