linoleum is the original sheet flooring material, first patented by
Englishman Frederick Walton in 1863. Although some people still call
all sheet floors "linoleum," the real thing is quite different from
the vinyl floors that gradually replaced them a century later. Its
name derives from the main ingredient, linseed oil. (In Latin, linum
is the word for linseed, which comes from the flax plant, and oleum
means oil.) The oil is boiled, mixed with melted resins, and
combined with powdered cork, wood flour, resins, ground limestone,
and other natural materials. Mineral pigments provide the color.
This mixture is formed into a durable sheet by applying heat and
Today, genuine linoleum is manufactured only in
Europe and is imported into the United States. Recently it has
enjoyed resurgence in popularity among homeowners and certain
commercial applications because of its natural look and physical
properties. Genuine linoleum is quiet and comfortable underfoot and
contains no synthetic chemicals. The antistatic surface rejects dust
and makes it ideal for rooms with electronic
Genuine linoleum is extremely
long-wearing, and some have observed that it actually gets stronger
with age as the linseed oil oxidizes.
The linoleum surface is more porous than vinyl floors,
so it's important to protect it with a high-quality polish. This
will prevent spills or dirt from penetrating and staining the
surface and will add an attractive low-level gloss. Two thin, even
coats should be applied initially. Add an additional layer for a
higher gloss. The floor should be cleaned regularly using a neutral
detergent solution or floor cleaner diluted to ¼ cup per gallon of
water. Because linoleum is made of natural materials, the use of
harsh alkalis or high pH products such as ammonia should be avoided.
From time to time, it's a good idea to re-apply two thin coats of
the floor polish; to avoid polish buildup, don't over-apply to areas
that are not walked on, such as along the walls.
floors are known to "bloom." Bloom is the term given to the minor
color adjustments linoleum flooring makes when exposed to light. It
turns its true color. Because genuine linoleum is made from natural
raw materials, oxidation of the linseed oil in your floor may result
in a yellowish cast when not exposed to light (under the range, rug
or refrigerator, etc.). This visual discoloration is only temporary.
Once exposed to light, the yellowing disappears and your genuine
linoleum floor will "bloom" again.
Linoleum floors are less
flexible than vinyl, and sheet installations will probably have
seams that should be sealed. Linoleum is not recommended for use in
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