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Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 7th, 2018, 12:05 pm
by maxulike
For me the smell is all but everything but getting ever harder to sniff out.

Even in the 1980's, cheap rubberised nylon macs from Millets had a good strong smell, nothing to match the cotton single texture mac from Cording & Co, which still hides under my dressing gown on the back of our bedroom door, but pretty good none the less. So where's that smell gone, and what exactly is it?

I really would like to know and have tried for years to find out. Latex, on its own, smells OK when aged, but that's not it. What do they add when they make rubber bands, and some rubber gloves (E.g. Marigold Industrial) that give them a far more rubbery smell? Old hot water bottles, some non slip bath/shower mats, floral rubber bathing caps, the elastic in vintage foundation wear - I could go on - they all seem to have it.

I found, in the past, that some new corduroy and even some clothes made of cotton had that smell, when brand new, and if they were exposed to the sun it could be quite intoxicating. Far more surprising, I have an old green lacquered tea tray and when that is taken outside in the summer, the same wonderful smell wafts from it. No idea what it is!

So my cupboard has a collection of disappointing modern macs which, despite acres of beautiful smooth rubber linings, have virtually no smell at all.

I'm sorry if all this has been said before. I'm new to this forum. I did search for threads on this topic, but found no answers. If anyone has any information or even any theories on this subject, please reply, and I'd be most grateful.

I doubt that my old Cording Mac would repel much water there days, but I suspect it will still be hanging on the back of the door until after I have been carted off.

Re: Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 8th, 2018, 1:26 pm
by freakylover63
i agree. the smell of rubber rainwear is no more the same. i also loved the strong smell in the past and miss it.

Re: Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 9th, 2018, 1:27 pm
by MacRobin
Hi maxulike,

Apart from "end users" like us, this is a wide ranging subject and the last time I had a serious discussion on the subject was with Lorraine at Lakeland etc for whom the olfactory aspects were very important. That discussion dealt mainly with the "how" and I advanced a theory (nothing more) that the reason why some people were positively affected by the odours and some were negatively and that this was very similar to drug addiction in the sense that most likely, some people had receptors which were triggered by the smell of rubber, just as receptors in some people were triggered by drugs on one kind or another, alcohol, nicotene, cannabis, harder stuff. Different people have different receptors so they react differently. But my theory was driven by the simple irrefutable fact that whatever makes the proximity of rubber cause an effect in those like us, the effect has all the characteristics of an addiction. We can be grateful that (to the best of my knowledge) the addiction is not only harmless but actually contributes to well-being.

But I stray from your point. An executive summary would be that a recent scientific study (2013 Montpellier) identified 43 volatile compounds present in samples of rubber some of which may contribute to what the authors called the malodorous emissions and at least one that they regarded as pleasant. A weakness of the paper in my opinion was that the authors did not clearly distinguish between chemical compounds that came out of the tree and those that were added during the industrial process or those that were created naturally outside the tree. I have found references to the fact that compounds added during the manufacturing process interact with those already present to produce characteristic smells.

I shall cut out a lot of the verbiage (unless anyone would like to hear more). From all accounts, the very first double texture mackintoshes, made from unvulcanised rubber dissolved in naphtha, sandwiched between two layers of cotton smelt like a coke works. Even after Hancock invented vulcanisation (not Goodyear), and it became possible to produce fabric rubberised one one side and thus potentially the forerunner of our desires, the naphtha elements was not removed and it presented a deterrent. I do not believe that raincoat addiction was triggered by these first specimens. By about 1900 the Manchester firm of Mandelberg were advertising "odourless rubber raincoats" although these may well have been relatively odourless. However, as naphtha gave way to other less noxious solvents, the characteristic rubber smelling raincoat emerged during the 20th century and by and large, it lasted to the present day, except as noticed by maxulike and others, the times they are a changing.

Very little was every published or made public on the source of the smell, because firms like Mandelberg wanted to keep their processes secret and technologically, it was impossible to reverse engineer a smell, especially where it is complex. There is no doubt that all manufacturers strive to produce rubberised raincoats as free from smell as possible, to appeal to the widest audience and we live in a highly technological age where new processes make this increasingly possible. A big change as far as "end-users" like us in UK are concerned is that the goods being offered are increasingly being made in India and China. I would have expected a reversion to stronger odour and I think this was true of the early Rajkumar clothing that was sold by Lorraine, which was very "industrial" in smell and heavy in texture. But their latest ones are much more delicate. I have reviewed a Kingfisher blue suit elsewhere on this site and at first it smelt astringent and was dusted with a white powder, the source of the pungency. Removing the powder and using it has resulted in a garment that hardly smells, in fact barely more than PU, although in a different way. My bet is that Rajkumar would not divulge any new technology. It is probably a combination of solvents and additives.

