Gum may be a fun little snack, but it’s also notorious for being a pain to remove if it ends up anywhere but inside your mouth. Find remnants of the confection on your clothes, and you’re in trouble — especially if you don’t notice it until after it goes through the washer and dryer.
Don’t worry. Not all hope is lost if you find yourself in a sticky situation. There’s a pretty painless way to dissolve gum fast. Experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab say all you need to restore your garments to like-new condition is some ice and a few basic laundry room staples.
How to Get Fresh Gum Out of Clothes
Ideally, you’ll catch any rogue gum before your clothes take a spin through the washer and dryer. Like other stains, laundering can make things a lot trickier. The heat from the dryer may set the color of the gum stain and melt the gum, driving it further into the fabric and possibly even transferring it to other clothes in the drum.
If you have a fresh gum stain, follow these step-by-step instructions for removing it:
What You’ll Need
Freeze: If the gum is still soft, place a small bag of ice cubes or an ice pack on the garment for about 15 minutes to freeze the gum. (If the garment is small enough, you can even put it directly in the freezer.) By hardening the goo, you’ll have an easier time scraping off any excess.
Scrape: Once the sticky stuff is solid as a rock, scrape off as much as you can using a scraper, the blunt edge of a butter knife, a credit card or even a paint scraper.
Pretreat: Next, pretreat the area with an oil- and grease-fighting stain remover, following the manufacturer’s instructions. A quick scrub with a laundry brush can help dissolve any residue and resolve discoloration.
Launder: Once the garment sits for the time recommended on your laundry pretreatment, launder as usual. Just make sure to check your clothing before tossing it in the dryer. You definitely don’t want to put the item into the dryer until you’re sure all the gum is gone.
How to Get Dried Gum Out of Clothes
Accidents happen, and if your clothes take a spin before you catch the gum stain, you have options. But first, check your dryer.
If melted gum ended up inside the dryer drum, put several old towels in the dryer and let it run on warm for a few minutes. Then try peeling it off. If that doesn’t work, place a few ice cubes in a plastic bag. Hold the bag against the gum to harden it, then carefully chip off what you can. Finally, work a little pre-wash laundry spray into any remaining residue to dissolve it and carefully scrape the drum clean. Wash the area with a sudsy cloth, rinse and dry. Before drying your next load of clean clothes, run one cycle with several damp rags to make sure it’s all gone and won’t transfer to future loads.
Once the machine is clean, you can follow these step-by-step instructions for dealing with your clothes.
What You’ll Need
Loosen: Using a cotton swab, apply petroleum jelly or Goo Gone to the affected area, according to label directions. As you work the product into the stain, it should begin to loosen. You can then use your fingers to pick off as much of the gum as you can.
Pretreat: Next, pretreat the area with an oil- and grease-fighting stain remover, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Launder: Once the garment sits for the time recommended on your laundry pretreatment, wash as usual.
Other Ways to Get Gum Out of Clothes
There are a lot of other hacks and tricks for dissolving gum floating around the internet. Some say white vinegar softens the sticky stuff enough to pry it from fabric, while others say toothpaste, peanut butter or even a hot iron will do the trick.
But here’s the bottom line: We say the above methods — ice for fresh gum and Goo Gone or petroleum jelly for dried-on gum — are the only effective and approved ways to get the job done.
Brigitt is a writer, editor and craft stylist with nearly 15 years of experience. She specializes in lifestyle topics, including home, health, parenting, beauty, style, food, entertaining, travel and weddings. She has written for Glamour, People, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Apartment Therapy, The Spruce, and more.