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Scotchgard

Patsy Sherman

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Scotchgard a spray-on fabric protector was invented by Patsy Sherman.

Scotchgard - Patent Drawing

USPTO
"Anyone can become an inventor as long as they keep an open and inquiring mind and never overlook the possible significance of an accident or apparent failure." Patsy Sherman

Who is Patsy Sherman?

Patsy Sherman was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1930. After college graduation, she joined 3M as a research chemist and was assigned to work on fluorochemical polymers. Patsy Sherman was one of very few women chemists to work for a major corporation when she was hired by 3M in 1952. Her work was an essential part of the introduction of 3M's first stain repellent and soil release textile treatments which have grown into an entire family of products known as Scotchgard protectors.

Invention of Scotchgard

Patsy Sherman regards the serendipitous discovery of Scotchgard as one of her most significant works because many experts had written that such a product was "thermodynamically impossible." Patsy Sherman said, "We were trying to develop a new kind of rubber for jet aircraft fuel lines, when one of the lab assistants accidentally dropped a glass bottle that contained a batch of synthetic latex I had made. Some of the latex mixture splashed on the assistant's canvas tennis shoes and the result was remarkable."

That day in the lab is legendary. Patsy Sherman and her colleague, Sam Smith, were working on another project when they observed that the accidental spill on a white tennis shoe would not wash off nor would solvent remove it. The area resisted soiling. They recognized the commercial potential of its application to fabrics during manufacture and by the consumer at home. So go ahead and put your feet up… the dirt will wash off.

Scotchgard was first sold in 1956, however, Patsy Sherman and Samuel Smith obtained U.S. patent #3,574,791 in 1973, for the method for treating carpets, now known as Scotchgard. The name Scotchgard is a combination of the words Scotch and a misspelling of the word guard.

Patsy Sherman was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1983. Patsy Sherman and Sam Smith jointly hold 13 patents in fluorochemical polymers and polymerization processes.

The Fluorocarbon Controversy - Scotchgard Revisited

According to an Earth Times article, "Scotchgard ingredients belong to a family of fluorocarbon chemicals that degrade to form perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). 3M has manufactured PFOS since 1948, and in 2000 was expected to produce more than 10 million pounds of the compound for use in Scotchgard products." However, on May 16, 2000, 3M announced that it would phase out PFOS because of concerns over “new” data that the chemical had been “detected broadly at extremely low levels in the environment and in people.”

The bottom line - our health and the environment were at risk. While there is controversy surrounding the issue (see articles listed below). It is excellent that 3M decided to phase out chemicals proven to be harmful. After all, we all live together on this planet.

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