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Healthy Home Basics - Linoleum

By HHI Staff

At one time, linoleum was the most popular kitchen flooring and countertop material. Traditionally, it was made with oxidized linseed oil, ground cork or wood flour (saw dust), and rosin (a type of resin formed from the distillation of oil of turpentine) or other plant resins. This mixture was then pressed onto a burlap or felt backing under high heat and pressure. Generally, it was available in rolls or square tiles. 


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Linoleum has many good qualities. Besides being all-natural, it is resilient (able to return to its original shape after being compressed), dimensionally stable at varying temperatures and humidities, fairly easy to clean, resistant to burning, and less expensive to buy and install than ceramic tile. Another interesting plus is that linoleum has natural antimicrobial characteristics thanks to its main ingredient, linseed oil. 


However, by the 1960s, linoleum began to be rapidly replaced by vinyl. This was because vinyl flooring was available in brighter patterns, was more moisture resistant, and required less maintenance. 


Modern Linoleum 


Surprising to many people, natural linoleum is still available today, most often in rolls. It’s gained renewed, but limited, popularity primarily because it continues to have an all-natural ingredient list. Modern linoleum is still made of linseed oil, pine resins, powdered wood, and jute backing. Linoleum flooring is now available in a variety of solid colors and marbleized patterns. These colors are not just surface treatments; they extend through the entire thickness of the material. 


If you’re considering linoleum for your floor, you should be aware that it’s often not tolerated very well by sensitive persons, despite being an all-natural product. That’s because linoleum has a rather strong, innate odor that can be bothersome. It is also more susceptible to water damage than vinyl.


In most installations, linoleum is glued directly to the subfloor. Some mastics and adhesives manufactured for this job are made of petrochemicals, which can be extremely odorous. So, be careful to choose water-based products.



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Healthy Home Basics - Linoleum:  Created on June 27th, 2008.  Last Modified on February 27th, 2011


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