Chewing gum is a go-to for freshening your breath, eliminating nausea, even improving memory, but what’s not so fantastic is when it accidentally ends up on your clothes. Whether a pack of gum got left in the pocket of your old denim jacket and was discovered after laundering (it happens to the best of us) or a piece of gum somehow got smashed into your favorite pair of jeans, we talked cleaning pros who shared multiple methods to effectively get gum out of clothes for good.
What is gum made of?
The gum we chew today is composed primarily of five ingredients: gum base, flavorings and colorings, preservatives, sweeteners and softeners. It’s the gum base that provides the “chew” we all know and love. The gum base is composed of food-grade polymers that essentially determine the texture, ability to stay intact and how elastic (or sticky) the gum is. That gum base is also what can make it difficult to remove the gum from clothes.
Can you get gum out of clothing?
“There’s no denying that getting gum out of your clothes is a struggle, but it is possible to get the residue out,” says Jessica Samson, cleaning expert and director of national branding with The Maids, a national cleaning company. The key, no matter which method you choose (and we offer quite a few below) is to loosen the gum’s adhesion to the fabric, making it easier to remove.
“Delicate fabrics, such as silk or wool, typically require more gentle approaches, while sturdier ones, such as cotton or polyester, can withstand more intensive treatments, ” says Petya Holevich, domestic cleaning expert at Fantastic Services. “In some cases, there might be a slight residue or stain left behind after removing the gum. If that happens, use a stain remover or pre-treat the affected area before washing.”
The best way to get gum out of clothes
Whether you’re working with freshly chewed gum or gum that’s been through a few laundry cycles, the same basic steps apply for getting it out of your clothes. If the gum is older and has already hardened, prepare yourself that it may take a bit more time and effort to completely get it out of the fabric.
Step 1: Chill the affected area. The cold temperature will harden the gum, making it less sticky and easier to remove. Here 3 ways to chill your gum:
- Ice cubes: If it’s a small area that has gum on it, put a few pieces of cubed ice on top and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Freezer: If you’re working with a large area of gum, place the entire garment in the freezer for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours, depending on how old and hard the gum is to begin with.
- Canned air: This might actually be easier to maneuver than ice or sticking your garments in the freezer. So if you’ve got some on hand, try spraying it on and let it sit for 30 minutes
Step 2: Use a hard, blunt object to scrape off the gum. Many pros recommend using either your fingernails, the blunt edge of a butter knife, or even a spoon to gently scrape off the hardened gum. “Avoid using sharp objects or excessive force, as they can damage the fabric,” says Prerna Jain, operations manager at the MInistry of Cleaning.
Be careful not to pull or tug the fabric too forcefully to avoid damaging it. If any residue remains, repeat the ice cube application and scrape until the gum is completely removed.
Step 3: Check for stains and launder. Once all the gum is removed, check for residue stains. If you spot any weird residual stains or color transfer from the dye in gum, apply a pre-treatment stain remover such as Shout (Buy from Amazon, $3.48) your favorite laundry detergent or Dawn dish soap (Buy from Amazon, $5.84) directly onto the affected area.
Gently rub the stain remover, working it into the stain using a soft brush or your fingers. Wash in cool water. Before you throw the item in the dryer, make sure the stain is gone as heat tends to set stains, which will make them difficult to remove.
This video shows a step-by-step tutorial to use ice cubes to get gum off of clothing.
No ice or freezer handy? Dissolve the gum with peanut butter!
Yep, that’s right! Jain recommends applying a small amount of peanut butter to the gum and letting it sit for a few minutes. The oils in the peanut butter help break down the gum’s stickiness, allowing you to remove it more easily. However, due to the oily nature of peanut butter, you may need to treat any remaining peanut butter residue with a stain remover to eliminate oil stains.
Don’t want to scrape your delicates? Try Goo Gone
If you’re dealing with gum on delicate or dry-clean-only fabrics, Jain recommends using a fabric-safe adhesive remover such as Goo Gone (Buy from Amazon, $7). Apply a small amount to a cloth and gently dab the gum, allowing the adhesive remover to loosen its grip. Always test the remover on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it won’t damage fabric.
One Amazon reviewer said: “I have had dried gum stuck on the inside of my pockets of every single pair of shorts/pants I own… until I found Goo Gone. Seriously, this stuff is amazing!”
If you can’t get your hands on Goo Gone?
Both Samson and Mooney recommend rubbing alcohol to get gum out of delicate clothing because it effectively dissolves the gum. (Rubbing alcohol also works on slime if you find yourself with a sticky slime mess to clean up.)
Apply the rubbing alcohol on the gum and let it sit for a couple minutes. “The longer the rubbing alcohol absorbs, the easier the removal process will be,” she says. After letting the rubbing alcohol absorb, get some duct tape, and carefully press onto the gum and pull it away. Repeat as many times as necessary until the gum comes off.
Rachel Weber is an award-winning journalist with a passion for all things lifestyle, home, and garden. She started with Better Homes & Gardens as an editorial apprentice in 2006 and has been writing and editing ever since. She teaches journalism classes at Iowa State University, works at a boutique public relations firm and loves to write about all the things she learned when she was homeschooled. She’s worked on brands like Allrecipes, Lowe’s Creative Ideas, Shape, and Better Homes & Gardens doing everything from recipe testing to designing kitchens.
Rachel holds a B.A. in journalism and psychology from Iowa State University and an M.A. in communication leadership from Drake University. She loves to crack a good dad joke and listen to Taylor Swift. She’s also pretty proud of her alphabetized spice rack and color-coded closet. A breast cancer survivor, Rachel is passionate about early detection and healthcare advocacy.
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