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If you happen to get gum on your shoe during a casual run or while walking to work, then you will no doubt want to remove it as soon as possible. Apart from the sticky feeling that a large amount of gum can make when it gets stuck to your soles, there is also the issue of the gum causing damage to your footwear if you aren’t careful. While you could just try to tear it off with your hands, this means that you will be touching dirty, chewed gum with your bare fingers. Thankfully, there are other ways to remove gum efficiently, usually without much extra effort required.
What Removes Chewing Gum?
Gum is sticky by design, and that means that it can be a nightmare for a shoe. Fabric shoes are much more likely to get gum stuck in their surfaces, but the stickiness means that almost any shoes can end up with gum stuck firmly to them. There are a lot of options to choose from when you decide to try and get gum back off your shoes, but a certain method might cause more problems than it solves depending on the design of the shoe involved.
How to Remove Gum from Leather Shoes
Leather is a sturdy material that often has a smooth surface, but that doesn’t make gum any less likely to stick to it. Considering that most leather shoes are worn for style reasons, any kind of blemish on them can be a huge problem, and removing chewing gum becomes far more urgent as a result. If the gum is solid, then scraping it off with a small tool or flat object can usually be enough, but if it isn’t working (or if the gum is still sticky and soft), then you will have to turn to something else. The average home will have everything you need for at least one gum removal method, and all of them should work equally well on the average leather shoe.
With Ice Cubes
Since gum is easiest to remove when hard, using ice cubes to cool it down can be a surprisingly effective method. A single ice cube that is rubbed against the gum can easily solidify it in only ten minutes (although you will probably have to get another ice cube part way through since they melt quickly), making it much easier to scrape or pull off. This obviously requires access to an ice cube tray or a bag of ice, which might not always be an option depending on where you are.
Some people prefer to wrap the shoe in a spare plastic bag with the ice inside, rather than holding it there with their hand. However, fabric shoes might end up stained or soggy if it melts quickly, especially if the bag quickly fills up with cold water.
With A Freezer
Without ice cubes, you will have to fall back on a more hands-off method. Put your shoe in a plastic bag and wrap the plastic around it so that the gum is tightly pressed against the material, then place it in a freezer for two or more hours. This should – hopefully – get gum to stick against the plastic rather than the shoe, meaning that it will come off when you remove the bag. Don’t worry about having to pull the plastic bag off – it is unlikely that the freezing process will damage the shoe itself.
Pulling the gum off the bag shouldn’t be that difficult since the frozen gum will be much more solid and easier to remove. Even if it doesn’t freeze to the bag that you were using, the solid gum will be easier to remove from shoes anyway, so you can usually pull it off. If that doesn’t work, you can use a small tool to scrape it away instead.
WD-40 might not seem like the most obvious method to get gum off your shoe, but it works. The principle is the same as using ice cubes or a freezer, but without forcing you to rely on the cold: instead, you just spray WD40 over the gum and allow it to harden. Not only will it be easy to remove, but it will harden faster than trying to rub an ice cube on it, and there is no need to place your shoe in a plastic bag. You can use sprays other than WD40, but the results may vary depending on the exact type of spray used.
This method doesn’t take very long and might take effect in under ten minutes. Be sure to take all the same safety precautions that you would while using the spray for a normal purpose, just in case.
With Peanut Butter
Putting a shoe covered in gum in the freezer will make the gum harden, but peanut butter does the exact opposite. Only two teaspoons of peanut butter on a mid-sized glob of gum will soften it over the course of about twenty minutes, making it much easier to pull off the shoe without making it as sticky as it used to be. You can peel away the softened gum fairly quickly, although you will have to clean up the peanut butter afterward.
How to Remove Gum from Suede Shoes
Suede shoes are surprisingly different from leather ones in terms of how you can remove gum since the materials react differently to each method. For example, if you have been using ice and a freezer to get gum into a solid-state, you might need to stop: the melting ice can cause stains or damage the material. The same can be said for peanut butter, which will seep into the material slightly and cause all kinds of problems in the future. It goes without saying that WD-40 will suffer the same flaws.
