What is Boiled Linseed Oil?

Last updated on September 17th, 2019 at 09:02 am

Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, is one of the most popular wood finishes in the world. Like other hand-rubbed oil finishes, linseed oil saturates deep into the wood grain to protect against scratches and changes in humidity. It is easy to care for, eco-friendly, and produces a satin finish that really brings out the color and grain of the wood underneath.

Boiled linseed oil, often written as BLO, is not as it sounds– there’s no heating or boiling involved (unlike polymerized linseed oil).

The difference between raw linseed oil and boiled linseed oil is that there are siccatives (metal or petroleum-based drying agents) added to BLO to shorten the time it takes for the oil to cure. This shortened drying time makes boiled linseed oil a more practical finish for woodworking, as raw linseed oil can take weeks or months to fully cure.

Some of the petroleum-based siccative compounds that are added to linseed oil to decrease the drying time are naptha, mineral spirits, and dipropylene glycol monomethyl. Cobalt and manganese are the most common metal siccatives found in boiled linseed oil.

Boiled linseed oils often carry the following warning as required by the state of California:

“Warning: This product contains a chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

Note: If you’re buying furniture with a boiled linseed oil finish, we highly recommend you check with the craftsman to better understand the composition of the oil. Ask for the brand of the finish used and skim through the MSDS spec sheet to see what sort of chemicals and warnings are associated with the use.

Learn more about linseed oil and how to apply it to furniture safely.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Riley Farabaugh

Riley Farabaugh

The youngest son of co-founders Peggy and Ken Farabaugh, Riley has filled different roles within the organization since it was founded out of a spare bedroom in the family home in 2005. As the son of the first Vermont Woods Studios craftsmen, Riley has been quickly learning more and more about woodworking, sustainable forestry, and the ins-and-outs of the furniture industry.