September 20, 2009

It's that time once more

TIME FOR THE LEMON OIL AGAIN. Every year, round about now, I sigh heartily and rub some lemon oil on the dry teak woodwork down below. I sigh because I actually know how pointless this procedure is.

Lemon oil cleans the teak, darkens it, and makes it look quite acceptable for a week or two. And then it’s back to square one. It’s recommended by many sailors for its alleged ability to prevent mold in the damp cold months ahead, but that might just be another of the myths about lemon oil.

The greatest myth is that it has anything to do with lemons. Or oil. If you look up the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for a brand of lemon oil, you’ll find that it’s mostly paint thinner. Good old mineral oil, with lemon flavor added.

The MSDS for one of the best-known brands, Old English Furniture Polish Oil, Lemon, says it’s between 90 percent and 100 percent white mineral oil by weight. You might as well use paint thinner or kerosene. The result will be about the same, for considerably less money. Lemon oil doesn’t oil the wood. If anything, it removes surface oil. Teak is naturally oily in any case.

There’s little argument about the fact that the best treatment for fine furniture like the inside of your boat is a high-quality wax. So why do I keep using lemon oil? Well, first, because it’s easy to apply. Second, because it smells good, and third, because it disappears in a week or two without having done any harm.

I guess it’s confession time. For years I have meant to varnish the woodwork down below. In fact, I even got some of it done this summer. Once it’s varnished you never have to do anything to it again. I want it to have that nice satiny, hand-rubbed-varnish look that Epifanes varnish produces. But most of it is still waiting for attention.

So I dare not wax it, and I dare not apply any polish containing silicone, because of the problem of removing these finishes completely before I can slap on my varnish.

Okay, but then why do I pay a small fortune for a bottle of Old English lemon oil when I could be using cheaper paint thinner or kerosene? It’s because I am a victim of advertising. I can’t help myself. Despite my resistance to advertisements, cultivated deliberately as part of my training as a skeptical journalist, there is something deep down inside me, or maybe up there in the dimmer and less developed regions of my brainbox, that wants to believe that Old English lemon oil is good for my teak.

It’s pathetic, I know. It only demonstrates the weakness of my will. That’s why I sigh.

Today’s Thought
Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is.
—Fairfax Cone, Christian Science Monitor, 20 Mar 63

“Boy, she looks as if she was made for that coat.”
“Yeah, but I still figure she could have held out for a mink.”


Anonymous said...

Seh ich auch so

Anonymous said...

Recently discovered your blog, know this an ancient post, but feel compelled to point out that mineral OIL is quite different from mineral SPIRITS.