So here we are 4 months into our Hardwax Oil Experiment. This is our final test subject – Pallmann Magic Oil. For the last 3 months we have extensively tested and reviewed OSMO Oil, Rubio Monocoat and Bona Indoor Oil. After our not so great outcome last month with Bona’s product, we’re happy to report that this hardwax oil did way better!
Unlike Rubio Monocoat and OSMO, most people will probably not have heard very much about Pallmann Magic Oil. In fact getting any consumer information about it can be very difficult because the distributor in the States doesn’t market anywhere near as well as the other two hardwax oil distributors.
But if you’ve browsed through our website you’ve probably noticed that we’re HUGE fans of Pallmann’s water-based finishes.
In fact for water-based finish systems we exclusively use their Pall-X 96 single component system and Pall-X 98, their high-end 2 component system. Both of these finishes are amongst the best of the best and we wholeheartedly recommend them to our clients. (You can read more about these finishes here.)
So the pressure was on for Pallmann to prove to us that their hardwax oil is as good as the water-based line-up. To say we had very high expectations going into this experiment is an understatement.
Let’s see what Pallmann have to say in their limited Magic Oil marketing materials…
Pallmann Magic Oil Features:
- Made from a hybrid of natural oils and waxes
- Environmentally friendly with extremely low VOC’s
- Comes in 6 colors (unlimited colors if you stain first and use Neutral)
- Easy to look after, clean and maintain
- Easily spot-repaired
- Uniform matte, velvety surface that repels dirt and water
- Enhances the beauty of your woods natural grain
- Great chemical resistant properties and non-flammable
- Rated for use on radiant heat floor systems
- Rapid drying properties allow for refinishing to be completed quickly
- Two component system
Magic Oil Benefits:
- The non-toxic natural oils and waxes makes it a very environmentally and family friendly finish to use
- Because there’s very low VOC’s and no solvents you won’t be driven out of your home by horrible fumes
- Scratches and damage can be easily spot repaired without having to re-coat the entire room to match the sheen
- It won’t off-gas bad fumes, chemicals and smells for weeks after it’s applied
- Doesn’t form a plastic film like other varnish, acrylic and polyurethane finishes
- It’s a two component finish which makes it durable enough to be used in commercial applications as well as residential projects
- Because you can stain the floor first and then top coat it with the Neutral color, you have pretty much unlimited color choices
Sounds pretty impressive doesn’t it?
Let’s see how this finish held up to our real world testing…
Like all the other finishes we’ve tried out and tested, we started out in our shop on test panels. (We never, ever practice or experiment with new products on our clients floors.)
The oiling application went well and the dry time matched what was advertised – 4 hours till it can be walked on and overnight to cure. We experimented with different liquids and it stood up to them extremely well. We were also impressed with how durable it was as we scratched them up and banged them around with various instruments.
So step one was easily passed, onto the next stage…
This is when we get to test it out on a real world floor. Like in our OSMO experiment, our good friend Arvydas from Arch Remodeling (you can see a few of our projects with him on our Photo’s and Feedback page) stepped in with a cool project that needed the hardwood floor refinished.
Arvydas is a very creative contractor and like us he’s eager to try out the latest products. This project was pretty special to him because it was his own floors in his home that was being remodeled.
As usual, he went way beyond installing boring conventional store bought flooring.
He had found some antique reclaimed timber that he had custom milled into floor boards of various widths. These boards were full of rustic character and the milling added even more. To make the floor even more interesting he installed cross-cut log inserts throughout the floor.
We took great care to keep all the saw blade marks, worm holes, hand-scrapping and other cool looking character on the floor as we carefully sanded it.
No big belt sander on this unique floor!
Take a look at how it turned out…
In the picture above we’re buffing off the excess oil from the first coat of Magic Oil.
The shot below shows us finishing off the last coat.
Here’s a close up of the floor.
Isn’t it beautiful? I love all the character in it with the saw blade marks and the checks and other imperfections. It looks like it’s been there for a hundred years, not just a few days…
This photo was taken after all the renovations were completed…
…and another to show richness and the nice sheen this hardwax oil has.
And lastly, here’s one of the stairs. Again you can see the nice velvety sheen on the tops of the treads…
The next project we had the pleasure of using this hardwax oil on was in Darien, Illinois. It’s a Lithuanian café/gift shop/deli called Old Vilnius Café. (You can visit their website here: http://www.lietuvele.com)
This place used to be a hardwood and carpet showroom before it was transformed into a café. Ironic hey.
