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Soybean Oil Not-So-Secret Sauce Behind Rust-Oleum
Illinois Ag Connection - 11/19/2019

Admiring that new rich, deep finish on the neighbor's rehabbed dining table?

There's a good chance it looks that beautiful because of soybean oil.

Long used by the coating industry, soybean oil is now a hit in wood stains and finishes, including those produced by Rust-Oleum, headquartered in Vernon Hills, Ill.

"The viscosity of the soybean oil is low enough so pigments can get deep into the wood grain, and you get a richer color," says Joseph Ferguson, director of research and development for Rust-Oleum. "Soybean oil speeds up drying and adds durability. It also gives some water resistance, which is helpful. Plus, soy is readily available. It's tried and true to use with wood stains."

Soybean oil's versatility and availability are among the reasons why it appears in several lines of Rust-Oleum's wood care products.

"From a marketing standpoint, our products give a beautiful finish, which is a byproduct of the soybean oil," says Jessica Bahn, brand manager at Rust-Oleum. "The soybean oil is like the secret sauce. It gives a beautiful end result, and it's easy to apply due to the viscosity."

Varathane Classic, an indoor wood stain collection, is one of Rust-Oleum's lines that includes soybean oil. The May 2018 launch of Varathane Classic came from the success of the Varathane Professional line. Also containing soybean oil, the Professional line has long been a highly-rated favorite stain among consumers, based on online reviews on retailer websites.

Beyond what the consumer sees, there are several other benefits gained from using soy-derived ingredients. Among the reasons, Ferguson notes sustainability.

"Soybean oil is a biorenewable resource," he says. "Another thing we are doing with soy-derived raw materials is reducing the VOC (volatile organic compounds) content. VOCs are air pollutants that are regulated by agencies such as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)."

VOCs have been a hot topic among consumers for years. According to Ferguson, there's a good opportunity, thanks to soybean oil, to further reduce VOCs throughout the wood stain category.

"It's something we think is conceivable using soy-derived material. Because we can modify soybean oil as an ingredient, it expands the potential end uses," he says. "As we see more push from regulatory agencies to reduce the VOC content in products, the value of soy will increase incrementally as we use it to create other raw materials."

While Rust-Oleum is certainly not the only company marketing soybean-derived wood stains, the company has worked with the United Soybean Board (USB) for nearly 10 years on a variety of projects. Currently, Rust-Oleum and USB are working jointly on two projects for the development of a raw material. This marks the first time wood stain development and improvement projects have been funded by USB.

"Soybean oil provides the right combination of cost, availability and technical attributes," he says. "That's its appeal."

Its versatility and ability to stand up to tough conditions, such as heat and moisture, are among the reasons Ferguson and Bahn say soybean oil will remain a valued ingredient for the coatings industry.

"It's fair to say soy is an integral part of many of our wood care products," says Bahn. "And that will continue to be the case as we move forward."

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