Picture this: it’s a brisk fall morning, and you have just pulled on your brand-new sneakers to take the dog for your daily jog around the park. You and little Fido are happily running through the crisp morning air as the sun comes up over the horizon. You couldn’t feel more alive.
But suddenly, you feel a slight snag in your step. Something’s not right. You pause at the next bench you pass and take a seat before lifting your foot to find something truly horrendous.
There, on your shiny, new, and expensive pure-white running shoes, is a giant, bright piece of hot pink bubble gum.
And just like that, your beautiful and peaceful morning job has been interrupted and ruined by a sticky, slimy, used piece of chewing gum. What do you do now?
We’ve all been there – there’s nothing worse and more stomach-turning than finding gum on the bottom of your shoes. Whether they’re old or new, chances are you weren’t planning on throwing them away anytime soon.
No need to panic – we have reviewed and discovered some of the best methods of how to get gum off shoes. And better yet, we’ve decided to share them here with you today!
How to Get Gum off Shoes
There are a few sure-fire methods of removing gum from a shoe, but some ways work better for one type of shoe over another. We’re going to stick to the basics here and talk about the most popular shoe materials like leather, rubber, and plastic.
Getting Gum off of Standard Shoe Materials
Leather is one of the most popular materials used to construct shoes. It’s sturdy, reliable, and it looks really lovely. However, a piece of blue chewing gum certainly detracts from the attractive style. The same goes for rubber and plastic materials, or even fabrics that aren’t specialized.
If the worst has happened to your favorite pair of leather shoes, there are a couple of different tactics you can try to get that sticky stuff off in no time with little to no damage done to your footwear.
If you have ever gotten gum stuck in your hair, there’s a good chance you have used the ice cube method to get it out quickly. This same trick is effective in removing chewing gum from your shoes.
Using an ice cube to remove gum from your shoes is a preferred idea by many because it doesn’t require any special tools, equipment, or products. There is an excellent chance that you already have ice cubes in your freezer or ice maker, so this tactic makes the process easy all around.
In addition to an ice cube, you are also going to need a regular kitchen spoon. Because you’re dealing with a stranger’s chewed gum, you may also want to throw on a pair of gloves, so you don’t actually have to touch the stuff.
Once you have all your supplies ready to go, take the ice cube and slowly rub it all over the gum. The goal here is to hard the gum, which will make it much easier to remove than if it’s still gooey and sticky. Be careful to maintain slow movements, as fast rubbing will create friction and heat.
Steadily move the ice cube on the gum for about 10 to 15 minutes. Your ice cube will likely melt in just a few minutes, so you will have to replace it when it becomes too small to be helpful.
After this time has passed, feel the gum. If it has become hard and brittle, take your spoon and use the rounded edge to wedge under the gum. It should pop right off in one solid piece, and then you’re done!
If you had a father who was anything like mine, you have probably heard the exaggerated notion that there’s nothing that WD-40 can’t fix. From cleaning stains and erasing crayon to removing rust and softening leather, WD-40 is known for its versatile use.
WD-40 is best known for its lubrication properties, which is most likely where your mind went when we brought it up for removing gum. Actually, WD-40 serves a different purpose when it comes to removing this obnoxious clinger.
Because of the components in WD-40, when you spray it on a piece of gum, it cools the air and evaporates to reduce the temperature. Much like using an ice cube, WD-40 will harden the gum and make it easier to remove.
WD-40 also has a secondary effect on the gum. The ingredients used in this product will actually break down the sticky characteristics in gum, which also makes it easier to remove.
The best and safest way to use WD-40 to remove gum from your shoe is to find a well-ventilated area outside. After placing the shoe bottom-side up, ensure that the surface remains as flat and level as possible. You can do this by placing two objects, like bricks, on either side of the shoe.
The leveler the surface, the better, because otherwise, you’ll have WD-40 running all over the place.
Once you have your setup in place, shake the can of WD-40 for about 15 seconds. Use the straw attachment that came with your can and spray the gum. Coat it from top to bottom and side to side and let it sit for one minute.
After a minute has passed, respray the gum in the same way and wait for another minute. Allowing time to pass is crucial, as it will let the WD-40 penetrate the gum, breaking it down and cooling it for removal.
Use a metal spoon or another blunt object to pry the gum from the shoe. While the gum will likely come off in one piece, you can redo this method to address any small pieces left behind.
Some experts suggest rubbing the gum with sandpaper before applying WD-40. Doing so can increase the surface area of the gum, which allows the product to penetrate its layers better.
Peanut butter is a ubiquitous household object that can help you remove gum from shoes – along with your hair, carpets, clothing, and other surfaces.
While peanut butter is very common and useful, please note that if you have a peanut allergy, you should try a different method to remove the gum from your shoe.
Peanut butter works in the opposite approach as ice cubes and WD-40. Rather than hardening the candy to make it easy to pop off, peanut butter reacts with and mitigates the sticky substance found in the gum. Doing so lets you easily peel the gum away rather than wedging it off.
With this simple approach, all you have to do is put a spoonful or two of peanut butter over the gum. Once fully covered, let the gum and peanut butter sit for about 20 minutes. Use a blunt object like a spoon, a knife, or even a credit card to scrape the gum away.
If there is still some gum remaining on the shoe, you can repeat this process as necessary. To finish off, wipe away the peanut butter with a washcloth or a paper towel.
The freezer method is an excellent and easy option – as long as you have the time to spare. Like the ice cube method, this tactic uses extreme cold to freeze the gum off of your shoe permanently.
If you don’t feel like bringing the ice to the shoe, you can bring your footwear to the ice and let the cold work its magic while you get something else more important done.
