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Made from Organic Flax Seeds. 100% Chemical Free. The Way Paint Used to Be! An "acrylic-free" website.

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History of Linseed Oil 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 Oil Paint was used. It did not have any of the problems. Linseed Oil Paint is clearly an excellent alternative that is long lasting, with very long history and contain zero chemicals.

History of Linseed Oil 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 Oil 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 customer.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Bright new colors. Very bright colors are not easily achievable with Linseed Oil Paint, but the Linseed Oil Paint colors are significantly longer lasting. Linseed Oil Paint can last 50 to 100 years with minimal maintenance. Maintain with the Purified Organic Boiled Linseed Oil and the Linseed Oil Wax. The last coat will work as the sacrificial coat.
  3. New high gloss surface. A high gloss can be achieved with Linseed Oil Paint by adding just a small amount of Linseed Oil Varnish (also a completely natural product) to the Linseed Oil Paint or by applying a Linseed Oil 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 preservation.

A safe paint is available again. Through the rediscovery of ancient wisdom, there is finally an alternative to modern paint hazards and failure. Linseed Oil Paint, Linseed Oil Putty, purified linseed oil, Linseed Oil Wax, Linseed Oil Soap and Linseed Oil 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.


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