The History of Linoleum

Linoleum, a floor and wall covering material used in place of Kamptulicon, was invented in 1860 by rubber manufacturer Fredrick Walton. Walton got the idea for the material after observing a characteristic covering – or “skin” – produced by oxidized linseed oil as it forms into paint. Walton received a British patent for his invention and together with fellow inventor Fredrick Thomas Palmer went on to produce additional inventions including Lincrusta and Anaglypta, both of which are a unqiue form of Victorian home wall coverings. Anaglypta is created using cotton pulp and Lincrusta is composed of an oil mixture from linseed.

The invention of Linoleum was later publicized by Michael Nairn, the Scottish flooring manufacturer who is best known as the pioneer of the traditional inlaid pattern that characterizes linoleum coverings. During the 1960s, the use of linoleum slowed as vinyl become a more popular floor covering. It has, however, made a comeback in recent years.

The name linoleum was inspired by the Latin words “linum” and “oleum”, which mean flax and oil, respectively.

How linoleum is created

The core ingredients in linoleum are pine flour, pine rosin, pigments, and linseed oil. The manufacturing process involves oxidizing linseed oil and gradually adding the rest of the ingredients to create a dense blend that is known as linoleum cement. Two different processes can be used to manufacture linoleum. In one process, linseed oil is exposed to heat to force it to thicken, after which it turns into a spongy mass. At this stage, it is ground up and combined with a variety of ingredients including pulverizing wood. It is then applied to a surface and rolled smooth.

In the second process, linseed oil is carefully exposed to the air in thin films in order to cause a hardening, after which the resulting rubbery mass is ground and combined with related ingredients to form the final product.