Tuesday, August 23, 2005Removing chewing gum from fabrics is a tedious, messy task. Household advice tips usually suggest freezing the gum with an ice cube to harden it, or using peanut butter or a similar oily substance to loosen the mass. The problem is, ice cubes aren't really cold enough to do the trick, and if you use peanut butter or grease on a hard-to-wash surface like car upholstery, you're likely to end up with an even worse mess. What really works on gum is serious, Antarctic-grade freezing. If you don't have a chunk of dry ice or a liquid nitrogen canister handy, there is a product on the market that will quickly freeze objects down to below -60°F without leaving messy residue.
It's called "component cooler." It's marketed for chilling electronic circuits to isolate suspected intermittent thermal faults, but it also works wonders removing chewing gum from fabrics. You can buy a 4.5 ounce spray can for under $8.00 at your local Transistor Hut or other electronic supply store. Today's component cooler is made with pressurized CO2 [carbon dioxide, the same substance found in dry ice] rather than fluorinated gases like Freon™, so it's quite safe to use.
A quick (2-second) blast of cooler from about one to two inches inches away freezes gum to brittle crackliness, which should peel away easily with a little help from a plastic spoon or an old credit card (don't use metal, as it conducts heat very easily). Like any cleaning method, test it on an inconspicuous spot first. Any frozen white spots that appear are simply patches of "dry ice" that will evaporate (or more precisely, sublimate) within a few minutes.
One warning: don't use this method on hair because you might freeze surrounding skin; or nonporous surfaces like shoe treads, vinyl, or leather, which will likely crack from freezing as easily as gum. Also, remember to be very careful not to spray cooler on your fingers or hands (at -60°F, 'got frostbite?') and do clean up the broken gum shards promptly before they soften and become sticky again.
[P.S.] I haven't tried this yet, but I suspect the component cooler method would also work well for removing wax stains from fabrics or upholstery.