11 Genius Tricks Guaranteed to Get Gum out of Clothes

Next time you're in a sticky situation, use these tried-and-true tricks for removing chewing gum and its residue from fabric.

"How did that get there?" It's always an unpleasant surprise to find a wad of gum stuck to the seat of your pants, jammed in a kid's coat pocket, or clutching a sweater's arm. Happily, you don't need to know where the sticky gob came from; you just need to know how to get gum off clothing! A variety of household items, including rubbing alcohol, vinegar, ice, and even peanut butter, can help you get rid of that gummy mess. Whether you're at work, home, or on the go, these gum-cleaning processes will do the trick where and when you need it. Here's how to get gum out of clothes.

person removing gum from back pocket of jeans

BHG/Alicia Long

How to Get Gum Out of Clothes

There are several effective strategies for how to remove gum from clothes, but they all start the same way. As you begin to remove gum from clothes, pick off as much gum as you are able and pretest any chemical solution or heat process on a seam or other area that won't be seen when the garment is worn. Avoid using any removal techniques that involve substances, such as hairspray, that might stain, fade, or damage the fabric. After removing all the gum using one of our strategies below, pretreat the area with stain remover spray or a hefty dab of dish or laundry soap before laundering. Cleaning experts at Tide suggest washing the treated garment in its usual cycle at the hottest water temperature recommended on the care label. Do not put the garment into the dryer until you are certain the gum or gum stain is gone.

1. Clean the gum with more gum.

This tip for removing gum might seem counterintuitive, but you can actually use gum to your benefit when cleaning up a sticky mess. Use another wad of chewed gum or a piece of duct tape to pull off the stuck-on gum. Apply the chewed gum or tape directly to the stuck-on gum so you don't add more sticky substances to adjacent fabric areas. Gently pull away from the material.

2. Remove gum with ice.

Set ice cubes or a freezer pack atop the gum for about 20 minutes. This will freeze and harden the gum so you can pop or scrape it off with a credit card, dull knife, or paint scraper. Clorox cleaning experts advise removing any gum left in fabric fibers with a dry-cleaning solvent before treating the remaining stain.

person scraping hardened and frozen gum from pair of shorts

BHG/Alicia Long

3. Freeze gum off clothing.

More hands-off than ice, this technique lets the freezer do the work. Throw the gum-studded garment—with the gum facing up—in your freezer for an hour or so. Once the gum hardens, scrape it off as above.

4. Remove gum with an iron.

Turn the garment gum-side down atop a piece of cardboard. Press a medium-heat iron firmly on the back of the garment. Don't move the iron, as you will spread the gummy mess. As the heat melts the gum, the wad will transfer to the cardboard.

5. Remove gum with steam.

Hold the gummed-up section of your garment over the spout of a steaming teakettle. Steam will soften the gum, making it easy to remove with a scraper or toothbrush. Alternatively, you can set the garment in a bowl filled with boiling water until the gum has softened enough to be removed.

6. Use vinegar on gum.

Pour distilled white vinegar into a microwave-safe container and heat it in the microwave. Dip a toothbrush into the warm liquid and rub it into the gum. The acid will soften the gum and help release it from the fabric. Or, go for the volcano effect: Pour vinegar over the gum, sprinkle on baking soda, and let the resulting fizzy foam go to work.

7. Tackle gum with canned air.

Canned air does more than clean computer keyboards. It acts as a freezing agent that solidifies the gum. Spray canned air directly onto the gum until it is hard enough to be scraped off.

8. Use gum-removing products.

First, pull off as much loose gum as you can. Apply a sticker or adhesive remover, such as Goo Gone, to soften the remaining gum. Remove the residue with a scraper or a clean white rag.

9. Remove gum with alcohol.

Use a cotton swab to apply rubbing alcohol across the gum. Let the alcohol soak through and dry (this will take less than a minute). Pull off the wad with a strip of duct tape.

10. Clean gum with detergent.

Use a toothbrush to rub liquid laundry or dish soap directly into the gum. This should break up the gum's fibers and let you easily scrape off the wad. Wash the garment, applying stain remover if needed.

removing gum from sweatshirt with creamy peanut butter

BHG/Alicia Long

11. Remove gum with peanut butter.

Spread a generous amount of peanut butter (creamy, not crunchy) over the gum. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the fats and oils in the peanut butter to make the gum less sticky. Follow up by scraping off the gum and peanut butter with a dull knife or edge of a credit card.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can gum damage a washing machine?

    In short, yes. That little wad of gum can not only spread to other clothing, it can also clog the drain or melt, leaving a sticky residue on the interior of your washing machine that could damage future loads. If a rogue piece of gum ends up stuck on the interior of your machine, try freezing it off with a piece of ice or gently chipping it off the drum with something plastic (like the edge of a credit card or a plastic utensil). Use a washcloth and hot tap water to soften the residue and wipe it away or—for more stubborn stickiness—make a paste with powdered laundry detergent and scrub. Before you drop in another load, run your machine through a cleaning cycle to remove any remaining stickiness. 

  • Does toothpaste remove gum from fabric?

    A little bit of toothpaste can remove chewing gum from fabrics—but use caution. The whitening agents in some brands of toothpaste can bleach and discolor dark fabrics. If you choose to use this method, stick with standard white toothpaste and avoid gels or brands that contain whiteners like hydrogen peroxide. 

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