A CONCISE HISTORY OF LIN SOAP
The first commercially available linseed oil soap in the United States was produced in Southern California in the 1920’s by Louis Kang. Mr Kang was an immigrant from Korea. The product which he sold under the trade name "Lin-Sol". "LinSol" or "Lin Sol" was formulated as a cleaner for linoleum floor covering. Real linoleum is made from linseed oil.
Mr Kang’s Lin Sol found a market as a household and commercial cleaning product. At the time, many homes and businesses still used wood and coal as heat sources. Lin-Sol proved to be very effective at removing soot and soil, not only from linoleum but from painted surfaces.
Automobile owners quickly found that Lin Sol was the best product for cleaning the enamel paint on their cars. Linseed oil soap not only easily removed dirt and grime but also delicately removed the layer of oxidized paint that dulled automobile finishes. As an unforeseen benefit, Lin-Sol left a very fine residual film of un-saponified oil upon the surface that made the finish glisten, offering additional protection to the enamel and making subsequent washings easier.
While Lin Sol was the primary cleaning agent in many households and businesses, much to Mr Kang’s pleasant surprise, the retailers that served the automobile market became his biggest customers. As California embraced the automobile, sales of Lin Sol grew through auto parts dealer, service stations and even department stores. By the outbreak of World War II, Lin Sol was being sold in eleven Western States primarily in 1-gallon steel OB cans.
World War II brought hardships to the United States and Lin Sol. Soon after the US entered WW II, the supply of cans was cut-off as steel was diverted to the war effort. Mr Kang continued to manufacture and sold much reduced volumes in glass quart jars. As the War dragged on, the supply of linseed oil was rationed, effectively putting Mr Kang and Lin Sol temporarily out of business.
After WW II, the market for Lin-Sol changed. Instead of an automotive finish cleaner, the product was recognized for its superior properties of cleaning painted surfaces. One old-time painter is quoted, "We never started a paint job without cleaning all the surfaces with Lin-Sol." Independent paint dealers and regional paint stores became the primary outlet for the products. Mr Kang began selling Lin Sol in pint, quart and gallon polyethylene jugs. In the late 1970’s Lin Sol enjoyed a resurgence of household use because the product was recommend in book of speed cleaning techniques.
By 1980, Mr Kang was ready to retire. He sold the company to the sons of a family friend and neighbor. The brothers successfully operated the enterprise for several years until a bizarre series of accidents befell them. They sold the company in order to pay medical expenses.
In 1990, the brothers were in the process of repossessing the assets when they were approached by Sta-Wax Chemical Corp who offered to buy the business. The production of Lin Sol was moved to Yakima WA. Sta-Wax Chemical became involved in a trademark dispute with Sterling Drug who, at the time, owned the Lysol trademark. As part of an out-of-court settlement, Sta-Wax agreed to change the product name to Lin Soap.
In 1994, Sta-Wax Chemical Corp was acquired by Wood Kote Products Inc. Production was moved to Portland OR where the product is still made using Mr Kang’s original formula and much of the same equipment.
Today, Lin-Soap sales follow Wood Kote’s market. The products are sold through paint retailers and the majority is used for commercial cleaning in hotels, restaurants and aboard marine vessels.
In 2008, Wood Kote developed Jel’d Lin Soap, a gelled linseed oil soap. Jel’d Lin Soap was formulated for use as a lubricant in exploratory drilling but the product still demonstrates superior qualities for cleaning, painted surfaces, leather, porcelain and stainless steel.
Lin Soap remains a truly versatile cleaning agent. Although the focus of the Lin Soap marketing plan is on its effective cleaning capabilities, the environmental aspects are important. Lin Soap is pure soap manufactured by traditional saponification processes and does not possess many of the environmentally unwanted compounds often found in detergents or cleaners.