Because of the commercial nature of these floors, this would be the perfect place to see how well these floors stand up over time with all the traffic that would make its way through the store on a daily basis.
Here are some pictures of the floors…
The photo above shows us starting the sanding process by removing the old polyurethane finish. Because it was a previous flooring showroom there were a few different species of wood and various patterns in the floor.
In the picture below we’re finishing up staining and are getting ready to apply the Magic Oil…
And here is the project all finished up…
This is what it looks like with all the shop fittings in place open for business…
So what do we think of this hardwax oil finish system after these two jobs?
Well let’s go back and review the basics of what we look for in a finish:
- Has to look good
- Must be long-lasting, durable to traffic and resistant to spills
- Have relative easy maintenance and repair
- Not “yellow” excessively over time
- Not have high VOC’s and stink up the home for days on end
- Not take forever to cure
So far both Rubio Monocoat and OSMO have passed these 6 requirements with flying colors. How did Pallmann’s Magic Oil fare?
1. Good Looking:
What do you think from the pictures above?
Personally, we think Magic Oil is the best looking finish out of the 3 hardwax oils we’ve tested and used. It has a bit more sheen compared to the very matte Rubio Monocoat – but without the plastic coated look.
Like Pallmann promises, it looks very natural and really enhances the beauty of your timber’s natural grain. You can really see that in the first floor we finished above. The character just popped out and came alive when the Magic Oil was applied.
If you want more sheen, we can just buff it a bit more to polish it up. Of course it will never be high gloss or even semi-gloss, but if you’re after a deep, velvety matte look, then this hardwax oil really fits the bill.
As far as colors, it only comes in 6 including Neutral which is way under Monocoat’s 30 basic colors and unlimited variations with the pre-treatments. But… you can use a stain underneath – like we did in the café above – to obtain any color you want and then top coat it with Neutral. So in reality, Magic Oil can be any color you want it to be as well.
2. Long-lasting, durable to traffic and resistant to spills:
Along with looks, this would have to be the biggest factor people are concerned about when they choose a finish system.
And for good reason too.
Nobody wants to invest a significant amount of money into restoring their hardwood floors and find out soon after that it’s not as durable or spill resistant as they thought it would be – as can be the case with cheap oil based and single component water based finishes. This is also a frequent complaint for those that use traditional penetrating oil finishes that need constant upkeep and re-oiling to keep their protection intact.
You need to be confident that spills and other mishaps can be cleaned up without leaving long-lasting damage, and that every day traffic and use won’t prematurely wear them down after a few months or years.
Pallmann Magic Oil does extremely well in this regard.
As it is a blend of wax and natural oils, the finish penetrates deeply into the pores of the wood as well as forming a durable protective surface on top. The nice thing though is that it’s not a thick plastic covering that mutes out the natural look and feel of the wood. And unlike cheap surface finishes, Magic Oil won’t crack, flake, blister or peel.
We were also very impressed with its resistance to all of our test liquids as well. None of them left any permanent damage on our test panels.
It’s a two component finish so it is very durable. If it’s used in a commercial application you can double the hardener for added strength. Our real life tests are still inconclusive (we need more time) but we’re pretty certain that it is most likely the toughest hardwax oil finish available. We’ll update this post when we’re absolutely certain.
Again we have to ask… is it as strong as our Pall-X96 and X98 finish systems?
And the answer is the same as the other two hardwax oils – No.
But… the great thing about these hardwax oils, including Magic Oil, is that if there is any surface damage done it can very easily be spot repaired – which brings us to the next point…
3. Easy Maintenance and Repair:
As we talked about in Part 1 and Part 2 of our Hardwax Oil Experiment, easy maintenance is one of the reasons “plastic” surface finishes have been so popular over the years compared to hard-to-maintain traditional penetrating oil systems. Cleaning is easy and spilled liquids can be wiped up with no fuss.
But as we also talked about in those two write-ups (sorry for some repetition here), the strength of this system is also its greatest weakness. These finishes are basically a big “plastic” sheet spread out across the entire floor and deep scratches are very hard to repair properly if you want to blend them and match the sheen in with the rest of the floor.
But hardwax oils – including Pallmann’s Magic Oil – really excel when it comes to repairability.
Sure they’re not as tough as a two component water-based finish system… but when they do get scratched or damaged they can easily be spot repaired and the area will seamlessly blend in with the rest of the floor.
This is because only the open (damaged) wood fibers will take the new oil. The existing finish next to the scratched or damaged area won’t accept new oil so there is no overlapping or additional buildup of finish.
