Beware of Boiled Linseed Oil

We have documented our exclusive use of natural Linseed Oil and our concerns with Danish Oil. There is another product on the market found at home centers called “Boiled Linseed Oil”. One is lead to believe that it is simply linseed oil heated until it reaches its boiling point. Logical, right? However, not at all true.

What is Boiled Linseed Oil?

Today, “boiled linseed oil” refers to a combination of:

  • Raw linseed oil
  • Polymerized oil
  • Metallic dryers
  • Industrial solvents

Why the need of dryers?

Linseed oil is a drying oil so it will naturally harden over time. Most other natural oils are non-drying oils so they will not harden and will continue to be “oily” and are likely to become rancid. The amount of time required for raw linseed oil to cure depends on temperature, humidity, etc but is in the weeks, if not months, time frame. To be a viable finish for furniture, the cure time must be lowered.

There are two ways to speed up the drying time of linseed oil-

  • Apply heat to linseed oil so it polymerizes
  • Introduce metallic dryers

The faster, cheaper and easier way for industrial coatings manufacturers is to add metallic dryers. Most often cobalt and manganese salts are the catalysts of choice.

Are cobalt and manganese safe?

The answer is- it depends. Dapwood’s stance is if there is another option that doesn’t increase chemical exposure, that is the road to take.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a good starting point for research into cobalt and manganese.

Why the need of solvents?

Linseed oil is naturally thick and takes some effort to spread the product. By adding solvents the viscosity of the liquid is lowered and is thus easier to apply. This also allows coatings manufacturers to put less of the actual linseed oil in the product. Instant cost savings. From a user’s standpoint, there is less of a coating on the furniture that will require additional coats or an inferior finish that does not protect the wood.

Boiled Linseed Oil Conclusion

Like all things in life, choices have to be made. Why would companies want to introduce potentially dangerous substances to customers when there are safer alternatives? We have no answer to that.

At Dapwood, we fully understand we live in a hi-tech world where the only certainty is change. However, many of the “old school” methods really are as good or better than current offerings. Remember when “organic farming” was known as “farming”? Why do companies feel the need to cheapen everything by taking short cuts that jeopardize our long-term health? Again, we have no answer to that.

If you are concerned about your health and those around you, please consider Dapwood for your eco friendly furniture needs. You will find no other company as dedicated to making the safest furniture around. If we cannot help you, please think twice about mass marketed products and consider visiting your local antique shop.