Natural, plant based oils and waxes have been used for centuries, but the products of the modern chemical industry replaced them for a while. Now, as we gain more awareness in environmental and health issues, a renaissance of these amazing toxic-free materials has started.
Natural surface treatments are made in an eco-friendly way, and they don’t contain chemicals that are harmful for your health. They create a natural barrier on the surface: the wood soaks up the oil, and its absorbency is reduced, yet the surface remains breathable. The wax coating makes wood water resistant, and it protects the outer layer.
These oils and waxes are renewable, readily biodegradable resources used by humanity for ages. This is great because we know their effects better than the modern materials, which can have currently unknown long-term effects. When manufacturing natural oils and waxes, there is no need for mineral oil, big energy consumption, and a huge chemical corporation’s know how! They are part of nature’s cycle, and no hazardous waste is created in the process.
Some ingredients of natural surface treatments are: linseed oil, tung tree oil, carnauba wax and beeswax.
Linseed oil is pressed from flaxseeds, and it is the most common oil used in paints. Due to its polymer-forming properties, linseed oil can be used on its own or blended with combinations of other oils, resins or solvents as an impregnator, drying oil finish or varnish in wood finishing, as a pigment binder in oil paints.
Tung tree oil is made from the toxic seed of the fruit of tung tree. The walnut-like seeds are heated, then cracked, and the inside, which contains 50% oil is pressed. When added to other oils, it accelerates drying, and it creates a water-proof, hard coating.
Carnauba wax is a natural wax obtained from the wax coating on the leaves of the palm Copernicia prunifera, which is a native tree in Noertheast Brazil. It is the most important, and most valuable plant based wax. Its manufacturing is a work intensive tiring job. The wax is harvested in the dry season, by cutting 6-8 lower leaves every 2 months from each tree. They scrape the wax off the drying leaves by hitting it, or scrubbing with their hands or a brush. The wax pieces are then cooked in water to clean: the contaminants sink to the bottom, while the pure wax is taken off from the top.
Carnauba wax is an important binding material in natural surface treatments. On its own it creates a very hard, shiny coating, and it is very expensive which is why they mostly use it to improve the qualities of softer waxes.
The commonly used beeswax is made by bees from their excretion, and used to build honeycomb. This is a very flexible material with perfect waterproof qualities. Even cavemen used it, for example traces of beeswax have been found in the Lascaux cave. Egyptians used it as an insulation in ship building, Romans have waterproofed walls with it, and in the middle ages it was so valuable, that it was accepted as a currency. There are some manufacturers, like Kreidezeit, who only use certified beeswax, which means that the beekeeper doesn’t use medicine which could end up in the wax.
The natural waxes and oils can be used for outdoor and indoor surafes alike, for example: wood, corkckwood and stone). You can find coatings at Ecoizm.com developed for outdoor furniture, indoor wooden and corkwood surfaces, and furniture.
Read the first part of this article, about natural paints here!