This really is a huge feature.
If well looked after and properly maintained with Pallmann’s maintenance products – ‘Pallmann Hardwood Floor Cleaner’, ‘Pallmann Magic Oil Care’ and ‘Pallmann Clean’ – this finish system should last a lifetime and you will possibly never need to re-sand your floors ever again. Magic Oil won’t stain or watermark like traditional penetrating oil finishes yet it is also very easy to clean like a surface finish.
‘Pallmann Hardwood Floor Cleaner’ is for daily light cleaning. ‘Pallmann Magic Oil Care’ is a long term maintenance product that is used every 4 – 6 months and is just an easy application with a dampened microfiber mop. ‘Pallmann Clean’ should be used every few years to remove any residue from the previous two cleaners before applying another coat of Magic Oil.
All of these can be done by the homeowner. The ‘Pallmann Clean’ process and re-application of Magic Oil that is suggested every couple of years can also be done by your hardwood floor guy to make it easier if you like. This process goes much faster with the right equipment.
All in all it’s far easier to look after compared to a traditional oil finish and much less hassle long-term to completely re-sanding and refinishing your entire hardwood floor every 7 to 10 years if you have a lower-end surface finish.
The natural oils and waxes used in the finish are non-yellowing so you don’t have to worry about that ugly old orange look that you can get with after a couple of years with polyurethane oil modified finishes.
5. VOC’s and Stink Factor:
VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds can be very harmful not only to the environment but also for your health. Lately governments have been trying to curb the usage of products with dangerous levels of VOC’s and have started to regulate the hardwood floor industry. Many businesses are finding themselves having to quickly become adept at using lower VOC finishes.
Thankfully we were ahead of the curve and have been using low VOC finishes for some time.
Our favorite finishes, Pall-X 96 and Pall-X 98 are 150g/liter and 250g/liter in the VOC department. That is extremely low for a high-end finish. Most oil based finishes are way above 500g/liter and Glitsa is a whopping 725g/liter!
In contrast Pallmann Magic Oil in the Neutral color we used has less than 5g/liter. The colored versions have 9g/liter. That’s less than OSMO’s 50g and slightly more than Monocoat’s amazing zero grams per liter.
That makes it very environmentally friendly as well as family friendly.
The smell is just a mild vegetable oil like smell that will quickly dissipate with proper ventilation. It smells like you’re cooking fries in old oil. So if you need to stay at home during the finishing process, that won’t be a problem. This finish definitely won’t drive you out of your home like some of the crazy stinky ones out there.
6. Time to Cure:
Magic Oil is dry to the touch in 1/2 hour, able to be walked on in 4 hours and completely cured in 12 hours. Technically you could apply 2 coats in one day but we prefer to do a coat a day to obtain better results.
That means it takes roughly the same amount of time as a three coat water-based system and its way faster than a three coat oil-based system.
The big advantage it has over our water-based systems is that carpets and rugs can be put back on the floor after 24 hours – compared to our suggestion of at least a week later for our water-based finishes.
So did it pass the 6 point test and live up to our expectations?
If you factor in that any color stain can be used underneath – it has an unlimited choice of colors, it uses all natural ingredients, the VOC level is one of the lowest in the industry, it’s very durable, the cure time is fast and it’s extremely easy to maintain and repair.
That makes it an all-out winner in our book.
We love Pallmann Magic Oil. In fact out of all the 4 hardwax oils we’ve tested, this just might be our favorite.
Again, like we’ve discussed in detail before, we realize that these finishes aren’t for everyone. If you love the super shiny gloss look, or a surface finish with a lot of build, then you most likely won’t like Magic Oil. But… if you love to look of a hand-rubbed oil finish and a nice velvety matte sheen, then it really doesn’t get much better than this.
It also definitely needs to be maintained and re-coated every so often which might be off-putting for a few people that want very low maintenance. But for those that see the benefits that it offers long-term, it could be the perfect finish.
We also love that it is durable enough and has super low VOC’s so it can be used in commercial environments.
**UPDATE** It’s been a few months now since we put this finish down in the café. We went back to check up on it in Jan 2013 and were very impressed by how it’s holding up to the stores constant traffic. We can now wholeheartedly recommend Magic Oil for these types of projects.
**2016 UPDATE** See what we think of Magic Oil 4 years on.
Next month we’ll have a look at all of these hardwax oils side-by-side and see how they stack up next to each other. Then we’ll choose our favorite.
(Click Here to see the results)
Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below…