It seems that whenever you find one “new” product, others come out of the woodwork soon after. In this case I’m referring to the plant-based paint brand, Green Planet Paints, which I wrote about in December. You see, now that paint companies have tackled the problem of paints emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air with their low, ultra-low and zero VOC lines, the more obvious problem is that paints not only use a significant amount of energy to be made, they are a petroleum-based product and contain an awful lot of other highly toxic chemicals. Enter paints that made from plant-based and mineral materials, and suddenly you’ve got some real alternatives to traditional paints.
When I was in Kingston, Ontario touring Living Rooms, John Sinclair introduced me to a few new-to-me brands of paint which are petroleum free made from plants and minerals. These paints can be a little trickier to use. They have longer drying times, which means professional painters may not be too keen on using them as they can only apply one coat per day. If the job is big enough, or if they have enough jobs that are geographically close together, it may not be an issue, but it is something to consider.
Allbäck paint comes from Sweden and made from pure organic linseed oil. The company sources all of its linseed oil from locally grown (in Sweden) flax. One of the remarkable things about this paint is that it is extremely durable. Allbäck claims that it will last for 50 years. For maintenance purposes, the company suggests that once every 10 to 15 years the paint be renewed with an application of linseed oil or linseed oil wax to restore the colour.
The paint can be used on almost any surface including wood, plastic, metal. To use on drywall and plaster, a sealant such as pure shellac needs to be applied first. (Note: pure shellac is a natural ingredient excreted by the Lac bug, which is found in India and Thailand.) Normally, the resulting shellac flakes are dissolved in ethyl alcohol to form a liquid which can be applied to a variety of surfaces. Allbäck has developed a method to suspend the shellac flakes in water so there is no off-gassing of alcohol.
Allbäck Pure Organic Linseed Oil paint. It is available in 32 premixed colours, which tend to go along historic colour lines. This paint can be applied to just about anything from wood to plastic to masonry. It can be diluted with linseed oil to apply it as a stain, or with water for use on masonry. John explained to me that adding 30% water for masonry applications helps the masonry absorb the paint better. The paint dries to a low-gloss finish, which is especially nice on woodwork. He noted that there are no visible brush strokes after the paint has dried.
Linus is a wall paint that dries to a flat finish and is available in 13 pastel colours and black. A flat finish for walls is great for hiding imperfections, however, with low quality paints a flat finish is often not scrubbable, but John says this paint is very durable, and like the Pure Organic Linseed Oil line, also lasts 50 years. In addition to linseed oil and earth pigments, Linus also contains cellulose which acts as a binder and creates a nice texture on the wall. This is ideal for walls that tend to crack as the cellulose can prevent the cracks from occurring. One of the other characteristics about this paint is that it is considered “fire safe” — which means no toxic chemicals are emitted if a room should ever catch on fire.
Application: Contrary to modern petroleum-based paints, layers should be applied as thinly as possible. The linseed oil will penetrate porous surfaces such as wood so surfaces should be properly prepped before use. The advantages of penetrating a surface, such as wood, means that the paint won’t chip or peel off in the future. On old wood, old paint and any rotten wood or mould and mildew should be removed before this paint is applied. While a natural bristle brush is recommended for use with this paint, Jason from Style with a Brush, uses a microfibre pad to apply the paint.
The paint usually needs two layers for full coverage, even if applying white over a dark colour. No primer is needed and paint can be applied directly to new wood surfaces that have not been treated. (Again, a sealant needs to be applied for porous surfaces.)
Coverage: While the website notes that surface coverage is approximately 600 square feet per gallon, which can be up to twice as much as a standard paint. However, it’s important to note that coverage varies depending on which surface you are applying it to and whether you are diluting it with water or linseed oil. John told me he thinks the company’s coverage estimate is conservative. It tends to cover more on surfaces that don’t absorb the paint, such as metal, plastic and sealed drywall and plaster, so coverage is greater than 600 square feet /gallon.
Cost: While the paint is on the pricey side, it’s important to note that along with it comes long-lasting durability and better coverage. The paint is sold in litres, not in gallons and comes premixed. These prices below are taken from Living Rooms website and are for the pure organic linseed oil paint only. At the moment they don’t carry the Linus line, but they are planning on carrying it and the new pure shellac sealant in the future.
200 ml: $16.50 (Tester size or for painting a small object)
1 litre: $53.o0
Available through Livng Rooms in Kingston, or direct from Allback’s Canadian and American websites: