How to Get Gum off Clothes, Shoes, Upholstery, and Carpet

remove gum stains
Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

Why is it that chewing gum never stays in someone's mouth? It lands on the carpet or stuck onto shoes, pillowcases, and chair cushions. Learn how to remove chewing gum or any sticky and waxy stains from clothes and shoes, upholstery fabric, and carpet.

Gum and Washable Clothes

The first step to getting gum out of any washable fabric is to harden the gum. You can do that by placing an ice cube directly over the wad of gum. Wait a minute or so for the gum to harden and then pop it off with a dull knife. If you have a bit more time, put the whole garment in a plastic bag and then place in the freezer for several hours.

The freezer method is best if the gum has melted in the dryer or gotten smeared over a large area of the fabric. After several hours, take the garment out of the freezer and while the gum is hard, carefully scrape it off with a dull kitchen knife or the straight edge of a credit card. If all of the gum doesn't come off, refreeze and try again.

When all of the excess gum has been removed, treat the remaining spots with an equal mixture of liquid dishwashing soap and white distilled vinegar. Rub the solution in gently from the front of the fabric and allow the mixture to sit on the fabric for at least fifteen minutes before washing the garment as usual. Check the stain before tossing it in the dryer. If it remains, treat again with the soap and vinegar mixture and rewash. Drying on high heat if the stain is still there will make it very, very hard to remove.

If the gum is old and dry, use some petroleum jelly to loosen the gum. Use place a dab of petroleum jelly on your finger or a cotton swab and work it in well to the fabric at the base of the gum wad. The gum should loosen enough so you can pick it off. Before washing, you must treat the fabric to remove the grease stain caused by the petroleum jelly. Use a stain remover or a bit of heavy-duty laundry detergent like Tide or Persil to remove the greasy stain. These products contain enough enzymes to break down the oily residue into small molecules that can be flushed away.

Simply apply a bit of the stain remover and work it in with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Allow it to work for about fifteen minutes before washing the stained garment as usual following the guidelines on the care tag.

How to Get Gum off Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, use the plastic bag and freezer technique to remove the gum. Do not place an ice cube on the gum because the melting water may cause spotting on the fabric. When the gum has been hardened and the excess removed, head to the dry cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner.

If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to remove the excess gum first and then treat the remaining stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

When You Don't Want a Gum Shoe

Just like removing gum from fabric, the first step is to harden the gum. For most shoes, the best way to remove the gum is to place the shoe in a plastic bag, seal it, and place it in the freezer for an hour or so. You can use ice cubes but they can damage suede, some fabrics, and if you forget them, they can also damage leather.

Once the gum is hard, just scrape it off with a dull edge. If a stain remains, treat with the dishwashing liquid and distilled white vinegar solution. Sponge on the solution, wait about ten minutes and then blot away. Repeat if necessary and finish by blotting with a clean cloth dipped in plain water. Allow the shoe to air dry.

For gum that is just on the sole of the shoe, a bit of peanut butter, butter, or a spray of WD-40 will remove a wad of gum. Finish by wiping dry with an old cloth or paper towel.

How to Remove Gum from Upholstery

Since most upholstered pieces won't fit in the freezer (pillows, maybe), use the ice cube technique to harden the gum. Place the ice cubes in a sealable plastic bag so that the cold temperature reaches the gum, not the water which could leave a mark on the fabric.

Let the ice bag remain on the stain until the gum is hard and then use a dull kitchen knife or hard plastic to scrape away the residue from the fabric. If the gum has gotten pushed down into the fibers, use a dry cleaning solvent to spot treat the stain. Be sure to test the solvent on a hidden area of the fabric (under a cushion or on the underside of the upholstery skirt) to make sure it doesn't remove any color from the fabric.

If the upholstery is silk or very expensive, call a professional.

How to Get Gum out of Carpet

Use the ice bag trick to harden the gum. This will freeze the gum without over-wetting the carpet. Scrape the hardened gum with a dull edge. If any residue remains, spot clean with a solution of equal parts dishwashing liquid and white distilled vinegar. Use a soft bristled brush to work a very small amount of the solution into the stain. Let sit for ten to fifteen minutes and then blot away with a clean white cloth dipped in plain water. Keep blotting with a clean area of the cloth until no more solution or residue is transferred to the cloth. Allow to air dry and then vacuum to fluff the fibers.

For more stain removal tips: Stain Removal A to Z