While most stains come out of clothes with a bit of detergent and few spins in the washing machine, gum stains are another story. Not only is gum immune to machine-washing, but attempts to wipe, scrape, or peel gum out of clothing with bare hands often result in an even bigger mess. So what should you do when you find a piece of Trident affixed to your favorite sweater?
As it turns out, there are plenty of nifty hacks to deal with this particularly sticky situation. Some recommend freezing gum and scraping it off once it hardens, others suggest the exact opposite: Heating gum until it’s soft and gooey, then using a range of substances—including peanut butter, orange oil, and Bengay—to loosen it from clothes.
Both freezing and heating techniques are useful, according to the International Gum Chewing Association. That’s because of the unique molecular makeup of chewing gum. Gum is washing machine-immune because it’s made from hydrophobic polymers, meaning it’s water insoluble. It repels water molecules and sticks to oily surfaces, making it extremely difficult to remove. But it also responds rapidly to changes in temperature, becoming sticky and pliable when it’s heated by saliva, and quickly cooling and hardening when you spit it out.
All of this means two things for gum removal: First, water alone is no match for chewing gum, and second, both heat and cold can be used to remove gum from clothes in different ways. When gum is stuck to clothing but not mashed into its fibers, freezing is generally a good way to quickly harden it and scrape it off in one chunk. But when gum is stuck to more delicate clothes, heating tends to be a better strategy for removing it without damaging clothing. Since heating alone just makes gum more pliable, another ingredient is needed to loosen it from fabric.
In the video above, Consumer Reports reveals one proven strategy for removing gum from clothes by applying heat. They recommend using a hairdryer to soften the gum, then applying Bengay to dissolve the gum base. While it’s not the only way to get gum out of your clothes, it’s one of the most effective and is supported by the International Gum Chewing Association (they recommend deep-heating rubs, of which Bengay is a popular brand). Check it out above.
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