How to remove chewing gum from clothes, carpet or upholstery

The one thing more annoying than stepping in chewing gum is discovering belatedly that you’ve managed to walk it into a carpet, or it has somehow become stuck on the sofa, your office chair or your favourite shirt. Before despairing, though, read on to discover the simple methods that exist to remove chewing gum from fabrics, whether it’s stuck on clothing, furniture or the carpeting, without damaging the material.

Removing gum from washable clothing

Method 1: Freezing it off

One method is to harden the sticky gum completely so that you can easily break it off the surface of the material.  Hold an ice cube on either side of the gum site until the gum hardens, or place the entire garment into a plastic bag (gum side outwards) and place it in a freezer for several hours until the gum is solid.

Once it has hardened, use a blunt knife, paint scraper, the side of a credit card, or a spoon to gently work it off before it has time to warm up and become extremely sticky again. Tweezers can be useful for picking off little pieces of frozen gum but you’ll need to be very careful not to catch threads when you are lifting the gum.

If all of the gum doesn’t come off first go, refreeze and try again.

It may help loosen hard gum by working some Vaseline petroleum jelly into the gum from the back of the material. Afterwards, you’ll need to treat the fabric to remove the grease from the Vaseline by using a stain remover or a heavy duty laundry detergent as these contain enzymes which can break down oily residue.  Apply a small amount of the stain remover or detergent to the affected spot and work it in with fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Wait 15 minutes then wash your garment as usual.


Method 2: Melt it off

An alternate method is to use an indirect source of heat, preferably a hairdryer, to melt the gum. When the gum is almost melted, you can then peel it away from the material (wearing gloves to protect your hands from the hot gum).

Method 3: Iron it off

Place a piece of clean cardboard on an ironing board or another flat surface. Lay the garment on top of the card, gum side down. With the iron on medium heat so as not to melt the gum into too much of a gooey mess), iron the garment. It may take a few minutes for the gum to soften, after which it should stick to the cardboard, allowing you to gently lift your garment away, leaving the gum hopefully stuck to the card.

Whichever of the three methods you use, after removing as much solid gum as possible, treat the stain that is left behind with a mix of equal parts dishwashing liquid and white distilled vinegar.  Rub in gently and allow the mixture to sit on the material for around 15 minutes. Then give the garment a normal wash in your washing machine following usual washing instructions, using your regular detergent. This should remove any leftover residue.

If there is still a visible mark, treat the site again with the soap/vinegar mix, then rewash.

Removing gum from dry-clean only clothing

Remove the gum using the freezing method (either with ice cubes or the freezer) then take the garment to your dry cleaner, making sure to point out the stain and explain its source.

Removing chewing gum from upholstery

The freezer method is unlikely to be an option here, but you may be able to use ice cubes to harden the gum.  Place ice cubes into a plastic zip-lock bag to ensure only the coldness reaches the gum, not the water which may mark the fabric.  Sit the ice cube bag on the gum until it is hardened, then use a blunt knife or edge of a credit card to scrape away gum.  If the gum is really stuck in the upholstery fibres, you’ll need a dry-cleaning solvent to spot treat the stain, but always test this on a hidden part of the fabric (such as underneath the upholstery skirt) to ensure it doesn’t discolour the material.  Depending on the value of the furniture, you may prefer to call in a professional.

Removing chewing gum from carpet

The ice cube bag method will work best to harden the gum without saturating your carpet.  If any residue is left, spot clean with a mixture of equal parts dishwashing liquid and white distilled vinegar. A soft bristled brush will be helpful to work a tiny amount of the solution into the stain. This should then sit for 15 minutes, then blot away the moisture with a clean white cloth dipped in plain water. Continue to blot with a clean part of the cloth until no more of the cleaning mixture or residue is transferring to the cloth. Air dry and then vacuum to re-fluff fibres out.





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