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How does Scotchguard work?

Scotchgard is a magical thing. You spray it on—and just like that, your carpet or upholstery is protected by an invisible shield! It repels and blocks stains, resists soiling, and keeps your carpet and upholstery looking newer for longer. With a rag and some water, you can clean up most spills. No more stains or scrubbing! And most importantly, Scotchgard won’t affect the way your carpet looks or feels—avoiding the sticky residue and tacky gloss you might expect using other spray cleaners and protectants. Pretty unbelievable, right? So how does Scotchgard work? How is this product able to provide great protection while remaining invisible and unnoticeable?

WHAT IS SCOTCHGARD? Scotchgard is a stain and water repellent created by 3M (the American adhesive company) in 1952 and since then, it has been used in a variety of cleaning and protectant products. One of its most popular uses is as a stain repellant for carpet and upholstered furniture.

HOW DOES SCOTCHGARD WORK? Scotchgard provides a protective shield that surrounds each fiber and protects it from water- and oil-based stains. The formula for Scotchgard was discovered accidentally and the two scientists involved (Patsy Sherman and Samuel Smith) received a patent for the formula in 1973. The original key ingredient in Scotchgard was perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which, due to its toxicity and global distribution (and a lot of pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has been phased out of 3M products for the last 10 years. Since 2003, Scotchgard products have used perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) in place of PFOS. Unfortunately, it has a much shorter half-life than PFOS.

The Scotchgard formula prevents stains and dirt from penetrating carpet and fabric fibers, but it isn’t infallible. With proper usage, it will keep your carpet and furniture looking cleaner for longer than they would have otherwise, but they won’t look brand-new forever. And just because you have Scotchgard, that doesn’t mean that you get just let repelled stains sit on your carpet for hours or days. They will sink in (and set in!) eventually. Scotchgard gives you time to prevent a stain; it doesn’t promise that your carpet or furniture will never be stained.

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