scratch and sniff stickers

How Do Scratch and Sniff Stickers Work?

Do you remember scratch and sniff stickers? Those stickers we all had as kids where you would scratch the front of them, and they would instantly smell like whatever the sticker was? As a kid these were some of our favorite stickers to get. Scratching them for the first time was such a rush as you never knew if the smell was going to remotely resemble what was shown on the front of the sticker. You could end up with a strawberry that smelled like nothing or an apple that smelled like a cherry. You never know what you were going to get. Inconsistent smells aside, have you ever wondered how a scratch and sniff sticker worked? Would a scratch and snick sticker still smell if you didn’t actually scratch it first? Of course, as kids, we never really cared about how the stickers worked, we just loved the smell of them. As adults, however, we have more of a curiosity about how things work. Let’s talk a little bit about how scratch and sniff stickers give off their scents and how they are made.

Scratch and Sniff Stickers – How Do They Work?

Scratch and sniff was born in the mid-1960’s as a byproduct of another process that 3M was working on to help make easier copies of paper without having to use carbon paper. They discovered that the micro-encapsulation technique they were using could also hold a scent. They were then able to capture the smells inside of these small molecules which were then distilled into tiny bubbles. These bubbles can then be turned into ink through a special process which is then used to print the stickers. When you scratch a scratch and sniff sticker, you’re breaking open those small bubbles/molecules and releasing the scent that has been captured inside. This is what gives scratch and sniff stickers their unique smells. The printer/creator of the sticker can create whatever scent they would like and capture that within those molecules which are then printed on the stickers. In most cases the smell relates to what the sticker is depicting, but this does not have to be the case.

How Can a Scratch and Sniff Sticker Still Work Years Later?

The one question most people have when it comes to scratch and sniff is how can you still get the scent from these stickers years later. The most important thing to understand is that when we’re talking about these scent encapsulating molecules, we’re talking about something extremely small. These molecules are so small that as long as not all of them have been scratched off of the surface of the sticker, the scent will still remain inside as the years go on. So if you happen to find an old scratch and sniff sticker years after it was originally purchased and you scratch it, there’s a good chance that there are still some of those extremely small molecules left on the surface that contain the original scent.

Other Uses for Scratch and Sniff

In addition to the use on stickers, there are many other applications for the same technology. Have you ever received a magazine that has a perfume or cologne sample in it? Typically these types of ads have a strip or piece of paper over the smelly area and when you remove that strip it begins to smell like the perfume or cologne. These are using the same principle as scratch and sniff stickers. When that strip of paper is removed from the smelly area of the advertisement, the molecule capsules holding the scent are broken, thus releasing the smell into the air. In addition to entertainment and marketing related applications, there are also educational uses for scratch and sniff technology as well. In some cases, utility companies use scratch and sniff to help train employees as well as customers, on what a gas leak may smell like. It can also be used by doctors to help test patients who may be at early risk of Alzheimer’s disease, since loss of smell is an early symptom. There are many different applications for the technology used to make scratch and sniff stickers, but we’re fond of having the ability to make stickers smell like something unique. And while scratch and sniff stickers may not be as popular today as they once were, the technology is still being used around the world in all sorts of different applications.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.