How to Remove Gum From Clothing 12 Different Ways

Erin Lindholm
by Erin Lindholm

By Erin Lindholm

That moment of realization where you look down and … ugh! No matter how it got there — there’s gum stuck on your clothes. The good news is if you’re looking for DIY solutions for how to remove gum from clothing, you’ve landed in the right place.

In this guide, we’ve rounded up easy, fast, and effective hacks for removing gum from clothing using household items. We share tips on treating delicate fabrics, tackling extra difficult jobs, and we’ll teach you how to clean gum from shoes, too. That gum will be gone in no time!

gum stuck to jeans and wood bench

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Assess the Sticky Situation 

Before we get into some of the DIY cleaning solutions for how to remove gum from clothing, it’s important to take a minute to first assess what sort of gum situation we’re dealing with here. Some questions to ask yourself: 

How mashed into the fabric is the gum? If the gum is fresh and hasn’t gotten tangled in the fibers of your garment yet, you may be able to gently remove it with your fingers, a dull knife, a flat surface (like the edge of a business card), or a pair of tweezers. The operative word here is “gently” — never force it!

What type of fabric is the garment made of? Certain fabrics and garments require special handling. For garments that are typically hand wash only or dry clean only, your best bet is to try the first DIY solution below, which involves freezing the garment — zero products, liquids, or cleaning agents are required. Rubbing alcohol also works well for delicate clothes (we dive into that method below).

How to Remove Gum from Clothing by Freezing

These hacks all use common household items and products to remove gum from clothes. And don’t forget, regardless of which DIY solution you decide to try, you always want to get that garment in the wash as soon as possible after you’ve successfully lifted the gum out.

Gum loses its elasticity in cold temperatures, which makes it easier to de-bond from fabric. Here’s how to remove gum from clothing with the help of your freezer. (Note that this method isn’t necessarily recommended for scenarios where the gum is already deeply mashed into a garment.) 

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Plastic grocery bag
  • Dull knife or butter knife 

Step 1: Place Clothing in Bag

Fold the garment and place it in a plastic grocery bag so the gum faces outwards; you don’t want it to accidentally adhere to another piece of the garment.

Step 2: Freeze

Set the bag with the clothing item in the freezer, making sure that the gum doesn’t inadvertently stick to the plastic bag. Let sit in the freezer for 2-3 hours — you want the gum to fully freeze.

Step 3: Work Out the Gum

Take the bag with the clothing out of the freezer. Working quickly, take the garment out of the bag, lay it out on a flat surface, and use a dull knife or butter knife to scrape off the frozen gum.

How to Remove Gum from Clothing with an Iron 

Gum responds just as well to heat as it does to frozen temperatures. Gum becomes ultra pliable when heated, making it easier to “unstick” than when it’s at room temperature. And using a pain relief rub effectively dissolves the gum’s attachment to the fabric. Here’s how to use heat to get gum off clothing.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Deep-heating pain relief rub (such as Bengay)
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Piece of clean cardboard

Step 1: Dab on Pain Relief Rub

Dab a small amount of pain relief rub on the opposite side of the fabric where the gum is stuck on the garment.

Step 2: Prepare Garment

Place a piece of cardboard on the ironing board. Place the garment, gum side down, on the cardboard.

Step 3: Iron

Heat iron to medium setting; gently iron garment, warming the gum from the back side of the fabric. (Be patient! This takes a few minutes.) As the gum warms it will soften; the goal is to get the gum to stick to the cardboard instead of the garment. 

Step 4: Remove Cardboard; Repeat

Gently try separating the fabric from the gum on the cardboard. Repeat ironing steps with fresh cardboard if necessary. 

how to remove gum from clothing with vinegar

Photo via Lisa S.

How to Remove Gum from Clothing with Vinegar

This pantry staple is a hard-working, all-natural cleaning agent whose acidic properties help remove tough stains and odors. So, it’s no surprise that vinegar comes in handy when it comes to removing gum from clothing.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Old toothbrush

Step 1: Heat Vinegar

Pour one cup of white vinegar into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 60 seconds. 

Step 2: Saturate Gum Spot

Dip the section of the garment with gum on it into the vinegar, saturating it thoroughly with the hot liquid.

Step 3: Remove Gum

The warmed gum is going to be ultra-sticky, so use a square of wax paper or parchment paper in hand to pull off as much gum as you can.

Step 4: Brush Off Remaining Gum

Scrape off remaining gum with the old toothbrush, dabbing the toothbrush in warm vinegar as needed. Reheat vinegar if necessary — it’s most effective when hot (but not quite boiling).

How to Remove Gum from Clothing with a Hair Dryer or Steamer

When gum is deeply mashed into a garment or has been neglected for a long time, an extra blast of heat from a hair dryer or steamer can do wonders to soften and remove it. 

