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When your housemate loses the TV remote to the depths of the sofa, it’s more than just dust and old coins you’ve got to delve through to get it back. But there are films to see and shows to binge, so you brave it. Yuck! What’s that?! Your fingers brush something hard, but sticky – with hair! – sprouting from the sofa cushion.
No, it’s not a freaky new lifeform. It’s the gum your housemate couldn’t stop nervously chewing in last month’s scary movie night. And because you love your mate – and you really want to see what happens next in your new favourite TV show, you don't mind removing the chewing gum from the sofa yourself.
The best approaches to removing chewing gum from carpets, sofas and upholstery use the power of temperature, not physical strength.
Method 1: Removing chewing gum on the carpet with ice
You will need:
- An ice cube or two
- A strong paper towel
- A metal spoon or a blunt knife (like a butter knife)
Freezing chewing gum with an ice cube reduces its stickiness – its rubbery softness at room temperature is what makes it so streeeeeeetchy and gooey. Once it’s hard and brittle, you can chip it off with a blunt knife or a spoon.
- Wrap an ice cube in a paper towel so it’s easy to handle, and rub it over the gum.
- Keep the ice in contact with the gum for 5 minutes or more to make sure it’s frozen solid.
- Use a metal spoon or a blunt knife to gently chisel between the gum and the sofa or carpet fabric.
Using a good quality paper towel makes light work of the job - just use a piece of Plenty Kitchen Roll. It’s so strong it can deal with sticky gum, and it won’t fall apart when you’re scrubbing the carpet with soapy water or cleaning products.
Method 2: Using heat for removing chewing gum
You will need:
- An iron
- A few strong paper towels
- A metal spoon or a blunt knife like a butter knife
This is a little messier than the freezing technique, but it’s still a helpful trick for removing chewing gum on carpets and upholstery if your freezer is an ice-cream-only zone. While ice makes gum less sticky and grippy, melting the gum with an iron relaxes the sticky bond, making the whole molten globule easier to scrape off.
- Place a couple of strong paper towels over the area where the gum is stuck.
- Set the iron to a medium heat and place it where the gum is stuck, so that the layer of paper towels is a barrier between the iron and the gum. Before you get really stuck in, make sure you always test your products and methods on a small, discrete part of the carpet or furniture. Some artificial fibres can melt and/or stick together from the ironing, which would leave an even bigger sticky mess than before.
- Do not move the iron around (this could spread the gum further) but lift it up frequently to check if the gum is melted. Make sure you’re not burning through the paper towels. It’s easy once you do it, so have no fear!
- When the gum is very soft, lift off the paper towels. Some of the gum should come off with the towels.
- While the gum is still a molten, melty blob, use a metal spoon or a butter knife to scrape as much of the remaining gum as possible off the fabric.
Getting rid of the residue
After you’ve got as much of the gum as possible out of the material, it’s time to tackle the the last, leftover bits of gum. To get rid of the really stubborn bits of gum, you might need to use an oil-based product. An oil soap for wood works well if you have it, but peanut butter is a good kitchen cupboard alternative for removing chewing gum. Just remember to test whichever you choose on a small, hidden area first to avoid damage.
- Apply your chosen product to the gum residue. Make sure this is concentrated on the gum itself and not spread around too much, as you’ll need to wash it off quickly afterwards.
- Work the product around the gum gently with your fingers.
- Ease the remaining traces of gum away from the carpet or upholstery with a clean kitchen towel.
Once your carpet or sofa is looking a bit better, give another quick once over to clean up. Blot the area with warm soapy water, then rinse by blotting with warm clean water. And when the gum is gone, all that’s left is to leave the damp area to air dry.
And remember, chewing gum isn’t the best way to freshen up your sofa!