Scratch and sniff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scratch and sniff technology generally refers to stickers or paperboard items that have been treated with a fragrant coating. When scratched, the coating releases an odor that is normally related to the image displayed under the coating. The technology has been used on a variety of surfaces from stickers to compact discs. Gale W. Matson accidentally invented the technology while working for 3M in the 1960's. He was attempting to create a new method for making carbonless copy paper using microencapsulation.[1] The technology to infuse microcapsules and paper was submitted to the US patent office on November 18, 1969 and the patent was granted on June 23, 1970.[2] Despite the technology being invented by Matson in the 60's and its subsequent success in the 70's, the first patent for a translucent fragrance releasing version of microcapsules wasn't issued until January 15, 1985 to the 3M corporation.[3]


One of the earliest use of Scratch-and-sniff technology can be found in the 1971 children's book "Little Bunny Follows His Nose" which featured various smell-able objects such as peaches, roses, and pine needles.[4][5] Stickers and labels became popular in the late 1970s, and remained so through to the mid-1980s. In 1977, Creative Teaching Press produced some of the earliest scratch and sniff stickers and were mainly marketed to teachers as rewards for their students.[6][7] However just a few years earlier in 1974, researchers for Ohio State University could not find a substantial link between olfactory stimuli and improved learning, and suggested that audio-visual learning methods alone were more reliable methods of encouraging learners.[8]

Scratch-and-sniff stickers are sometimes used to help diagnose anosmia[9][10] although this is very uncommon due to the adoption of the Alcohol Sniff Test which uses vaporised 70% isopropyl alcohol.[11][12] Some utility companies enclosed scratch and sniff cards in their bills to educate the public in recognizing the smell of a methane gas leak. In 1987, cards distributed by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company led to a rash of false alarms when the scents of cards in unopened envelopes were mistaken for real gas leaks.[13]


Scratch and sniff is created through the process of micro-encapsulation. The desired smell is surrounded by micro-capsules that break easily when gently rubbed. The rub to release action breaks the micro-encapsulated bubbles and releases the aroma. Because of the micro-encapsulation, the aroma can be preserved for extremely long periods of time.

While there were hundreds of companies that put out Scratch and Sniff stickers, the most well known are the originators Creative Teaching Press (CTP) (who later renamed them Sniffy's in 1980/1981), Trend Enterprise's Stinky Stickers line (which followed directly after CTP), Hallmark, Sandylion, Spindex, Gordy, and Mello Smello.

In popular culture[edit]

German scratch and sniff card from the film Polyester

Apart from the stickers, scratch and sniff surfaces are to be found on some objects in popular culture:

When annotating the 1963 Jean Lewis release of the Tortoise and the Hare, Gregory I. Carlson joked that although the book was fuzzy, it was "not scratch-and-sniff!"[23]


  1. ^ Soniak, Matt (9 February 2009). "How Does Scratch and Sniff Work?". Mental Floss. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  2. ^ US3516846A, Matson, Gale W., "Microcapsule-containing paper", issued 1970-06-23 
  3. ^ US4493869A, Sweeny, Norman P.; Relyea, Keith E. & Brustad, Wayne L., "Fragrance-releasing microcapsules on a see-through substrate", issued 1985-01-15 
  4. ^ "Little Bunny Follows His Nose". Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  5. ^ Howard, Katherine (1971). Little Bunny follows his nose. Golden Books.
  6. ^ "Stickers, Cards and Collectors. – The Scratch and Sniff Company". Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  7. ^ "BUBBLEDOG'S CTP Scratch 'N Sniff Collection". Archived from the original on 2003-06-22.
  8. ^ Hartman, A. Carol (1974). The effects of pairing olfactory stimuli with words on the acquisition of word recognition skills of kindergarten students / (Thesis). The Ohio State University.
  9. ^ "Disorders of Taste and Smell: Introduction and Background, Anatomy and Physiology, Etiology of Smell and Taste Disorders". 2022-08-02. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ "Smell and Taste Disorders". 2021-08-08. Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  11. ^ Davidson, T. M.; Murphy, C. (June 1997). "Rapid clinical evaluation of anosmia. The alcohol sniff test". Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery. 123 (6): 591–594. doi:10.1001/archotol.1997.01900060033005. ISSN 0886-4470. PMID 9193218.
  12. ^ "Sniff Tests". MOPSC. 2018-03-23. Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  13. ^ AP (1987-09-06). "Noses Are Out of Joint Over Baltimore Smell - New York Times". Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  14. ^ "The Raspberries - scratch-and-sniff sticker?". Steve Hoffman Music Forums. Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  15. ^ "Raspberries - Official Web Site". Retrieved 2022-09-11.
  16. ^ "The Los Angeles Times to Feature First-Ever Ad with Scented Ink for Fox Walden's "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium"". Los Angeles Times. 4 September 2007.
  17. ^ IGN Staff (4 Sep 2007). "Mr. Magorium's Smelly Ad". IGN.
  18. ^ "BBC News - London to 'taste' New Year's celebrations at fireworks display". 2013-12-31. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  19. ^ The Huffington Post UK/PA (2013-12-31). "London New Years Eve 2013: Scratch 'N' Sniff 'Multi-Sensory' Fireworks Celebrations To Kick Off In The Capital". Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  20. ^ agencies 12:01AM GMT 31 Dec 2013 (2013-12-31). "New Year's Eve London revellers will 'taste and smell' fireworks party". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  21. ^ Layton, Josh (2014-01-01). "New Year's Eve 2013: Celebrations from all over the world - the globe says goodbye to 2013 in style - Mirror Online". Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  22. ^ Harley Quinn Annual #1 (October 2014)
  23. ^ Gregory, Carlson (25 January 2016). "The Tortoise and the Hare". Creighton University. Retrieved 11 September 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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