How about that weird smell-making stuff you may have accidentally swallowed?
Well, according to researchers, that’s the reason many brands of paint on home and office walls don’t stick well to wallpapers or carpet.
What is it that makes paint stick to walls and other surfaces? And why do most paints stick even more badly to the wood or paper on your desks, tables, and counters? [Read: 5 Surprising Facts About the History of Paint.]
The answer to the first question comes from the properties of carbon. Carbon atoms are arranged in a hexagon, just like those in a circle.
But while the carbon atoms in the hexagon usually have the same shape, the carbon also has a shape other than a circle.
For example, the carbon in a pentagon has a longer or shorter side, making it possible for carbon atoms to be placed in a different ratio.
When you apply the same amount of paint on the same shape of paper or wall, one side will eventually curl up with the paint.
When it does, the carbon atoms don’t just curl up. They also stick together.
These sticks help the paint stick to the surface.
The stickiness is especially strong on surfaces that have a little something called a sheen. Sheens are what makes wood and paper look glossy.
Sheens are mostly made up of molecules that are not aligned with carbon atoms. So carbon atoms that normally would not arrange themselves in the hexagon will get stuck with the paint.
But the paint will stick even better if it is applied on a wood-style paper.
According to research published last year in the journal Science, if you add a very thin layer of paint to a sheet of wood paper, the wood becomes more flexible and rolls to a shape with the paint.
This creates another sheen so the paint remains stickier on wood than paper.
How does the paint stick to the wood? And why does it stick in the presence of other substances such as salt, salt water, and other liquids? [See Video: How to Clean Paint from Your Walls]
When these substances are added to the wood, they interact with the carbon atoms in the wood and affect the bonding between the paint and the wood. (See related video and more from Science.)
The scientists believe that in other instances it may be possible to create an organic solvent to take away the paint’s stickiness.
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