"How did that get there?" That's the question we commonly ask when we find a wad of gum stuck to the seat of our pants, jammed in a kid's coat pocket, or clutching a sweater's arm. Happily, you don't need to know where the gummy gob came from, just how to get it off!
As you begin the removal task, 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 things -- such as peanut butter and hair spray -- that might stain, fade, or damage the fabric. After removing all the gum, pretreat the area with stain remover spray or a hefty dab of dish or laundry soap before laundering. The folks 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/gum stain is gone.
But, first you have to say good-bye to the gum; here's how to do just that.
1. Stick to it. 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.
2. Try icing. 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.
3. Use the freezer. More hands-off than icing, 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. Heat treat. 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. Boil water. 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. Grab vinegar. Pour white vinegar into a microwave-safe container and heat it in the microwave. Dip a toothbrush into the warm liquid and rub the vinegar 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. Freeze it on the fly. 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. Go commercial. After pulling off as much loose gum as you can, spray on a sticker or label remover or dab on Goof Off or Goo Gone to soften the remaining gum. Remove the residue with a scraper or a clean white rag.
9. Swab on 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. Rub-a-dub some suds. 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.