I was delighted to clear out enough space in my studio to enable me to put my bottles of traditional media art supplies out where I can get easy access to them on the bookshelves near my drawing board.

I love painting in oil and other traditional media, but I get very little call for it anymore, except from private commissions. Since I have a major oil portrait to do sometime over the next year, I thought I would get the shelf organized and plan some time to work on it at least once a week.

When I went over to the shelf to poke about, I noticed a sticky substance nearly covered the entire top shelf. That’s never good, especially when valuable books are on the shelves below. I could not imagine what was on that shelf since I never put food anywhere near my supplies.

To my surprise, a bottle of linseed oil, package by the company Liquitex, had almost completely emptied itself all over the shelf. Worse, the leak had spilled over the shelf and had dripped onto a power strip below. Linseed oil is highly flammable. I also did not know that linseed oil can spontaneously combust, so I won’t be leaving any rags in the studio overnight anymore…

I had not made some kind of goofy mistake and knocked the bottle over: the linseed oil had eaten through the bottom of the plastic bottle in which the product was packaged. I do not know how old the bottle was, but I know it was some years old. It would never have occurred to me that the manufacturer would package a product in a bottle which could not safely contain its contents, but there you have it.

I’ve never had this happen before, and did not know linseed oil could eat through plastic like that. For those of you who have toxic or flammable traditional art media in your home, you might want to double check those bottles. I’ve always been very careful with my supply storage, and in this case, the manufacturer’s packaging is simply not suited to the job.

Kins and Co sells plastic bottles specifically for use with art supplies, and notes the dangers of turpentine and linseed oil leaks.

Solvents like turpentine and mineral spirits chemically attack plastic: This can cause the plastic to dissolve, weaken, discolor, or allow the solvent to permeate through the container (thus the bottle may feel greasy and over time you’ll lose the solvent you are trying to store). The plastic also may become brittle and crack…A regular plastic bottle kept at 50° C (122 ° F) for 28 days might lose 4-10 weight percent of its contents through the walls of the bottle. The Artist’s Bottle will lose less than 0.1%.

I’ve spent the better part of the morning trying to remove all the traces of dried linseed oil from the shelf and floor: obviously the power strip had to be discarded. The bottle wasn’t even directly over the power strip. The oil had oozed along the shelf and then dripped off the edge several feet away.

Anyway, just a head’s up for those of you who have art supplies packaged in plastic in your house. I think we may have avoided a disaster here, and goodness only knows when this leak occurred. It may even have happened while I was out of town. I’m just relieved no serious harm was done.

None of the other bottles show any signs of wear or damage, but I will be replacing them all the same.