In 1952 an assistant in Patsy Sherman’s chemistry lab at 3M accidentally dropped a beaker full of a liquid rubber mixture onto the floor, where it splashed onto Sherman’s canvas sneakers.
Sherman’s team had been trying to develop a new kind of rubber for use in aircraft fuel lines. But the spilled mixture caught their attention. Although the mixture didn’t change the look or feel of the canvas, they were unable to wash it off the shoes. The water and solvents they used to try to clean the sneakers beaded up and ran off “like water off a duck’s back.”
Sherman and fellow chemist Sam Smith realized the mixture could be used to protect fabrics from water and other fluids. They immediately began trying to improve it and reduce its cost. After three years of work, Sherman’s mixture was patented and released as Scotchgard Protector™.
What is Scotchgard™ Made of?
Scotchgard™ is made up of particles that are sticky on one side, helping it cling to fabrics, and on the other side slippery enough to resist stains. When applied to carpets or upholstery, the formula surrounds the fibers and prevents dirt, water, oil, and most other liquids from breaking through.
Today’s Solutions Are Sometimes Tomorrow’s Problems
In May 2000, 3M decided to reformulate some of its Scotchgard products. A study done for the company showed that breakdown materials from the chemistry used to manufacture these products has been found to be widespread in the environment and in people. As a result of the study, 3M made the decision to discontinue production of that chemistry and has reformulated these Scotchgard products.