How to Remove Gum

As careful as you might be, inevitably you will get a piece of gum stuck to you. Don’t panic! The answer to the successful removal of gum from even delicate fabrics is easier than you think.

What You Will Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Freezer
  • Large freezer bag
  • Ice Cubes (optional)
  • Small paring knife
  • Toothbrush

Removing the Gum

  1. Act fast! The sooner you remove the gum, the better, and the less likely there will be a residual stain.
  2. Remove as much gum as possible with your finger, pulling gently and making sure you don’t transfer the removed gum to another article of clothing you are wearing. You may want to wear rubber gloves for this part, especially if you’re not sure where the gum came from.
  3. Once you’ve removed as much gum as possible, place your garment in the freezer bag gum-side up, and place it in your freezer. If the garment is too large for a freezer bag, use a plastic grocery bag. This will prevent the garment from sticking to other items in the freezer.
  4. Leave the garment in the freezer for at least an hour, until the gum is completely frozen.
  5. Remove the garment from the freezer.
  6. Gently scrape the remaining gum off with the paring knife, being careful not to rip or scrape the clothing. If the garment is delicate, you will want to do this part with a plastic knife, or even your fingernail, to avoid damaging the garment.
  7. Once you’ve removed as much of the gum as possible (most of it should come off at this point), brush the area with the toothbrush to remove any additional residue.
  8. Wash the garment as you normally would.
  9. If you do not have access to a freezer, or if you are in more of a hurry, place a few ice cubes in the freezer bag and rub the gum spot for several minutes until the gum hardens, then follow steps 6 through 8.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Some types of gum may leave a greasy residue. In this case, after the gum is removed, you may want to treat the stain with a laundry pre-treatment product (such as Shout™ or OxiClean, found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores) before washing.
  • If you do not have a freezer or ice handy and you are in a pinch, you may want to try using peanut butter.
    • Spread peanut butter over the gum.
    • Scrape the gum so that as much of the gum as possible is exposed to the peanut butter.
    • Let sit for 15 minutes
    • Scrape off peanut butter with a knife. The gum should come off with the peanut butter.
    • You will likely have a stain from the peanut butter, so it is important that you pre-treat the stain and wash as soon as possible (products such as Shout or OxiClean work well on pre-treating greasy stains).
  • For sturdier, more bulky fabrics, such as denim, you might try the heat method instead of freezing, using an iron.
    • Place the part of the clothing that has the gum on it face down on a stiff piece of cardboard.
    • Set an iron to medium heat.
    • Iron the clothing until the gum no longer sticks the fabric, but instead transfers to the cardboard.
    • Trying this method first will not prevent you from trying the freezer method if it doesn’t work.
  • NEVER try any of these methods on clothing that is designated as dry clean only.
  • If your garment is made of an extremely delicate fabric, such as silk, it is recommended that you take your garment to a professional cleaner rather than risk damage. For help finding a reputable cleaner in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or visit the Yellow Pages.


  1. Lighter fluid gets gum and other sticky substances out of fabric better than any other method I’ve used, including freezing and peanut butter. It even works on gum and other substances that have been washed and dried. I use the kind of lighter fluid that is made for cigarette lighters, not the kind for starting barbecues, although it might work too.

    Just apply a few drops of lighter fluid to the fabric while holding it over a sink. It will loosen the gum and you can scrape it off with a butter knife or fingernail. Then wash the area thoroughly with lots of soap and water in the sink to remove any smell. Then I recommend laundering the item in a washing machine just to be sure all the lighter fluid is gone.

    Be sure not to get the lighter fluid near any source that might ignite it. And be sure the lighter fluid is completely washed out of the item before putting it in a dryer.

    Lighter fluid also removes gum and sticky substances from carpet and other surfaces. It will also remove the adhesive from price tags that stick on picture frames and other surfaces.

    Be sure to keep the lighter fluid away from children and store it properly.

  2. Got soft gum rubbed deep into a fabric car seat. Applied butane gas, which froze the gum and allowed me to scrape 98% of the gum off easily. Each subsequent application caused water vapor to condense on the fabric and soon water ice turned the fabric rigid when frozen with butane. This didn’t help. Drying the fabric with a hair dryer before an application of butane helped get more gum, but even after 5 or 6 applications, not all gum could be removed by freezing with butane. The gum was really in there! Rubbing the thawed, but still wet area with a micro fiber cloth while drying with the hair dryer removed all visible traces of the gum. I assume the residual gum stuck to the micro fibers. Do the butane first, followed by a micro fiber cloth and a little heat.

  3. Vinegar works very well: it breaks down the gum so that it is easy to scrape away.

  4. Thanks Phil, vinegar does wonders! No fuss!

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