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Alternatives to boiled linseed oil for earthen floors  RSS feed

 
Linc Vannah
Posts: 8
Location: western Colorado
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As far as I know, all boiled linseed oil is formulated with somewhat toxic drying agents, and the smell of linseed (and the drying additives) seems to linger for weeks after finishing the floor. So, we're going to try using organic raw walnut oil mixed with beeswax on the floor we're about to finish (this August). We'll heat the wax/oil mix before applying to get it to spread and soak in somewhat. Hopefully that walnut oil will dry! Has anyone else tried any other alternatives to boiled linseed?
 
tel jetson
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linseed oil that is actually boiled instead of containing nasty drying agents is available, but not nearly as readily as the toxic stuff. paint supply places, art supply, woodworking stores. raw linseed oil would work, too, but it takes a good long while to cure.

walnut oil will cure eventually, but it's slow. really slow. slower than tung oil, which is slow. smells kind of nice and looks good, though.

I don't know how the price compares to your plan, but there's an outfit called Tried & True that makes a nice linseed and beeswax finish. no petroleum or drying agents involved.
 
Adam Klaus
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hi Linc-
we got unadulterated linseed oil back in the day from a company called Montana Vegetable Oil. I had a hard time locating them online back then, and no luck when I looked briefly recently, so no help there. But they did sell a raw linseed oil with no additives, we then boiled it and applied it super hot. It worked well, they sell it in 5 gal buckets that are UPS shippable. We used a lot. As for the smell, yup, it lingers. But it does definitely go away after a few months. I would think walnut oil would cost a fortune, no? Anyways, you can get linseed oil without the chemicals, and the smell does go away in time. I think the big linseed producing regions are in the far north, hence Montana, but also Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc. Good luck, if you do find a good source for linseed please post it up. Best of luck on your project-
 
Darryl Roederer
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Funny this came up.
When linseed oil "dries", what it actually does is polymerize thru a process of oxidation. In simpler terms, it absorbs oxygen from the atmosphere and turns into a natural plastic.
What makes linseed oil the industry standard is that it polymerizes at a much quicker rate than other natural oils, but in truth, ALL organic oils will turn to poly given sufficient time and exposure to oxygen.
Just so we're clear, I know these facts because I run my diesel engines on waste vegetable oil.
I've been collaborating with a couple people in the compressed earth brick field to develop a process whereby waste vegetable oil could be used to put a "cure coat" on CEB's. My idea involves mixing in a few additives to the WVO that would greatly accelerate it's polymerization rate... The beauty here is that the "additives" could be very natural, i.e., not laboratory created chemicals.

In the WVO-to-diesel field, polymerization is a bad thing. It can be accelerated by a dozen different factors that us diesel guys have to work very hard to avoid. Such as making our fuel systems out of non-reactive metals, controlling heat, and exposure to air.
My idea is to use these "bad" things to the advantage of the natural building community... Such as adding iron oxide to the WVO along with an oxidizer, such as bleach.

At this point, this is all hypothetical. The only thing I've done to explore these ideas is bounce a few ideas off a few people, but I feel the idea is worth exploring further. If it pans out, you could coat your earthen floors with $10 worth of used french fry oil instead of $400 worth of linseed.

If anyone wants to experiment, by all means, please do so. I'm available to offer whatever technical assistance I can [limited tho that assistance may be]
 
Adam Klaus
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welch clark holme, a big company selling all sorts of oils in five gallon and larger sizes. check it out-

http://www.welch-holme-clark.com/linseed_oil_-_raw_spec_-_veg.html

gotta contact them for pricing but they seem to have the goods. i would be curious about the prices.
 
Andrew Ray
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Location: Slovakia
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A technical paradox is involved with hand refined cold-pressed linseed oil. It dries much more
quickly – in one or two days – than either unrefined oil, or commercially refined oil, both of which usually
take four or five days to dry.

www.tadspurgeon.com/pdf/Refining_Linseed_Oil.pdf‎

This PDF talks, from the perspective of a painter, linseed oil and its refinement.

I wonder if, with respect to using linseed oil as a coating on either earth or wooden floors, there is any reason to use refined or boiled over raw other than drying time?

A company selling raw linseed oil describes it penetrating deeper into wood:
Linseed oil is obtained by pressing seeds of the flax plant and does not “dry” like water or turpentine. It does not evaporate or disappear; instead, when spread in a thin layer and exposed to air, it jells to a “soft” finish. When rubbed into wood, it fills the pores with a thin protective film.

