6 Easy Ways to Remove Gum from Your Clothes and Hair

iStock
iStock

You already know that water is useless when it comes to the torture of finding a wad of gum stuck to your hair or clothes. But why? Gum is a hydrophobic material, meaning it doesn't mix with or dissolve in water (for the same reason, your saliva won't break down gum when you chew it). Of course, this means that to remove it from your pants, your shoes, your couch, or your hair, you'll have to find a substance that it will respond to—specifically, other hydrophobic materials. Read on for six items to reach for when disaster strikes.

1. VINEGAR

Bottle of apple cider vinegar.
iStock

Apple cider vinegar is a popular all-purpose, inexpensive, antimicrobial house cleaner—and its miracle-working skills include gum removal. To save jeans, T-shirts, other items of clothing, or even carpets and upholstery, heat a quarter-cup of ACV in the microwave. Dip the section of clothing in the warm vinegar, or dab a bit onto the carpet or upholstery, and then, depending on the amount of gum that needs to be removed, pick your tools. For larger gobs, start by scraping with a small, blunt tool, like a butter knife or a cuticle spoon. Then grab an old toothbrush and start brushing. In less than a minute, the remainder of the gum will be off your fabrics and balled up in the bristles. (Note: This will ruin a toothbrush, so keep some spare used ones in the cleaning closet just in case.) Once the gum is gone and the brush is destroyed, send it off to be recycled.

2. PEANUT BUTTER

Close-up of peanut butter.
iStock

The idea of having peanut butter in your hair is only barely more appealing than gum, but the fats and oils in the spread are exactly what make it good for this task. Rub a couple of tablespoons of creamy (not crunchy!) peanut butter around the affected clumps of hair, and wait for eight to 10 minutes. On a molecular level, peanut butter is made up of mostly carbon and hydrogen, which makes it hydrophobic. Since gum is also hydrophobic, they basically cancel each other out (there's a saying in chemistry that "like dissolves like"). As they interact, you'll be able to slowly remove the wad from your hair, sans scissors. Once all of the gum has been pulled out, wash your hair as usual.

3. OLIVE OIL

Olive oil in a glass bowl.
iStock

For anyone with a nut allergy who would sooner chop off inches than smear peanut butter into their hair or skin, olive oil has the same solvent properties as PB, without all the goopiness. Olive oil (or canola or vegetable oil as well) is especially helpful for removing gum from eyebrows or eyelashes.

4. OIL-BASED CLEANSERS

Bottle of oil cleanser.
iStock

Oil-based cleansers, intended to remove certain types of makeup or lotions, work on gum the same way peanut butter does. Many moisturizers, creams, and ointments are made with liquid paraffin, a highly refined mineral oil made of saturated hydrocarbons. Using an oil-based facial cleanser works well on these oily products because they're both non-polar solvents—if you apply a heavy nighttime moisturizer, it's most effective to use a cleansing oil to wipe it off in the morning. So, if you're already a cleansing oil devotee, removing gum (also a non-polar solvent) from hair or skin with it might not seem too bad. Dermalogica even advertises their PreCleanse oil as being an effective chewing gum remover, and had a beauty blogger test out their claims (spoiler: it totally worked!).

5. PETROLEUM JELLY

Jar of Vaseline petroleum jelly.
iStock

A more common medicine cabinet find that also works is petroleum jelly (like Vaseline), which is a safe, non-abrasive lubricant that is also often recommended for removing much harsher substances than gum—like tar. It's a cheap, gentle solution to use, especially if a large bubble pops all over your face, or you wake up from a nap with an accidental web of stringy gum stuck to your hair, face, or arms.

6. RUBBING ALCOHOL

Bottle of rubbing alcohol with cotton ball.
iStock

For gum stuck to more delicate fabrics, try dabbing some rubbing alcohol on the area with a cotton ball, sponge, or Q-Tip. Rubbing alcohol is an isopropyl alcohol, which is commonly used to dissolve non-polar compounds and oils (which is why it's great as an antiseptic and disinfectant), and it works by breaking down the polymers in the gum. It also won't damage or stain more sensitive materials, which is why it's good to use on satin pillowcases, silk or polyester shirts, or anything that needs dry cleaning. Let the alcohol dry, and then gently scrape the gum off with a butter knife or cuticle tool. Then wash or send off to the cleaners as usual!

