Have you ever been minding your own business, then suddenly realized that you were sitting (or lying down) in a spot where somebody had kindly left their discarded gum? Gross.
It’s bad enough getting gum on your trousers or your shoes — but having that stuff in your hair is a whole other level of horror. Even if it didn’t bother you that the gum was once in someone else’s mouth, you face a larger problem.
Figuring out how on earth you’re going to get it out!
The bad news? Trying to pick it out using your fingers isn’t going to work. But the good news is that you don’t have to resort to cutting the infected region out either.
Before you do anything stupid, stay calm, read this article, and make your plan of action.
- What to Do Before You Remove the Gum
- 10 Methods for Getting Gum Out of Your Hair
- The Last Resort Option: Cutting the Gum Out
- Post-Removal Aftercare for Your Hair
- Don’t Let the Gum Make You Glum
What to Do Before You Remove the Gum
When you touch your hair and realize there’s something sticky lurking within it, your immediate reaction is probably to try and yank it out using brute force.
Of all the things you could do, this is probably the very worst strategy. Instead of getting the gum out, you’ll probably just spread it even further.
Instead, try to isolate the gum from the rest of your hair. Either fold aluminum foil around the sticky region or clip the rest of your hair away from the gum.
After, it’s best to avoid touching your hair altogether until you know what you’re doing.
The next step is to move to a place you can wash your hair (i.e., a sink/shower/bath) and gather everything you’ll need for the job. Grab a comb, cloth, or towel, and your gum-removing ingredients.
What exactly are these miracle materials, you ask? I’m getting to that part next.
10 Methods for Getting Gum Out of Your Hair
Depending on where you are when you get yourself into a sticky situation (pardon the pun), you may or may not have access to a full range of gum-removal products.
If the problem strikes you while you’re out and about, you’ll have to make do with whatever you can get your hands on. Fortunately, a wide variety of items can help to solve this problem, and most of them are such everyday products that you’re sure to be able to find something.
1. Ice Cubes
Ice cubes are certainly a cleaner and neater alternative to most of the gum remedies on this list.
You might be doubtful whether something this simple could really work, but freezing the gum is a great way to get rid of it. I just hope that your fingers have a good tolerance for the extreme coolness. Maybe put on some gloves first.
Here’s what to do:
- Rub the ice cubes over the gum repeatedly. You could also use an ice pack, or wrap your hair in a towel that’s holding ice cubes.
- After around fifteen minutes, the gum should begin to harden.
- Try to break as much of the frozen gum off as possible.
You might need to repeat this process several times before you manage to freeze off the entire gum-infected region successfully. But even if you don’t get rid of absolutely everything, you should still have made a decent start — you can finish using a different method.
Also, remembering that gum out requires technique. Instead of trying to force it out, work at it gradually. Similarly to how you’d get a particularly bad knot out, start at the bottom and then gradually work upwards.
It might be tedious, but it’s better than having to cut a huge chunk of your hair out!
We all know that hot oil treatments can make our hair healthy and glowing — but did you know that you can also use oil to get gum out of your hair? Oil stiffens gum and reduces its stickiness, making it easier to pick out.
Luckily, you don’t need to go for any fancy organic oils to get the job done. The cheapest vegetable oil from the supermarket will be just as effective as extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut oil.
Once you have your oil, here’s how to kickstart the removal process:
- Use your fingers or a toothbrush to coat the gum in vegetable oil.
- Leave the oil in for 10-15 minutes.
- Slowly begin to tease the gum out of your hair with a comb or your finger.
- Give your hair a thorough cleanse with shampoo to get rid of any remnants.
If your hair is your pride and joy, you’ll probably prefer using oil over other substances since it won’t damage your locks (unlike some of the other options on this list).
Oil is also particularly effective at getting rid of gum on your eyebrows and eyelashes — but if you managed to get gum on your eyelashes, I’d consider it an achievement.
Since oil is effective at getting rid of gum, it goes without saying that Vaseline will be too. It’s another gloriously greasy substance, and it can stiffen up the gum in much the same way.
Out and about when you have your gum disaster, but have a handy tin of Vaseline in your bag? It might just be your savior.
The method is the same as with oil:
- Get a healthy amount of Vaseline in your fingers and use it to cover the gum.
- Keep working the Vaseline into the gum until it begins to loosen.
- Brush through your hair gradually with your fingers or a comb.
As you’ll surely know if you’ve ever got Vaseline in your hair by accident, it leaves an (extremely) greasy look and can be a nightmare to clean off. Make sure you give your hair a thorough cleanse after!
You’d struggle to find a more everyday item than toothpaste. Surprising as it might seem, toothpaste does a great job at removing gum — just like it dissolves stains and plaque from our teeth, it can break down the sugar in gum. This makes it easier to remove from your hair.
Sound good? Let’s look at how the method works:
- Apply toothpaste to your finger or a toothbrush and work it into your hair.
- Wait for the toothpaste to dry (it should take around ten minutes).
- Brush or ease it out with a comb.
If you use a toothbrush to apply the toothpaste, make sure you throw it away afterward. You don’t want any nasty accidents the next time you’re ready to brush your teeth!
5. Hair Mousse
Don’t like the idea of applying some random food or household product to your hair? There are also a couple of standard hair products that can do the job, such as hair mousse.
This creamy, foamy substance can help to loosen up the gum in your hair, enabling you to remove it. Here’s how:
- Squirt a good amount of hair mousse into your hand and apply it to your hair.
- Massage the mousse into your hair where the gum is.
- Let it set for 10-15 minutes.
- Comb or slide the gum out with your hands, a comb, or a toothbrush.
Although hair mousse is generally used on wet hair, in this case, it’s best to keep your hair dry for the job.
Another simple hair product that can be effective at removing gum is hair conditioner. Its slippery, soft consistency makes it perfect for the task.