Raw Linseed Oil offers the following advantages:

Raw linseed oil is lighter in body and penetrates deeper into wood than boiled linseed oil, so it is sometimes used on light colored woods as a light stain to bring out the grain and give protection against water stains.
Can be used as a moisture repellent for unsealed wood.
Commonly used as a polish to maintain oiled wood and natural finishes. Best results are obtained when the oil is mixed with paint thinner – half and half and the mixture is wiped on and immediately wiped off with a clean rag.
Raw linseed oil is a safe, non-toxic finish for wooden salad bowls, utensils and cutting boards.
http://www.recochem.com/en/products/wood_preservatives/wood_stone_treatments/item/raw_linseed_oil/

The booklet "Earthern Floors" by Athena and Bill Steen states that
to be effective, a good sealant needs to penetrate deeply into the earthen floor rather than form a skin or shell on the surface
. So it seems that just using linseed oil raw might be preferable in that regard.

I don't have any practical experience in this regard though. Right now I am just researching earth floors and weighing whether we'll try making one or just do wood floors in our house...
 
Evelyn Bishop
Posts: 16
Location: Chiriqui, Panama at 400 meters Wet Tropics
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I'm in the process of building an adobe farmhouse in Panama and will be laying earthen floors in several of the rooms.
My challenge is that Linseed Oil is not something I've been able to find here in Panama, and I'm now searching for alternatives.

What are some known alternatives to linseed oil?
Beeswax?

I'm really not sure what to use. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
 
John Elliott
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Evelyn Bishop wrote:I'm in the process of building an adobe farmhouse in Panama and will be laying earthen floors in several of the rooms.
My challenge is that Linseed Oil is not something I've been able to find here in Panama, and I'm now searching for alternatives.

What are some known alternatives to linseed oil?
Beeswax?

I'm really not sure what to use. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


What is it that you want the oil to do? Harden up the dirt so that it is easy to sweep clean?

I would suggest the standby of using lime to harden the earth. If you can buy lime, or even burn a lot of seashells in a bonfire, you can rake that lime into the earth and water it down good for the chemical reaction that will turn the lime (CaO) back into limestone (CaCO3). If you have lots of shells at your disposal, you could even consider making a tabby floor, where you mix shells and lime and dirt with enough water to be able to spread it and then let that set up.

Beeswax, I've heard of using it as a wall sealant, but not so sure how it would be on the ground.
 
tel jetson
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Evelyn Bishop wrote:What are some known alternatives to linseed oil?
Beeswax?


beeswax alone is unlikely to penetrate well unless you have some method of heating the floor so that the wax remains a liquid and moves deeper. it is frequently mixed with linseed oil for finish coats, though.

as far as other oils to use, look for locally available drying oils. perilla oil is one possible candidate that has been used historically for earthen floors. poppy seed oil could also work. there are many others, as well, and I would guess that there's something available. perhaps a tropical nut oil, for example. I have no idea what any of these would cost, though.
 
Evelyn Bishop
Posts: 16
Location: Chiriqui, Panama at 400 meters Wet Tropics
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While researching, I read that coconut oil might be an option. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

I did find a source for Linseed oil (Acete de Linaza) from a central american brand called "Sur". It's pricy, $37/gal.
 
John Elliott
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Evelyn Bishop wrote:While researching, I read that coconut oil might be an option. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

I did find a source for Linseed oil (Acete de Linaza) from a central american brand called "Sur". It's pricy, $37/gal.


Yes, linseed oil is pricey. Coconut oil might be a reasonable alternative, since it is mostly saturated and thus less prone to go rancid. Its the unsaturated fats and smaller fat molecules in the mix that have a tendency to oxidize, that is to go rancid and smell bad. What you could do with your coconut oil before you apply it is to do the same thing that is done with linseed oil -- boil it. High temperature will drive off the smaller, unsaturated molecules and then there will be less to go rancid.
 
tel jetson
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John Elliott wrote:High temperature will drive off the smaller, unsaturated molecules and then there will be less to go rancid.


my understanding is that going rancid is a necessary step in the curing process. if an oil doesn't cure, it will remain a liquid at temperatures above its melting point.
 
John Elliott
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tel jetson wrote:
John Elliott wrote:High temperature will drive off the smaller, unsaturated molecules and then there will be less to go rancid.


my understanding is that going rancid is a necessary step in the curing process. if an oil doesn't cure, it will remain a liquid at temperatures above its melting point.


