Sticky Situation: How To Remove Gum From Vehicle Upholstery

Posted on: 24 January 2018


If you chew gum or your passengers chew it, it is bound to stick somewhere on the vehicle upholstery. Even worse, it may melt after sitting in a hot vehicle all day.

Luckily, gum is made from rubber-based materials, so it should be easy to clean. However, not removing it the right away can cause damage to the upholstery. Follow these steps to remove gum from vehicle upholstery.

Freeze It

To remove the gum, gather:

  • latex gloves
  • cloths or towels
  • a plastic bag
  • a plastic scraper or butter knife
  • an old toothbrush 
  • liquid dish soap
  • white vinegar
  • ice
  • adhesive remover 
  • duct tape
  • compressed air (optional)

Icing is a safe method for leather and other vehicle fabrics. Fill a small plastic bag with three to five ice cubes, and set it on the gum. To keep hands from getting cold, wrap them in a rag or towel. 

Melting ice water won't interfere with the removal process or harm the material. If you have concerns about the water, double the bag.

Let the ice stand five minutes, and use a scraper to get the gum out of the fabric. In warm weather, you may need to add more ice cubes as the other cubes melt, or run the air conditioner occasionally to delay melting. 

To apply compressed air, invert the can, and mist the gum until it freezes. Avoid poking the nozzle too far into the gum to prevent a bigger mess, and wear latex gloves. Clean the fragments when you remove the ice.

Apply White Vinegar to Remove Stubborn Gum

White vinegar can also be applied to vinyl, but not leather. Warm some vinegar to speed the melting process, dab a clean cloth in it, and work it into the gum. 

Rub a small amount on a hidden area of the fabric to check color reaction. Allow the vinegar to set several minutes into the gum to help loosen it.

Remove Remnants

To remove gum fragments, lay duct tape over the spot, and pull it from the fabric. If the wad is large, or the tape doesn't work, use an adhesive remover formulated for the material, but don't apply it directly on fabric. 

Dab some remover on a rag, and test it on a hidden spot first. If there is no negative reaction, add some more of the remover to the rag, and rub it on the gum. 

Alternately, mix several drops of dish soap in a small amount of water, and apply it in the same manner. Clean the upholstery with an upholstery cleaner for the type of material or a carpet cleaner, then vacuum. 

You may want to get some auto detailing done if you have many sticky spots on the upholstery that need good cleanings.