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Caring for the indoor environment

Linoleum was invented in England about 1860 by Frederick Walton. Apparently he first called it ‘linoxyn’ based on the method of its manufacture: using linseed oil reduced by oxidisation, and mixed with ground cork, resin and pigment, pressed onto a backing of canvas. Before long he combined the Latin words linum (flax) and oleum (oil) to form the word Linoleum.

He regarded his invention as an improved version of oil-cloth rather than an entirely new product as in 1863, he was granted a new patent for the ‘improvement of the manufacture of Wax cloth for floors’. By 1864 he had formed the Linoleum Manufacturing Company with a factory at Staines in Middlesex. The product made from linseed oil, tall oil, rosin, cork, woodflour, chalk, clay, and pigments was pressed into sheets with a jute backing. The key was the acceleration of the oxidation of the oil by heating, so that the oil mixture solidified into a tough, resilient material.

Michael Nairn whose family had a sail cloth business and whose father had set up a floor manufacturing business in Scotland as far back as 1847 saw the advantages of the new product and as soon as allowable started manufacture in Scotland in the 1870’s. He further developed the product and today Nairn flooring, now Forbo Nairn although no longer a Scottish owned company is a major world player with 60% of the market. It has been recognised as an environmentally friendly product as it is composed of natural materials which are both renewable and biodegradable.