Patent number 3210/1863

The invention of linoleum

We do not know how many nights the English inventor Sir Frederick Walton went without sleep until his Indian rubber substitute was ready to be the subject of a patent application. It must have been quite a few. Nights that were initially characterised by the continuous succession of optimism and failure. Yet also by his unshakeable desire to succeed and by a determination not to compromise that could not even be rocked by defeats.

In fact, the realisation that his patent, number 3210/1863, would be excellently suited to use as a flooring material, was not made by Walton himself. He followed the advice of business partners and had his linseed oil mixture rolled out and dried on a jute fabric, thereby creating one of the most style-defining floor coverings of the modern era, which quickly became a classic of modernity: consistently ecological, authentic and uncompromisingly aesthetic.

Half a century later, another name became inextricably linked to the celebrated material in the early 20th century: Deutsche Linoleum Werke (DLW). Today, the company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of floorings with a range that extends well beyond Walton’s heritage.

The name “linoleum” is derived from its most important constituents, flax (Latin “linum”) and oil (Latin “oleum”).

Production of DLW Linoleum

However, many production steps are required before the sheets of linoleum can be installed on the floor. For more than 150 years, the floor covering has been manufactured to an almost unchanged recipe. The television programme Galileo visited Germany’s only linoleum factory in Delmenhorst and followed the production of the classic material.

Watch on Galileo TV…

Discovery of linoleum

In the 1860s, Frederick Walton was experimenting with fast-drying dyes. In the process, he discovered a firm, rubbery layer of oxidised linseed oil on the tin. After multiple attempts and the addition of further substances, he finally produced the first linoleum in 1863.

Linoleum: composition

In addition to linseed oil, linoleum is made up of further natural ingredients: wood or cork flour, ground limestone, natural resins and pigments. Jute is used as the backing material. Due to its hard-wearing nature, linoleum was a widely-used floor covering into the 1950s. However, with the advent of more cost-effective PVC, carpet and prefabricated parquet, linoleum became increasingly forgotten.

In the 1980s, as public awareness of environmental issues rose, linoleum, as a natural product, became attractive once again: the environmentally-friendly and compostable floor covering was exactly right for that time. For some years now, linoleum has been enjoying a comeback as a timelessly simple, natural and high-quality floor covering.

Original spanish brown

Uni Walton is the uncompromising linoleum classic in DLW’s product portfolio - patented - proven - linoleum for 150 years. Linoleum - the natural flooring - made in Germany