The Best Way To Get Gum Out Of Your Clothes

People have enjoyed chewing gum as far back as pre-colonial times. Practices by indigenous people in North America caught on among settlers, and in the late 1840s, Mainer John Curtis created and commercialized a version made from boiling spruce tree resin, per In fact, 160 million Americans chomped on the product in 2020, according to Statista. What no one celebrates, though, is getting the sticky stuff on them, especially entangled on their favorite clothing. Those gum fibers can latch onto shoes, shirts, pants, and other outerwear easily, whether it clumsily falls from your mouth mid-chew or if someone leaves it carelessly behind for you to sit on. Luckily, there are various ways to remove the gummy residue from even your most prized outfits — and many of these techniques use items you already have at home, such as dish soap, vinegar, or a toothbrush.

After removing the gum, you'll want to treat the area with a stain remover spray before it hits the laundry, advises Better Homes & Gardens. Make sure that the stain has disappeared before putting the item in the dryer; you don't want to create a gum-shaped mark on your best attire. Read on to discover how easy it can be to remove gum.

Use some dish soap or detergent and a toothbrush

Sometimes all you need to remove that sticky mess from your clothes is a bit of soap and a little ... well, maybe a lot of elbow grease. A liquid laundry detergent or dish soap can help loosen the gum's grip on your favorite shirt or pants, says First Cry Parenting. Administer this soapy fixer with a toothbrush to put an end to the gum's tight hold, breaking it into tiny crumbs. After a soft brushing, you should be able to scrape everything unwanted off your item. Add a bit more of the liquid detergent if the gum seems resistant. Make sure that you throw your de-gummed attire into a wash, and don't forget to use a stain remover if any residue remains. Oh, and as for that toothbrush — either recycle or throw it out.

If the soap alone doesn't quite do the job, you can mix up a gum remover cleanser of your own. Combine ¼ cup of vegetable glycerine, ¼ cup of water, 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of Castile soap, and 40 drops of lemon essential oil, according to Tips Bulletin. This remedy is especially good for cotton or polyester clothes. Just mix up the concoction and spray on the solution, then rinse after five minutes.

Try removing the gum with food

It might seem strange to clean up lingering gum with another food source, but sometimes it's just what you need. For instance, sometimes the best substance to rid your clothes of gum is gum itself. To start, chew some more gum until you create a nice wad. Now put that directly on the gum that is giving you trouble. Be sure to avoid the fabric — you want to make the situation better, not worse. Now gently pull both pieces off of the area.

If that doesn't rid you of the sticky substance, you can also try freeing your clothes with a bit of peanut butter. Yes, that's right, the oils in this delicious spread can loosen gum's grip on things. Be sure to opt for the creamy variety, and use enough to completely cover the afflicted area. Then wait a few minutes and scrape the gum from your clothing with a straight edge such as a butter knife (via Better Homes & Gardens).

Mayonnaise can also help, claims Reader's Digest. The oil in the product works the same way as that in the peanut butter. If using either of these solutions, you'll want to be mindful of the fabric you place it on since oil can stain delicates. With both products, you should find removal is easy and then you can launder the item to return it to pre-gum glory.

Let the cold take away the gum

So that icky, sticky old gum wants to stay on that favorite piece of your wardrobe? Don't let it — you can freeze it out. First, you can try the ice cube method. Take some ice cubes or a freezer pack out and place it in a plastic bag before putting it on the gum until it hardens, said Very Well Family. This freezes the gum, crystallizing it so it becomes easier to scrape off with your finger, a credit card, dull knife, or a paint scraper. Be careful not to pull out any fabric threads while removing the gum. Any lingering stickiness can be removed with water and detergent.

If the gummed-out item isn't too big, you can actually put the garment itself in the freezer, explains Persil. Wait until it's almost time to go food shopping so you have some space, place the item in a plastic bag, and then leave it there for an hour or so. Keep the garment gum side up to ensure it gets cold enough without exposing the rest of the outfit to its grubbiness. Once the gum freezes, you can easily scrape it off. Be careful in choosing your tool to do this, however. For example, tweezers are handy but can damage knitted or embroidered clothing.

Apply some heat to the gum problem

If the cold won't take the gum away, you can also try some heat. An iron can become your best friend when cleaning up gummy clothing. Place the garment over the cardboard with the gum facing down against it. Then, place a medium-hot iron over the afflicted area and iron carefully, says Persil. Do not move the iron back and forth vigorously — instead of melting the gum to stick to the cardboard, you'll just re-distribute the gum on the fabric, creating a bigger disaster. So try to embrace gentler movements.

Steam can also resolve your gum issue, says First Cry Parenting. Try carefully holding your garment over a steaming kettle's spout. The hot mist should soften the gum so you can easily take it away with a scraper or toothbrush. You can also try dipping the item in boiling water until the gum comes off. A hairdryer can also be used — just direct the hot air over the gum and use a rag or plastic bag to help pick it from the material, advises Reader's Digest. 

DIY methods can remove gum

Distilled white vinegar is everyone's go-to DIY cleanser for everything from shining bathroom mirrors to sparkling up the kitchen or cleaning rusty tools. It's also a method to solve gum problems causing wardrobe woes. Heat the vinegar in the microwave or stovetop, and then use a toothbrush to apply and lightly rub it into the gummed-up area of the fabric, instructs Taste of Home. The vinegar's acid should help soften the sticky mass so you can peel it off.

Alcohol can also help loosen gum. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab and let it penetrate the gum for a few seconds, said Mental Floss. This will help break apart the gum's polymers so you can pull it off with your tool of choice. This method is appropriate for sensitive fabrics and won't damage silk, satin, polyester, and other materials that need dry cleaning.

Try off the shelf products

After pulling as much gum off your clothes as possible, you can use one of the many sticker or adhesive removers to make the gum more pliable, and easier to remove, suggests Today. Pros Choice Pro-Solve Gel or Goo Gone are some examples. Test any of these on a hidden spot on the garment to ensure that it won't alter the item's color. After application, you should wash this off with a ratio of 1 teaspoon of dishwashing soap per 1 cup of water. 

WD-40 is another go-to gum solution, according to Family Handyman. Spray directly on the spot, let it sit for a minute or two, and use a rag to wipe the debris off. Petroleum jelly effectively loosens gum as well, even if the stain is a bit old, explains The Spruce. Using your finger or a cotton swab, apply some jelly to where the gum and the fabric meet, which should then allow you to remove the gum. You'll now have a grease stain to deal with so make sure you pretreat your garment with a stain remover or laundry detergent for at least 15 minutes before washing.

Bathroom items that get clothes gum-free

Sometimes getting rid of gum is as easy as visiting your bathroom. Toothpaste, for instance, provides a terrific way to rid your garment of gum without staining most fabrics, explains Love to Know. First, use a thin object such as a credit card to flatten the gum. Then put a smear of toothpaste on top of the gum only. Let this air dry and you should be able to pull or scrape it off.

Hairspray can also take away that sticky substance with a simple spritz. Some of these holding products contain oils that can stain clothing, so be judicious when choosing this methodology. You'll want to spray the hairspray on the gum, avoiding the fabric as much as you can. One way to protect the fabric is to place plastic or cling wrap over it before spraying. As the hairspray dries, it should also dry the gum, making it easy to scrape off with a blunt tool. With both methods, spray the spot with a stain-fighting formula before laundering.