There are many holiday traditions, one of the most complex has to be spraying down small trees with a mixture of adhesive and fibers to satisfy our desire for a white Christmas. That’s what’s happening when you cover a christmas tree with artificial snow, otherwise known as flocking. And yet, when decorated and lit up, there’s something beautiful and warmly nostalgic about a well-flocked Christmas tree.
THE HISTORY OF FLOCKING
We’ve been trying to get that snowy look on Christmas trees for longer than you might know, dating back to the 1800s using substances like flour or cotton. A 1929 issue of Popular Mechanics recommends varnish, corn starch, and flakes of the silicate mineral mica. But tree flocking as we know it really caught on in the late 1950s and 1960s, along with aluminum trees and other glitzy, if not natural-looking decor of the post-war boom. General Mills marketed Sno-Flok home kits, to be applied using a gun that attached to a vacuum cleaner. Such home kits are not so popular these days.
THE SCIENCE OF FLOCKING
So what exactly is flocking? At its core, flocking means attaching tiny fibers to a surface to create texture (the process is also used in fashion, home decor, and crafts). Ingredients may include paper pulp as fiber, corn starch as adhesive, and boron as a flame retardant—there’s a safety benefit to flocking. Flock comes in white and many other colors—which require cotton fibers instead of paper to hold the dye. The final product is almost like baby powder.From there you need to affix the stuff in a nice even coat, which is where flock machines come in. They’re basically big tanks that hold varying amounts of flock depending on the model, plus a mechanism at the bottom to fluff up the powder. The machine then pumps the powder through a hose, and a gun at the end mixes it with a mist of water. And that’s how flock is born.
-some of this info comes from an article on MentalFloss.com by Tate Williams