But to the bottom line, out of the 43 aromatic compounds identified in the Montpellier paper, one of them had a distinctive smell of rubber when isolated and that was benzothiazole. A sweet, honey floral odour characterised the phenylacetic acid that was also found. They gave a list of the 14 strongest smelling compounds and bearing in mind that the samples were industrial rubber crumbs and the aim of the study was to ID the malodorous content and try to eliminate it because the smells were escaping the factory, some were not nice. If anyone would like the list of the 14 and what they smell like (fishy/ammonia through spicy almond via butter, cheese, medicinal) I can post it here. It might be possible to acquire the best of these chemicals and rub a tincture into our rubber, to restore a piece of history.

Re: Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 9th, 2018, 4:39 pm
by olympic
i have found RKD rainwear to have a strong rubber smell, the rubber is natural rubber, and it does have a RUBBER SMELL. not chemical just rubber.

Re: Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 9th, 2018, 9:50 pm
by freakylover63
olympic wrote:
January 9th, 2018, 4:39 pm
i have found RKD rainwear to have a strong rubber smell, the rubber is natural rubber, and it does have a RUBBER SMELL. not chemical just rubber.
Yes, I think it must be natural couchouk. I"ve had a couchouk lined cape in the end of 1960s and was a great smell, I'll never forget

Re: Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 10th, 2018, 9:37 am
by Shiny
I find MacRobin's well conducted research very interesting, as he states that Benzothiazole has been found to be mainly responsible for the aroma of rubber.

I have often thought that the aroma of rubber may contain a pheromone, and hence a link to sexuality, and
a quick search on the internet for Benzothiazole appears to indicate that it is pheromonal or semiochemical (a semiochemical is apparently a pheromone or other chemical that conveys a signal from one organism to another so as to modify the behaviour of the recipient organism). Benzothiazole is utilised by some species in this way.

I believe in addition to this possible pheromonal effect of rubber, there are other factors introduced when wearing rubber boots for example, feelings of confidence, protection, power perhaps, etc., and other items such as black pvc macs (although of course these also have their own aroma).

The wearing of these items of clothing appears to have a psychological effect on some people, and possibly all people, though some may not be confident enough to admit it.

Re: Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 10th, 2018, 1:13 pm
by maxulike
Many thanks to Mac Robin for many gems of knowledge and a small ray of hope for me.

After many hours of mac "research" on Google, I had stated to wonder about Naphtha, I had seen that it was used to dissolve rubber in the early days and I also have to confess that I am attracted to the smell of traditional moth balls (Naphthalene), though I suspect that the true link here is smell associations from the cupboard under my mother's stairs! I also read that coal oil, distilled from coal, was used in a similar way. It seems that some pure latex is still smoked to help to cure it and indeed the smoky smell is very noticeable in some new rubber products (car floor mats). All latex needs some sort of vulcanisation to make it suitable as a coating. Benzothiazole is a vulcanisation accelerator according to one article. I can't help feeling that sulphur contributes the smell somehow. I find that many other sulphurous smells have rubbery overtones.

Since reading MacRobin's reply, further searches may have answered some more questions for me. It seems that benzothiazole has been used in the production of textiles, though I am not quite clear what for. This could explain the smell in Corduroy and some new cotton. Unfortunately it is thought to be carcinogenic so I suspect they will stop using it. Another substance, quinolene, which has a very similar chemical composition to benzothiazole (lacks the sulphur atom) and is said to smell very similar, is used in some varnishes and lacquers, which could explain the smell of my tea tray. I also found a patent application for a perfume to make car interiors smell new and leathery. It contained 25% benzothiazole "to add a rubbery note".

A year or so ago I bought several orange dayglow Nippon jackets on eBay. These have a very thin a natural rubber coating inside, and a very faint smell. I tried to improve the situation by recoating the inside of one with latex body paint. Sad to say, the improvement was minimal. I have found that these paints, which claim to be pure latex with water and some ammonia added to keep the latex in solution, do have a slight rubbery smell, some more than others, after the ammonia has evaporated. Perhaps I should try again with some benzothiazole mixed into the paint. I'll have to try and get hold of some.

Thanks again and sorry to bang on!

Re: Arrivederci Aroma - Rubber Mac

Posted: January 10th, 2018, 1:31 pm
by maxulike
Thanks also to Shiny and other responders. Shiny's theories are very interesting.
I know exactly where my own attraction to rubber came from, but I still wonder if there might be some hereditary component. No doubt that subject has been done to death. Talking of death, are we a dying breed?

I am not clear why this is a mostly male thing - correct me if I'm wrong. Many years ago, my cousin's wife told me that she loved the smell of damp policemen's macs. It was the macs, not the policemen, that were damp! But this was not in any way a sexual thing for her, any more that her love for the smell of roses.