Stain-busting: a smart solution

Published on June 8th, 2012
Stain-busting: a smart solution

Stains can ruin your clothes and get you in trouble if they’re on Mom’s couch. But there’s nothing you can do about them, right? Wrong…

So, you saved up for ages to buy that awesome pair of takkies, and now you’ve finally gone out and bought them. But then on your way home, you step in a dirty puddle and your awesome new takkies are stained.

Well, we’ve got good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that you may not be able to save those particular takkies… but the good news is that there’s something you can do to protect future stuff from stains… It’s called Scotchgard™ and it was invented about 60 years ago when someone spilt something nasty on their brand new shoes.

How it happened
In 1952, a young chemical researcher named Patsy Sherman joined 3M and was asked to develop a rubber substance that wouldn’t get damaged by jet aircraft fuels. One day, she was working in the lab when an assistant spilt a few drops of an experimental compound on her brand new tennis shoes, and she couldn’t get it off – not even with soap or alcohol!

The assistant was pretty annoyed – just like you – but Patsy was fascinated by the amazing toughness of this mysterious experimental compound. So she chatted to Sam Smith, a fellow 3M chemist, and they began to develop a substance that could actually repel oil and water from fabrics.

Three years later, Scotchgard™ Protector was launched, and for the first time, customers could put something on their favourite fabrics to protect them from stains. And today, people all over the world are still using this smart stain-protecting stuff! In fact, the modern version is even better thanks to Sam Smith’s son, Richard, who also became a 3M researcher and found ways to make Scotchgard™ more eco-friendly. And to think it all began with a simple accident…

The secret to smart ideas
This wasn’t the first product 3M discovered by accident, and many people thought that this company was just lucky – that they just happened to be good at stumbling onto smart new products and ideas. But as 3M executive Richard P Carlton once said, “You can’t stumble if you’re not in motion.”

And that’s the moral of this story: If you want to come up with a good idea, you need to keep questioning the world around you. Why? Because you never know when an accident will spark an idea that you may not even have known you were looking for… And it could be the idea that changes your life.