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Published on 08/10/23 11:55AM

Liz DeSousa / Byrdie

As a hairstylist, I have to admit—long ago, I traded in chewing gum for mints while on the clock. I could never risk an accidental spill so close to a client’s precious strands. Thankfully, this helps me avoid a sticky situation. But I also have children now, and I’ve quickly learned that my own hair may always be in danger of such an event.

Getting gum out of the hair without losing length is like getting a stain out of your favorite shirt: We should all know at least one or two DIY remedies that will get the job done. I tapped two fellow hairstylists—Becca Raziuddin and Jennifer Korab—to help me round up the best tried and true methods for gum removal before resorting to scissors.

Meet the Expert

  • Becca Raziuddin is a multi-state licensed hairstylist and cosmetologist, celebrity hair consultant, and director of artist education at Blo Blow Dry Bar.
  • Jennifer Korab is an experienced hairstylist who has worked New York Fashion Week, Miami Fashion Week, and many celebrity photo shoots.

01 of 07

Vinegar Solution

Vinegar offers many perks to our strands, including assisting in removing unwanted gum. “The acidity will help dissolve the gum, making it easy to remove,” Korab says. You can use vinegar or a combination of vinegar and water, depending on your hair type. For finer hair, color-treated hair, or any strands with pre-existing damage, diluting the vinegar may be the gentler option.

“This solvent will break up the bond between your hair and the gum,” says Raziuddin. “However, it will leave a strong odor behind.”

  • Pour or mix your vinegar solution.
  • Soak your hair in the solution by dipping the affected area into a bowl or saturating closely with a spray bottle.
  • Leave the hair submerged in the solution for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Gently slide the gum out using your fingers or a comb.

02 of 07

Ice Cubes

Thanks to its cold temperature, “using an ice cube is one of the best ways to remove gum from your hair,” says Korab. Freezing the gum to a cooler temperature will help it harden rather than stick. The hope here is that by losing the adhesive component, it’s easier to discard.

Here’s how Raziuddin recommends using ice to eliminate gum:

  • Hold an ice cube or ice pack to the affected area for a few minutes until the gum has hardened.
  • Once solid, gently break it into small pieces.
  • Carefully remove the gum piece by piece.

03 of 07

Natural Oils

Natural oils like coconut oil, olive oil, or vegetable oil will help break down the gum’s stickiness, making them ideal for removing unwanted gum from the hair, according to Korab. And thankfully, many of us already have a variety of natural oils to be found in our homes.

Raziuddin and Korab share how to use any natural oil for gum removal in three easy steps:

  • Apply a tablespoon of oil to the gum.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes, allowing it to penetrate the affected area.
  • Gently work the gum out of your hair using your fingers or a comb.

04 of 07

Peanut Butter

Speaking of natural oils: Peanut butter is full of natural oils that can help unwanted gum slide right out, making it an easy home remedy, per our experts. Korab suggests the following:

  • Apply a generous amount of smooth peanut butter to the affected area. (Chunky varieties may be more challenging to work with.)
  • Gently work the product in and around the gum with your fingertips.
  • Use your fingertips to slowly and gently slide the gum down the hair shafts.

05 of 07

Hair Conditioner

Once again, conditioner proves itself the all-star of haircare products. “[Conditioner] can help lubricate the hair, making it easier to remove gum without causing damage,” says Raziuddin.

Korab breaks down the how-to for saving your strands with the help of conditioner (and notes this could be your best option if dealing with a smaller piece of gum):

  • Apply a generous amount of conditioner to the gum and surrounding hair.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes to soften the gum.
  • Using your fingers, massage the hair surrounding the affected area.
  • Gently work the gum down and out of the hair with your fingers.

06 of 07

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a solvent that makes gum less sticky (similar to vinegar), breaking down the gum by neutralizing the polymers responsible for adhesion.

Raziuddin suggests mixing equal parts baking soda and water to create a thick paste to remove gum from the hair. Letting the paste sit on the gum and surrounding hair for a few minutes will help loosen up that unwanted stick, so you can eventually work it down and out of the hair.

07 of 07

Commercial Adhesive Remover

Commercial adhesive removers, like Goo Gone ($8), can also get gum out of the hair and are fairly easy to find at your local supermarket. Typically used to get sticker residue off glasses or dishware, you might already have one under your kitchen sink.

While plenty of commercial adhesive removers are safe for hair, most will advise you not to put the formula near the scalp. Gently massaging the affected area with the solution should remove gum just fine, but check the labels and instructions for the best results.

The Final Takeaway

There are plenty of DIY methods to get gum out of your hair right away, but they all have one thing in common: They require patience, and lots of it. “Patience is key to avoid damaging your hair,” says Korab. “When applying any of these substances to an affected area, work gently and avoid pulling or tugging.”

Once you’ve successfully gotten unwanted gum out of your hair using one of these methods, wash and condition thoroughly to eliminate residue and turn to your favorite conditioning mask to help rebuild the hair. And if various home remedies aren’t bringing you much luck or the gum is just too close to the scalp, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a professional.