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

11 Cooking Hacks From Real Chefs to Elevate Your Pasta Dishes

Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s one of the easiest and most popular dishes to make at home. Just boil noodles, heat a jar of sauce, and voila! What many don’t realize, however, is that with some attention to detail and just a few extra steps, you can take your spaghetti with marinara sauce from serviceable to restaurant-quality. Here are a few tips from the pros.

1. Make your own sauce.

This may not sound like a “hack,” but it’s way easier to do than most people think. All you need are four ingredients, according to celebrity chef Fabio Viviani: garlic, olive oil, basil, and a large can of whole plum tomatoes—he and others recommend the San Marzano variety of tomatoes, which derive from the volcanic soil around Naples. (If you’re so inclined, use a salad spinner to rid the tomatoes of their seeds before you get cooking.) Heat six smashed garlic cloves with some olive oil, add in the tomatoes, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, adding the basil at the very end.

2. Use a potato masher.

To break down those sauce tomatoes, you could smash them by hand, or use the same wooden spoon you use to stir. (You could also puree them, but most chefs say that’s a no-no.) Or, you could do like Scott Conant of Scarpetta does and use a potato masher, which allows for an even consistency while still keeping the sauce thick and flavorful.

3. Use the right amount of water.

Using too little water can cause noodles to clump while they’re cooking, according to Giuliano Hazan, son of legendary Italian chef Marcella Hazan. He recommends using six quarts of water for each pound of pasta. When in doubt, use more than you think you’ll need—but not so much that the pot overflows while boiling.

4. Don’t add olive oil.

Many believe that adding olive oil to the pasta water will keep the noodles from sticking together. Not true, says renowned chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, who points out that well-cooked pasta should be naturally stick-free. Adding olive oil can also keep the sauce from adhering to the pasta, according to Alton Brown, which keeps ingredients separate that should meld together.

5. Salt liberally—and at the right time.

Just a pinch won’t do it, according to Del Posto chef Mark Ladner. To truly bring out the flavor of the pasta, add one tablespoon of salt per quart of water. As far as timing goes, wait until the water is boiling, but before you’ve put in the pasta. This allows the salt to infuse the water without affecting the boiling time—because, contrary to what you might have heard, adding salt right when you put the pot on the burner actually increases the time it takes for water to start boiling.

6. Turn off the heat and cover the pot.

Rather than boiling the water until the pasta is ready, do what famed chef and cookbook author Mary Ann Esposito recommends: Let the water return to a boil, then shut off the heat, cover the pot and wait for seven minutes. “Works beautifully for cuts like spaghetti, ziti, rigatoni and other short cuts of pasta,” Esposito writes. “Saves energy too.”

7. Cook the sauce in a skillet.

Forget using a small pot, or even a saucepan, to heat your sauce. As Bastianich tells it, a skillet is the way to go, mainly because it cooks evenly, allowing the sauce to thicken quickly. With its flared sides and lighter weight, a skillet also lets you toss the pasta and the sauce together.

8. Add a pinch of sugar to your sauce.

A touch of sweetness can help balance out the flavor of your sauce. Brooklyn chef Jen DePalma says she always adds a pinch of sugar to her sauce, which tones down the acidity and keeps it from tasting too bitter.

9. Cook the pasta with the sauce.

This might be the most crucial hack of all. As numerous chefs point out, pasta and sauce should be cooked together so that the sauce coats the noodles. Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello recommends taking the pasta out of the water four minutes before the cook time listed on the package, transferring it to the sauce skillet and cooking the two until the pasta is al dente. You should only bring your sauce to a boil after adding the pasta, then simmer the two until finished.

10. Use the pasta water.

Don’t pour out that water after you’ve transferred the pasta. As Jason Pfeiffer, chef-de-cuisine at Maialino tells Epicurious, a splash of starchy pasta water on the noodles and sauce will help bind the two together. (You can also use it to make a cocktail, if you’re so inclined.)

11. Don’t forget to add the finishing touches.

Chef Ken Arnone recommends adding fresh sliced basil to your sauce five minutes before it’s done cooking. If you’re going more indulgent, do as Scott Conant does and add a tablespoon of butter. After plating, you could go the traditional route with Parmesan cheese. Or, you could follow chef Elena Karp’s recommendation and add shaved pecorino cheese along with a hint of parsley.