Let's be sure of our definitions of 'rancid' and 'cure'. When I think of things going rancid, I think of butyric acid -- one of the stinkiest molecules that you will ever come across. It also has a boiling point not much higher than that of water, so when it evaporates, it lets you know that the milk/butter/cheese it was in has definitely gone bad. Or good if you are opening a package of Limburger cheese. Things go rancid because small C4 to C8 fragments break off and get oxidized to their smelly carboxylic acids (usually from bacterial action). Leave them around long enough, and some other bacteria will see it as a food source and metabolize it further and the smell will eventually go away.

In the curing process, when using oil molecules that have 16, 18, 20, or more carbons, you want the molecules to eventually polymerize, making dimers and trimers and tetramers that get increasingly large and less volatile. After the oil has cured, no molecules that would be liquid at ambient temperature remain because they have all been polymerized and/or oxidized.

So curing and going rancid are competing, not sequential processes. How can you control one versus the other? To make it go rancid, you could apply some stinky cheese bacteria and keep the environment dark and humid like a cheese cave. Now if you don't want it to go rancid, if you want curing and polymerization, you want to kill off the bacteria and oxidize the molecules. Ultraviolet light, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, these are things which will open the double bonds in the oil molecules and get the polymerization reactions going.
 
Ardilla Esch
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FWIW
Not all boiled linseed oils are equal. Some contain VOCs as driers, some contain metal compounds as well as VOCs, some only contain the metal compounds. The ones with metal compounds only smell slightly more than raw linseed oil. Sometimes they are indistinguishable.

For example:
Sunnyside Corp's boiled linssed oil contains: linseed oil, cobalt neodecanoate, manganese neodecanoate, mineral spirits (contains VOCs), diethylene glycol monomethyl ether (VOC)
Klean-Strip's boile linseed oil contains: linseed oil, cobalt neodecanoate, manganese neodecanoate

You don't want to inhale or ingest the cobalt and manganese coumpounds, but in oil form that is pretty hard to do. Whereas, you can't help but breathe the mineral spoirits and ethers if they are present.
 
Linc Vannah
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Location: western Colorado
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Thanks to everyone who responded to my original post on alternatives to boiled linseed oil. Unfortunately, I didn't know that people had been responding (I haven't used the Permies Forum enough to know how it works - maybe I was getting notifications but missing them in "junk" mail?)

Anyway, we had found a relatively cheap source for walnut oil at Libertynatural.com, and had a friend with a bunch of extra beeswax, so we gave it a try. We first coated the floor with two coats of warm walnut oil. This soaked in, and dried (more or less) in a few days (especially the first coat). But, it didn't repel water, and when we applied it to a wood floor, it attracted dirt (smudged easily), and didn't seem like much of a finish. So, we then melted beeswax into warm walnut oil (yes, carefully - major fire hazard), at a ratio of 1 part beeswax to 3 parts walnut oil, and applied this warm with a paintbrush, and also tried rubbing it on as a paste with a rag. We applied two coats of this, and waited a week or so, and ran out of patience. It stayed tacky the whole time. We had created a balm, not a floor finish (great for the skin!). I then rubbed the excess off using clean, old towels, and waited another week. Still not really a finish, and when the same process was used on the wood floor upstairs, it didn't seem to really protect the wood (smudged easily, attracted dirt, not a hard finish). I suspect that if we had waited MUCH longer (months), that eventually it would have "cured", but we couldn't wait that long, with the weather getting cold outside, especially after the furnace in our old camper trailer blew up one day. Time to move back into the cabin!

It's possible that adding hydrogen peroxide (as John Elliot suggested), to speed up the polymerization process, would have worked. I may try that on the next project. But, I hadn't seen that response, so instead, we bought a can of OSMO Polyx Hardwax Oil, a more or less natural oil-wax finish that we've had good experiences with on wood floors (dries fast to a fairly hard, semi-gloss finish that gets harder with time, and allows for spot refinishing, unlike polyurethane "toxic gick", as Paul Wheaton would say). The OSMO was the ticket, for now anyway. We put two coats of that on, and ended up with what, so far, has been a nice looking, durable earthen floor. We come in an out a lot during the day, tracking in mud, rocks, debris, and just sweep it up as it dries, leaving the same, great looking floor at the end of the day.
 
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