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How Marmoleum Works

What's in Marmoleum?
Linoleum was once known for being drab, but now comes in many colors.
Linoleum was once known for being drab, but now comes in many colors.

According to popular legend, in 1860 English inventor Frederick Walton was watching the way linseed oil formed a layer of rubber-like material on top of a can of paint when he got the idea for linoleum. Walton mixed the oil with numerous other natural materials then pressed the concoction onto a fiber backing.

Initially, linoleum, from the Latin words "linum" (flax) and "oleum" (oil), was a plain Jane. The colors were drab and without design, but the flooring was tough and inexpensive.

In the 1960s, as plastics became more prevalent, flooring manufacturers began making products from vinyl. It could be produced more cheaply than linoleum and was just as durable. It also could be pressed into numerous designs, which is still one of its appeals today. Linoleum manufacturers couldn't keep up, and the flooring nearly met its demise.

Now, linoleum is making a comeback, and Marmoleum is one of the best-selling brands. It comes in more than 100 colors and designs can be customized. For instance, installers can cut borders and specialty patterns using an Aquajet (water-based) system.

Ingredients in today's linoleum remain true to Walton's early recipe. Linseed oil, which comes from pressed flax seeds, is the main component of Marmoleum. Pine-tree rosin gives the flooring strength and flexibility. Wood flour or sawdust helps bind the pigments for brighter and longer-lasting colors, and also contributes to the smooth surface quality of the flooring. Forbo calls the pigments used in Marmoleum "ecologically responsible," and they contain no heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Most are mineral-based. Ground-up limestone works as a filler, and woven jute serves as the backing for the flooring.

Forbo has numerous manufacturing plants, but the company's facilities in the Netherlands and Scotland are the ones that produce Marmoleum.