Scotch Tape has a distinctive odor which is noticeable if you hold a piece close enough to smell. What chemical is responsible for this odor? The wikipedia page doesn't seem to mention composition.

Is the odor due to the the kind of plastic used in the strip of tape itself? Or is it due to the adhesive?


1 Answer 1


This is a long answer, but according to this:

While some pressure sensitive tapes are still prepared with natural rubber, the majority are now made using mostly synthetic materials. The backing for cellophane tape usually consists of cellulose acetate, a synthetic derivative of cellulose, which comes from wood pulp or cotton seeds. The cellulose is chemically treated with acetic acid and anhydride, and the side that won't receive an adhesive coating is treated with a release agent that enables the tape to be wound and unwound without sticking together. Although this compound varies among manufacturers, some commonly used substances include stearato chromic chloride and polystearic carbonate. Prior to the application of the adhesive, the adherend side of the backing may be primed with a solvent or aqueous dispersions such as nitrile rubber or chlorinated rubber. To produce the final adhesive substance, some manufacturers use as many as 29 raw materials that go through various stages of production. However, the generic adherend is made up of acrylic resins, petroleum byproducts that are broken down into alcohols and acids before being fused into a polymer compound. This compound is then mixed with mineral spirits or a hydrocarbon solvent, creating an aqueous emulsion (a solution in which the microscopic resin particles are held suspended) that is applied to the backing.

In other word, there are many candidates. I consider the top possibilities of those listed above to be: compounds composing the cellulose, the nitrile-based rubber compounds, and the semi-volatile organics composing both the adhereant and the base material. With so many compounds going into a single product, it is likely the mixture that gives the distinctive smell rather than any individual compound.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.