When suede shoes are involved, the best method is physical removal. A knife, a credit card, or any other kind of thin tool may allow you to get gum off the shoe without causing much damage, and any small scratches or scraped can be fixed fairly easily with a stain eraser. These erasers can be useful for trying to remove any left-over gum residue or excess pieces that won’t scrape off.
The same goes for other softer and weaker materials, too. Having to get gum off a surface will often put that surface at risk, so try to use gentler methods whenever you can. You can repair most damage, but it still becomes a pain.
How to Remove Gum from Soles
The upper sections of shoes aren’t the only ones that can get stained with gum, though. Trying to get gum off your sole is a very common problem, and the designs might make this harder than you expect, especially if the soles have been made with large treads that leave gaps for the gum to get wedged. All of the methods mentioned above still work, but there are some ways that you can make the process even easier – since soles are much more durable than the average upper, you can afford to be a little more direct with the method you are using.
As odd as it sounds, using sand can help you remove gum from a sole with nothing but a small stick. Turn your shoes over, sprinkle sand over the gum, and then start poking and rubbing at the side of the lump using a stick or other poking tool – eventually, the sand will exfoliate the gum and let you pull most of it off. This can be done almost anywhere as long as you are near sand (or something similar), but it may also take a little while compared to another method.
Sand isn’t very damaging, but you can rub it into the fabric on the shoes if you aren’t careful. This won’t damage the shoes, but it may make them uncomfortable to wear until you can clean them out. If you only use sand on the shoe soles, this isn’t a problem.
With Lighter Fluid and/or Nail Polish Remover
Both lighter fluid and nail polish remover can dissolve gum directly – if you want to get the gum off, you just need to use one of these liquids and rub either of them into the surface using a cloth. Keep in mind that they both have inherent dangers: lighter fluid is flammable, and nail polish remover can damage certain shoe designs (notably, suede ones) if you use it incorrectly. You may have to rub at the gum to fully dissolve it, and there is a high chance of some gum residue getting leftover that you will have to scrape off the shoe using a brush. Be sure to keep flames and other hazards away from the shoe while doing this, too.
With Olive Oil
Olive oil will stain both leather and suede, but it can be a fast way to get gum off a shoe sole in record time. Simply pour some oil into the gum, let it sit for a moment, and then use a paper towel or cloth to rub off what is left. If there is anything left, you can use a pointy tool to get the remaining gum off your shoes. Since it can be quite likely to damage certain shoe materials, it is best to use olive oil for gum on shoe soles rather than any other parts of the shoe.
What about Gum Residue?
Gum is annoying for several reasons: the stickiness, the fact that it can turn up anywhere, and the way that it can stay soft for a long time if you leave it alone. However, one of the most annoying problems is the residue it leaves behind: even if you get gum off your shoes, there is a chance that small pieces will be left behind. Even if you can remove those as well, you might still need to deal with a sticky gum residue that gets left behind. It may not even be visible to the naked eye, but it will be there, and you might notice a change in how your steps feel or sound until you can wash it off.
All of the usual methods – ice, peanut butter, WD-40 – can still work if you decide to use them, but removing this residue can be a lot easier than you might think. To start, take a few minutes to use a brush or scraper and try to get the remaining gum off your shoes that way: a simple method, but it saves you plenty of time and effort if it works.
Will Gum Damage my Shoes?
Gum isn’t directly damaging and won’t corrode materials or create holes in materials, but it can still be a big hassle for any type of shoes. Softer shoes will suffer more annoying problems when gum is involved, and some fabrics might even allow it to seep through the shoes and onto your skin.
Gum isn’t dangerous, and it won’t make your shoes fall apart, but you still don’t want to let gum build up on any item of clothing. Since shoes are the most likely part of your outfit to touch gum that has been discarded on the ground, it is usually your shoes that will end up getting covered. Still, as this guide has shown, removing the gum isn’t all that difficult as long as you approach it carefully.