Mod Home Ec Teacher

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Comments - How to Make Authentic Oilcloth

Carlos on Nov 24, 2009:

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A little history: linseed oil used to be mixed with lead to form what they called Red Lead. They have also mixed it with iron oxide. These two mixtures are used as a primer and protecting barrier for steel. I believe there are still old bridges and structures painted red because of that. Ship keels (red) I think might still be, but I am not sure. You can also mix other metallic ores for different colors. Fishermen's oilskin or oilcloth linseed coats would eventually become yellowish because of the oil and still today, the traditional color for the plastic "oilskin" outerwear is a kinda flax-seed yellow.



Carlos on Nov 24, 2009:

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I scoured the internet for information on oil cloth/tin cloth/oilskin/waxed cotton, linseed oil, etc...

Made up a batch for jackets (must be softer and more pliable than these table cloths). It dries in about a week, but if you put multiple layers before it dries, you can have minor problems. I borrowed a hair drier to help the absorption of the liquid linseed oil+ beeswax+pine tar+orange oil and was able to apply a second coat quickly afterward. If you heat it up (used a double boiler system) in boiling water for an hour (to multiple hours) it will help speed the dry time.

I chose to use RAW instead of BOILED linseed oil because I could control what additives were in it.

Boiled linseed oil, according to many is not actually boiled, but ACTS as if it was because it is mixed with chemicals or metallic ores that speed up the dry time.

Linseed oil is a slow drying oil that forms into a hard solid with exposure to air. After it dries it will no longer have an oily feel or rub off oil, but it definately does while it is drying!

The smell is hard for some people to get used to, but it smells while it is drying (or if you put too much and interior layers become exposed and start to dry).

Never wash it. Wipe or scrube with cold water. Soap, degreasers, hot rinses, etc will break down the oil or wax. It is less of a problem for thick layers of straight linseed on table cloths or floor cloth, but when mixed with beeswax and on a garment it is definitely bad to wash.

It works great for canvas hats! Will not be "drippy."  The dry linseed will give it strength, durability, and rigidness. It is safe for leather, though I am not sure about using it straight. Like I said above, I mixed it with some other stuff (primarily beeswax).

Interested in learning and sharing more about this stuff.

-Carlos from Washington

ModHomeEcTeacher on Aug 10, 2009:

K-Isn't that weird how some people just fall in love with some material? I'll have to check it out.

K on Aug 10, 2009:

(Warning: kinda off-topic but interesting): It's very interesting that you bring up linseed oil - there's a book called Ultimate Cheapstake's guide to living (or something like that). The author practically has an ode to linseed oil - apparently it waterproofs just about anyting!

Jay on Aug 05, 2009:

I am wanting to waterproof my new canvas hat??? What about it can I do that?  Will the cloth trun out like the "outback oilskin duster, and Hat" or just be a dripy thing that will catch on fire in the closet when I least expect it.  What will it (linseed) do to leather (it has a leather band)???


Anonymous on Jul 09, 2009:

I don't know what type of linseed oil to use.





which is safe next to food?




ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 08, 2009:

Drying time will depend on the humidity, fabric absorbancy, amount of linseed oil applied with each coat and the air ventilation.

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 08, 2009:

Oilcloth (both old fashioned and pvc, I believe) is not washable, just wipeable. You would only need to coat one side of the fabric. Remember, no one had vinyl tablecloths back then. This was what they came up with to make life easier. When my mom was a child, she used to spend her summers at Little Lake Chapman by Lake Wawasee in northern Indiana. Everyone's tables were covered in it. 

Dina on Jul 08, 2009:

anyone know how long each coat of linseed oil takes to dry? and how many coats are recomended? thanx

Beckie on Jul 08, 2009:

Linseed oil will dry either one that is used it just takes one longer to dry than the other . It use to be used to mix with paint to make the paint last longer but it took almost forever to dry. Like up to a week you just had to hope it did not rain before it dried.

Beckie n Kansas

ReneeB on Jul 08, 2009:

Is the completed "oil cloth" washable? Could you wash it i cold water or just wipe it. Do you only coat one side. What about it being combustible/ precautions?

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 08, 2009:

Ben--Thanks for the extra information on linseed oil. We appreciate it.

Sarah J Doyle on Jul 08, 2009:

What a great tutorial - I DO remember the oilcloth tablecloths my grandmother used to have - now I'm gonna be making one for myself and gifts.  We also will be posting this tutorial on our blog.  Thanks for sharing.

Sarah J Doyle  blog

Ben on Jul 07, 2009:

Linseed oil doesn't go rancid once its dried and set, nor does it smell or feel oily

Linseed oil is only combusts during the oxydizing process and only under certain conditions. If you follow the disposing process written on my linseed bottles its safe.

Tana, I've no idea why wood workers recomend double boiled however, linseed oil will "dry" double boiled or not.


Linseed oil drys by a reactionary process to the air, causing it to become hard and pretty safe..

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 07, 2009:

tana-thanks for the info.

tana on Jul 07, 2009:

If you use linseed oil on wood projects it is often said to use the double boiled linseed oil otherwise it won't dry. I am assuming that here too that it is also best to use the double boiled oil. I don't mind the smell of Linseed but many do and it can lingers for some time. I'd suggest a test strip first and see if you can "live" with it.

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 07, 2009:

Shari-You let the linseed oil dry between coats so I'm assuming that it will not rub off after many drying cycles.

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 07, 2009:

Linseed oil comes from the dried seeds of the flax plants. Flax is also the plant from which we get linen.

Here's more about linseed oil on Wikipedia.

Shari on Jul 06, 2009:

doesn't the finished result feel oily? doesn't oil rub off upon contact?

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 06, 2009:

The photograph is a sample of PVC laminated cotton.which is technically "real oilcloth" since the laminate is a petroleum by product. Old fashioned "real oilcloth" is what is made by coating fabric with linseed oil, letting dry, repeat again and again. 

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jul 06, 2009:

Oops. Forgot to add the photo credit. Thanks so much for reminding me. I'm just explaining the basic differences in linseed oil oilcloth and pvc laminated oilcloth.

Ellen on Jul 06, 2009:

I have been wanting to try this technique for a while now and am curious to know -- did you try this project?  I noticed that the photo here is from this website, which sells petroleum-based oicloth:

That seems misleading to me since I don't see a photo credit.

bpod on Jul 06, 2009:

I've read about fabric soaked with Linseed oil being a fire hazard (see the "Spontaneous Combustion" section here: ).  Is this danger only when the fabric is still wet?

Suenell on Jul 06, 2009:

Does the oil turn rancid on it?

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