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Deep-heating pain relief rub (such as Bengay)
  • Hair dryer or garment steamer
  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Dull knife or butter knife
  • Sandwich-size plastic bag (optional)

Step 1: Dab on Pain Relief Scrub

Dab a small amount of the pain relief rub on the opposite side of the fabric from where the gum is stuck on the garment; the rub’s ingredients help heat up and loosen the gum’s attachment to the fabric.

Step 2: Heat Up Gum

Soften the gum with a hair dryer set to “hot”, letting the air blow on it for 10-20 seconds. Alternatively, use a garment steamer to steam the area with the gum for the same amount of time or until the gum softens.

Step 3: Peel Off Gum

Use wax paper or parchment paper to grip the warm gum with your fingers. Peel the gum off slowly, like you would if you were carefully peeling a label off a box. The same principle applies here; you want to get as much lifted off as possible in one attempt. You can also use a dull knife or butter knife to lift and scrape off as much gum as possible.

Step 4: Add More Pain Relief Rub on Stubborn Spots

To lift any remaining gum residue, dab a little more pain relief rub on the spot where the gum was; rub in with the plastic bag.

How to Remove Gum from Clothing with Peanut Butter

While this isn’t an ideal solution for all types of fabric — avoid trying this method on synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, and spandex, as well as highly-embellished garments and suede — the natural oils in peanut butter work to loosen the gum’s grip on your garment.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Peanut butter
  • Dull knife or butter knife  

Step 1: Add Peanut Butter

Cover gum on the garment with a thick dollop of peanut butter. Let stand for 60 seconds.

Step 2: Scrape Gum

Scrape gum and peanut butter from the garment with the knife. Work quickly to avoid staining your garment from the peanut butter application; immediately treat the garment with stain remover and wash in a regular cycle.

How to Remove Gum from Clothing with Rubbing Alcohol

Another option for delicate fabrics is to use rubbing alcohol: With a sponge or cotton pad, lightly saturate the gummy area of the garment with the rubbing alcohol. Rub gently and wait a few minutes while the rubbing alcohol goes to work to dissolve the gum base. Scrape away with the blunt edge of a butter knife. 

gray sneakers stepping in gum on sidewalk

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Remove Gum from Shoes with Compressed Air

It happens so fast — walking on a sidewalk, or through a parking lot, and all of the sudden … oh no. You look down to check and yep, you just stepped in gum. Removing gum from shoes has its own unique set of challenges, not the least of which being that the gum isn't even yours. (Definitely an “ewww” factor.) And, because of the natural impact of walking, gum on shoes always gets seriously smashed into the sole and all of its little nooks and crannies. Here are four go-to solutions for removing gum from most shoes, sandals, and sneakers. 

You know those little cans of air that help clean your keyboard? Spraying compressed air instantly hardens soft, sticky gum on your sole, making it easier to peel off. (Grab a paper towel or bit of plastic wrap rather than touch it directly — and definitely wash your hands after.)

How to Remove Gum from Shoes with Lighter Fluid

The flammable agent in lighter fluid is naphtha, which will make quick work of dissolving the gum on your shoe. Soak a rag with lighter fluid and rub the gum away. Be mindful that this is a highly flammable product! It wouldn’t hurt to give your gum-free sole a quick rinse with a hose afterward.

How to Remove Gum from Shoes with Nail Polish Remover

Similar to lighter fluid, but with a different sort of strong smell, acetone-based nail polish remover will dissolve gum with a little elbow grease. Soak a rag or cloth with nail polish remover and rub away gum on the bottom of your shoe.

How to Remove Gum from Shoes with WD-40

WD-40 will dissolve that gum on your shoe in a jiffy. The key here is to be sure to use the smart straw applicator (that little red straw) that comes with every can of WD-40 to precisely spray and avoid getting any of the product on the upper part of the shoe. Spray directly on the gum and immediate surrounding area of the sole. After about 60 seconds, simply wipe away with a clean rag.

Tips and Hacks for Difficult Cases

Whether the above tricks didn’t work or you’re working on a particularly stubborn fabric, here are some hacks for especially sticky situations.

How to Remove Gum from Denim

Given that denim is such a thick, resilient material, it requires a little extra effort — especially if you happened to sit in gum while wearing jeans.

One all-natural solution is to soak jeans in a 50/50 mixture of hot water and warm white vinegar. Let the garment soak for 5-10 minutes then get to work and rub away the rest of the gum with an old toothbrush and a little elbow grease.

Turn to a Product

If all else fails, pick up Goof Off Household Heavy Duty Remover. This household cleaning product makes easy work of cleaning sticky elements like tree sap and duct tape adhesive and can surely remove gum from clothes. It’s also safe for use on nearly all types of fabrics and materials with the exception of silk, leather, and suede. (Still, it’s best to first test the product on an inconspicuous area of the garment for colorfastness.) Simply spray the product on the area of gum residue, wait for 60 seconds, and wipe off with an absorbent cloth.

Have you saved an article of clothing from sticky gum? We’d love to hear how—share your tips below!

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