Using conditioner without shampoo might seem unnatural and strange at first, but there’s a good reason for doing things this way around. Oily and creamy liquids (like conditioner) dry out and stiffen the gum, making it looser, but a cleansing liquid like shampoo is only good at removing grease and dirt.
Here’s how the method works:
- Add a good amount of conditioner to your hands.
- Apply the conditioner to your (dry) hair with your hands or a toothbrush.
- Use a comb to gradually brush out the gum.
This might leave your hair a little greasy (especially if you use a conditioner near your scalp), so clean your hair with shampoo after.
Whether your preferred version of the drink is Coca Cola, Pepsi, or the supermarket own-brand, cola is a surprisingly effective tool for getting gum out of your hair.
Why? It’s acidic. The phosphoric acid will strip your hair of oils, leaving nothing for the gum to stick on to. It’s super easy to do:
- Pour the cola into some kind of bowl.
- Soak your hair in the liquid until it’s completely damp.
- After a few minutes, try to pick or brush out the gum.
Naturally, you won’t be doing your hair any favors in the long run by stripping it of its natural oils, so treat it to a deep conditioning treatment afterward.
8. Baking Soda
You might have heard of people using baking soda to give their hair a deep-cleanse as a shampoo alternative, but it also does a great job of removing gum.
Baking soda can neutralize and stiffen the gum, helping it to lose its stickiness and fall out.
There are a few more steps to this method than other techniques, but it’s still pretty simple:
- Mix water and baking soda in a bowl to create a paste. Aim for a consistency thick enough to pick the paste up without it slipping through your fingers.
- Apply the paste to the gum in your hair.
- Leave the mixture in your hair for around fifteen minutes, until it hardens.
- Pick or comb it out to remove the gum.
Best of luck!
9. Peanut Butter
Coating your hair with peanut butter might sound gross, but it’s surprisingly effective. This butter is packed with oily content, making it just as (if not more) effective as oil in reducing gum’s staying power and drying it out.
But because peanut butter is thicker and stickier than your typical vegetable oil, it’s easier to apply it to the infected region of your hair and get results.
I recommend opting for a creamy variant — you might prefer crunchy peanut butter yourself, but you don’t want to end up with a load of peanuts stuck in your hair.
The method is straightforward:
- Apply the peanut butter to your hair with your finger or a toothbrush.
- Leave it on your hair for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the gum using a comb or your fingers (be slow and gentle).
- Wash your hair with a great shampoo.
Easy, right? In case you have any doubts, here’s a comprehensive tutorial from the American Academy of Dermatology:
Besides, you probably won’t end up eating the whole jar, so you’ll have a nice slab of peanut butter to snack on later in the evening — if you’re not sick of the stuff by then.
And just when you thought peanut butter was weird enough, I had to go and mention mayonnaise. This sauce is about as oily a food you can get, so it makes sense that it can get gum out as effectively as most cooking oils.
The technique is similar to that of other products:
- Put a generous amount of mayonnaise in your hand.
- Apply the mayonnaise to the part of your hair with the gum in.
- Leave it for up to fifteen minutes.
- Gradually ease the gum out with a comb or your fingers.
- Give your hair a thorough clean and conditioning.
However, make sure you don’t get any mayonnaise on your clothes by accident — it can leave some nasty stains.
The Last Resort Option: Cutting the Gum Out
After getting gum stuck in their locks, most people’s worst fear is having to cut their hair out. It rarely comes down to this, but you might be left with no other option if the methods you’ve tried haven’t worked.
Or maybe you decided to make the best of a bad situation by getting that haircut you always wanted but were too scared to try. More power to you!
Cutting gum out of your hair is a quick, easy job. Just remove the entire infected area with sharp scissors and try to leave the rest as intact as possible.
Here are a few hairstyles you could adopt to make sure your hair looks as presentable as possible after your spontaneous cut:
- A U-shaped or V-shaped cut. It might look strange at first to have a huge chunk of hair missing from the bottom, but you can salvage your hair with a U-shaped cut (meaning long at the back and short at the sides).
- A layered cut. A layered cut is a sneaky way to make it look like your hair strands are supposed to be all different lengths. Just make sure you go to a professional — this trim is harder to pull off than it looks.
- A pixie cut. Yes, it’s extreme, but pixie cuts can look fantastic. Emma Watson and Anne Hathaway both rocked one successfully! This is probably your only option if you have a lot of chewing gum near your roots — unless you want to go for the shaved-at-the-side look, in which case, go for it.
After trying one of these styles, your missing chunk of hair should be cleverly disguised as a classy new trim!
Post-Removal Aftercare for Your Hair
Depending on what you use to get gum out of your hair, it’s probably going to take a lot of washing to get your locks back to their usual condition. If you don’t want to leave your hair smelling like peanut butter or mayonnaise for the next two weeks, I recommend using a strong shampoo after.
It’s a good idea to choose a clarifying shampoo, if possible, which contains more surfactants (the cleaning stuff) than a regular shampoo. Especially if you’ve been using an oily substance near your roots, which can leave your hair notoriously greasy.
If you’ve used a product that could possibly damage your hair, like coke or toothpaste, you risk drying your hair out if you don’t give it good aftercare. Choose a good moisturizing treatment to use afterward, like a deep conditioner or warm hair oil.
Don’t Let the Gum Make You Glum
There’s not much we can do to avoid unfortunate encounters with gum altogether — other than moving to Singapore perhaps, where gum is illegal.
Luckily, getting gum stuck in your hair once doesn’t have to undo all that hard work you’ve been putting into growing and caring for your hair. With any luck, a strange oily substance and twenty minutes of hard work will be all it takes to get that gum out once and for all.
Still, I recommend looking where you put your head down in the future.