We’ve all experienced the annoying realization that you’ve just stepped into a piece of gum. It creates that awkward walk—with one foot wanting to stay planted to the floor. It leaves you thinking, “I need to find out how to get gum off shoes.”
This seemingly innocuous piece of candy isn’t just a sticky annoyance.
Once it’s there, you’re going to act much like an unpaid sidewalk cleaner. With every step, even more debris attaches itself to the gum. This creates a kind of dirty, furry, alien-like creature on your sole.
You know it’s going to be hard and difficult to remove by the time you reach home. It’s tempting to start hacking away at it with a knife. Not only is this ineffective, it carries a risk of damaging the shoes permanently.
We know exactly how tough it is. So, we have put together the best ways to remove the gum using items already available in your home—together with some tips only the pros know about.
How to REMOVE GUM FROM the Bottom of a Shoe
Nine times out of ten, the gum will be on the underside of the shoe. Here are the most effective methods of removing it.
1. USE WD40
You already know the score. If you want something to move, spray it with WD-40.
But, it’s not all about lubrication. This yellow and blue spray can has developed somewhat of a cult following for its numerous other applications.
Using WD-40 has two effects on the gum. Firstly, the cold air and evaporating solution reduces the temperature of the gum—hardening it and making it easier to remove.
Secondly, the WD-40 breaks down the “sticky” characteristics of the gum. If you want to know why gum is so keen to adhere to your shoes, here’s an excellent brief video to explain, courtesy of PhysicsWorld.
Furthermore, here is a video illustrating the simple removal process of the gum.
Using WD-40 is probably the best way to get gum off shoes. Here’s how:
What you need:
- A can of WD-40.
- Two house bricks, or other items for support.
- A teaspoon (safer than using a knife, any other blunt object is fine).
- Go to a well-ventilated area, preferably outside if possible.
- Place the shoe on the floor or workbench, underside up.
- Support the shoe on either side with a couple of house bricks or any other suitable alternative.
- Ensure the shoe is as horizontal as possible, to prevent the WD-40 from “running-off” the gum.
- Shake the can of WD-40 vigorously for 15 seconds.
- Ensure the ‘straw’ attachment is used. This enables accurate spraying onto the gum.
- In one movement, coat the gum from top to bottom in a side-to-side motion as you descend.
- Once completed, leave for one minute to allow the WD-40 to both penetrate the gum and cool it down.
- Spray one more time with the WD-40.
- Wait a further minute.
- Begin to prize the gum away from the shoe with the spoon. This is a safer alternative to using a knife.
- If there are any “stubborn” pieces of gum left, repeat the above.
Before spraying with WD-40, rub a little sandpaper on the gum. This increases the surface area and allows for better penetration.
2. REMOVING GUM With Ice
This is another simple way to remove gum from shoes, without the chemical solution of WD-40.
In the same way, it hardens the gum and makes it easier to remove.
Here is a YouTube video of gum removal with ice.
What you need:
- A few ice cubes in a bowl.
- Gloves or grill tongs.
- A teaspoon.
- Hold the shoe, underside up, in one hand.
- Using gloves, or a holder such as grill tongs, pick up an ice cube.
- Slowly rub the ice cube over the gum. Do not do this too fast—this creates friction which will create heat. Long, steady strokes are the key.
- As you are doing this, the ice cube will melt. When it becomes too small to be usable, replace with another from your bowl.
- Continue this process for 10–15 minutes, or until the gum has become hard and brittle.
- Remove the gum from the shoe with the rounded edge of the teaspoon.
If you have time, prepare ice cubes by first mixing a pinch of salt in the water. This lowers the freezing point, meaning that the ice is colder and can harden the gum quickly. However, it does reduce the usable time of the ice-cube as it will melt faster with a salt concentrate.
3. USE a Freezer
Although this process takes a little more “waiting” time than an ice cube, it works on the same principle.
Here’s a helpful video from HomeServe. Although it involves a T-shirt instead of a shoe, the principle is the same.
What you need:
- Plastic bag.
- Remove any excess debris attached to the gum (hair, stones etc.).
- Place the affected shoe in a plastic bag.
- Ensure that the bag is “tight” around the shoe bottom. The bag should be pulled taut over the gum, pressing against it.
- Tie the excess of the bag into a knot to keep it in this position.
- Place shoe inside freezer. The underside of the shoe should be against the freezer wall or floor.
- Leave for 2–3 hours.
- Remove from the freezer, open the plastic bag and take out the shoe.
- Using a teaspoon (or other blunt instrument) prise off the gum from the shoe base.
Spray or sprinkle a little water onto the gum before freezing. This can assist with the hardening of the gum.
How to Remove Gum From Leather Shoes and Shoe Fabric
If you have gum on delicate materials, such as leather or suede, a little more caution is required.
Soles of shoes are much more forgiving than fabrics, so I would avoid using a liquid like WD-40.
Using the freezer option above is possible—however, our favorite method would be to use a hair dryer.
Hair Dryer METHOD
Previously, the methods listed above worked on making the gum harder.
This method works in the opposite way. It is particularly effective for old, dried gum too, which can be past the point of breaking off with ice.
As the hair dryer heats up the gum, it becomes more pliable and frees up the polymers.
It is particularly helpful for “brushed” fabric such as suede, where the individual fibers have become lodged in the gum.
What you need:
- Leather/suede cleaner or gentle soap.
- An old rag or cloth.
- A teaspoon or old credit card.
- Place the shoe on a flat surface. This should be somewhere that is not liable to be affected by heat.
- If you have a variety of nozzles available for your hair dryer, use the one which concentrates the heat into the smallest possible area.
- Switch the hair dryer on, and set it to the highest temperature.
- Direct the heat from the hair dryer onto the gum. Use small circular motions to evenly distribute the hot air.
- After about five minutes the gum should have softened. If not, move the hair dryer a little closer to the shoe and repeat.
- Once soft, use the teaspoon or credit card to scrape off the gum. If thick suede or brushed fabric, try to go with the nap.
- You will be left with some remnants. Heat these small particles up again for 2–3 minutes.
- Using the rag, rub these small pieces of detritus again in a circular motion. You will find they form small balls which can easily be plucked off with the fingers.
- Finally use your chosen cleaner (specific leather, suede or just a gentle soap) and carefully clean the area. This will ensure any oils left from the gum are removed.
If you are dealing with very old and dry gum, gently rub with a cloth and soapy water first. Then, wring the cloth onto the gum, and allow the water to sit on it for 10–15 minutes.
The soap suds will begin to break down the gum and allow the water to be absorbed. Finally, continue as above with the hairdryer method.
We don’t want you to consider consigning your shoe to the bin. These simple methods show you the best possible ways to remove gum from your shoes with the smallest amount of fuss.
Did you enjoy the tutorial? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and tell us the results of your methods.
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