Whatever Happened to ‘Bleaching Oil’?

When many folks think of New England, amongst the wide variety of picturesque imagery, can often be found the stereotypical New England beach house.

These days, beach houses have often developed into edifices that could very well be said to make the average McMansion jealous.

Thinking back to a traditional New England beach house however, the idea I have in my mind of what one looks like from the exterior is probably quite similar to what you may be envisioning.

While the shape of the home may vary, the exterior has white cedar shingle siding on it (possibly showing some age, possibly not) detailed out with white trim.

Although folks with beach houses have been known to let their white cedar shingles “weather”, others choose to treat these shingles in some fashion with the interest of preserving them.

One of the more popular treatments to white cedar shingle siding over the years, for beach houses and beyond, has typically been a product known as ‘Bleaching Oil’.

Bleaching Oil was a specially formulated type of product that was designed to accelerate the natural weathering process of the exterior wood it was applied to.

Bleaching Oil contained a small amount of gray pigment and a chemical ingredient that was meant to essentially bleach the wood’s surface.

As a product, I liken it to something between a transparent and a semi-transparent stain.

Bleaching Oil had always been made by a company called Cabot (a company based out of Newburyport, MA).

Due to a number of environmental laws that have been passed over the years which dictate what is able to be put into paints, stains, etc., Bleaching Oil is no longer available on the market.

As these laws were coming into effect, attempts were made to modify the traditional Bleaching Oil to be compliant with the increased regulations.

Because a component of these efforts was actually adding more oils into the product, surfaces that the Bleaching Oil was treated with became super susceptible to mildew growth in a product that already had an elevated tendency to see mildew growth at a quicker clip than many other products on the market.

In its place, there is now a product called ‘Bleaching Stain’ which has come out as a water-based alternative to the traditional Bleaching Oil product.

As far as substitutes in many of these similar situations go (finding a regulatory-compliant product to sell in place of one that has been restricted), this one actually turned out pretty decent.

For one thing, the Bleaching Stain is MUCH more resistant to mildew growth than the traditional versions of the Bleaching Oil product, and certainly the varying modified versions which had come on to market in the time period leading up to Bleaching Oil being phased out.

The Bleaching Stain product itself absolutely appears as if it mimics its early predecessor VERY well and also holds up just as long, if not longer.

Alternatively to the Bleaching Stain option, when Clients ask for ‘Bleaching Oil’ we sometimes dig a bit deeper and see if we can find a product (from one of the paint manufacturers) that the Client is happy with once they see a sample applied and which may provide a somewhat similar look to that of traditional ‘Bleaching Oil’.

Whether it is the Bleaching Stain or some other version, if someone is looking for a ‘Bleaching Oil’ for their home, their options are limited, though definitely not as much as they could be if Bleaching Oil had been pulled off the market in its entirety without any type of similar product at all in place to replace it.

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