To perform the freezer method, take the effected shoe and remove any excess debris that may be attached to the gum, such as leaves, hair, rocks, etc. Now is also a good time to make sure that your shoe isn’t wet. If you’ve stepped in a puddle or it was a rainy day outside, you may want to refrain from putting your shoe in the freezer.
Once that’s all taken care of, place your shoe in a plastic bag. Remove the excess air from the bag to form a tight seal around the bottom of the shoe. Make sure that the bag is pressed tightly against the gum before you seal it off.
You can do this with a large gallon-sized Ziplock bag, or you can use a grocery bag and tie it tight.
Place your shoe inside the freezer with the bottom of the shoe pressed against either a freezer wall or the freezer floor. Leave your shoe in the freezer for two to three hours while you go clean the bathroom, get some laundry done, or binge-watch your favorite TV show.
After the time has passed, remove the shoe from the freezer and take it out of the plastic bag. Using a metal spoon, a knife, or another blunt object, wedge the gum off of the bottom of the shoe.
You may find it helpful to sprinkle a bit of water onto the gum before you freeze it. The extra moisture can help make the gum harder, and therefore, easier to remove.
Removing Gum from Suede
You can try the above methods on most types of shoe materials, but suede tends to be a little less forgiving than other fabrics. For that reason, you may want to avoid using the methods we just went through.
For one, using an ice cube can cause your suede to get wet – which will likely ruin the fabric. It can cause massive stains, and while the gum on your shoe has already left a considerable mark, the ice cube method will make it worse.
On the other hand, peanut butter can also cause additional damage to the surface of your suede shoes, rendering this method useless as well.
The best way to address gum on a suede shoe is to use the suitable old-fashioned credit card method. Use a sturdy credit card or a knife to scrape away the majority of the gum gently. From there, your best bet is to actually find and purchase a unique eraser product made from suede shoes.
While we recommend this as the best way to get gum off of your suede shoes, we also like the hairdryer method for this particular material.
The hairdryer method works like the peanut butter to soften it up and remove the sticky components of the gum. However, unlike with the peanut butter, when you use a hairdryer, you do not have to put any additional products on your shoe’s surface, making it better for suede material.
To use the hairdryer method, find yourself a suede cleaner or simply a gentle soap. Also, gather together a hairdryer, an old rag, and a blunt object like a spoon or a credit card.
Place the shoe on a flat surface and turn the hairdryer on to the highest temperature setting. Aim the hairdryer directly over the gum, moving it in small circular motions to ensure even heat distribution. Do this for about five minutes.
Check to see if the gum has softened. If it hasn’t softened, repeat the above step and try moving the hairdryer even closer to the gum without touching it.
Once you feel that the gum is soft, use the spoon or the credit card to scrape the gum off of the shoe. Repeat the hairdryer step again, as there will likely be some gum still leftover on the fabric. After you’ve heated the small gum pieces, use the rag to rub them free, working in a circular motion once again.
Finally, after you have completed these steps, use your cleaner to clean the area. This step is crucial as it will ensure that you remove any oils leftover from the gum that can harm the material.
Why Does Gum Stick to Shoes?
After stepping on a piece of bubblegum, you may – in your frustrated outrage – wonder why the obnoxious stuff is so darn sticky in the first place.
There’s actually quite a bit of science as to why gum sticks to your shoes, other than the obvious answer of “it’s sticky.”
Every individual type of gum has a unique formula, but there are several common ingredients in all gum that give it flavor and coloring.
The most distinctive aspect of gum is its chewy, elastic properties that allow you to chew and chew without ever breaking it down like other foods. The ingredients that make this possible are things like polymers, plasticizers, and resins. All of these ingredients give gum its texture, stability, and elasticity.
That being said, these same ingredients also cause gum to be sticky. Polymers found in chewing gum give the product a water-repelling property. When you chew gum, you may notice that it eventually loses its flavor. While the saliva in your mouth breaks down the sugars and flavoring, it doesn’t dissolve the polymers.
These same polymers are attracted to oil. So, while the gum won’t stick to your mouth because of the water in your saliva, it will stick to other surfaces like sidewalks, benches, fingers, hair, and, yes, your shoes.
Not only do the polymers form a strong bond, but the chemical makeup of the elastic chewing product makes cleanup more difficult because they stretch rather than break.
So, the next time you find yourself in a sticky situation with a piece of chewing gum, at least you’ll know why it’s giving you such a hard time – and that using water is going to do absolutely nothing to help your cause.
Throw Your Gum in the Trash
Following cigarette butts, chewing gum is the second most common form of littering, and anywhere from 80 to 90% of chewing gum isn’t disposed of properly.
Those statements certainly attest to why so many people find gum on the bottom of the shoes.
But tossing your chewing gum out of your car window or sticking it to the underside of a park bench does more than just annoy the next person who comes in contact with it.
Because chewing gum is made from synthetic plastics, it does not biodegrade, making it a hazard for the environment.
Removing chewing gum is a costly and time-consuming process; in fact, it can cost as much as two million dollars every year. But when it’s tossed around outside, it becomes available for other animals to consume. For example, chewing gum has been found in fish. The gum found in fish has often been there for quite some time, allowing it to accumulate toxins, and therefore making it harmful for humans to eat the fish.
Whether your heart goes out to the animals and the food chain, cleanup costs, or simply to your newest pair of wedges, the best thing that anyone can do for this cause is to make sure you dispose of your gum properly. Spitting it out the window may be the most convenient option, but it makes for a huge hassle and impact in the long run.
And no one likes to clean chewed gum off of their shoes.