Green Materials Report: Linoleum Flooring

Samples of linoleum from Shutterstock

This post is the first in the Green Materials Report series.  GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green.  Each post focuses on one material.  We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes it green, and any green product certifications that it has earned.  We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings.  Enjoy the series!

Samples of linoleum flooring from ShutterstockLinoleum Flooring

Linoleum flooring has been around for over 150 years, and is made from all natural ingredients.  It is antibacterial and antimicrobial, making it the perfect flooring for areas that are meant to remain sanitary.  It has survived attacks by VCT (vinyl composition tile), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and other artificial flooring products.  It is extremely durable and easy to maintain.


Linoleum was invented by Englishman Frederick Walton in 1855.  Walton happened to notice the rubbery, flexible skin of solidified linseed oil (linoxyn) that had formed on a can of oil-based paint, and thought that it might form a substitute for India rubber.  Lengths of cheap cotton cloth were dipped in it until a thick coating formed, then it was scraped off and boiled with benzene or similar solvents to form a varnish.  

Walton initially planned to sell his varnish to the makers of water-repellent fabrics such as oilcloth, and patented the process in 1860.  Walton soon came up with an easier way to transfer the oil to the cotton sheets by hanging them vertically and sprinkling the oil from above, and tried mixing the linoxyn with sawdust and cork dust to make it less tacky.  He applied for another patent in 1863, and called his new product Linoleum, which he derived from the Latin words linum (“flax”) and oleum (“oil”).

What Makes It Green

Linoleum flooring is made from natural and renewable materials such as solidified linseed oil (linoxyn), pine rosin, round cork dust, wood flour, and mineral fillers such as calcium carbonate, most commonly on a burlap or canvas backing; pigments are often added to the materials. Because it is made of organic materials and is purportedly non-allergenic in nature, high quality linoleum can be used in places such as non-allergenic homes and buildings, hospitals, and health care facilities.  It is also biodegradable. The expected life cycle for linoleum flooring is over 40 years.

Green Product Certifications

GreenGuard – The GREENGUARD Certification Program gives assurance that products designed for use in indoor spaces meet strict chemical emissions limits, which contribute to the creation of healthier interiors.

FloorScore – FloorScore IAQ Certification means that a flooring product is independently certified by SCS to comply with the volatile organic compound emissions criteria of the California Section 01350 Program.

Cradle to Cradle – Silver – The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard is a multi-attribute, continuous improvement methodology that provides a path to manufacturing healthy and sustainable products for our world.

USDA BioPreferred – Biobased products are finished commercial or industrial products that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products – renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal and marine materials) or forestry materials.

Environmental product declaration (for Tarkett brand linoleum, courtesy of UL Environment)

 Health Product Declarations

  • SMaRT EPD/HPD – Platinum

Health product declaration (for Forbo brand Marmoleum, courtesy of MTS)



  • Affordable
  • Soft, impressionable surface
  • Wide variety of colors, thicknesses, patterns, and sizes
  •  Easily scratched or marred
  •  Easy to install
  •  Can yellow or get dingy if not properly maintained
  •  Easy to maintain
  •  Can look “cold, institutional”
  •  Long life

Sources: Wikipedia,

Images: The Samples of Natural Linoleum from Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons