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How To Clean Gum from Painted Surfaces

It's hard to imagine how gum would get on some of the painted surfaces in the home. Maybe a mischievous chewing gum fan left a souvenir, maybe the gum hitchhiked its way to a painted baseboard on an unlucky shoe. Regardless of how they got there, to remove these undesirable stains, there is an easy, multi step process. As with most other stains, stray chewing gum should be addressed as soon as possible to help save you extra effort later on and sidestep permanent damage. Test all cleaning solutions and application techniques in an inconspicuous  location before using them in a wider area.

For painted surfaces, it is not necessarily recommended to use a blunt object like a plastic knife or even careful application of a paint scraper to remove the gum. Particularly with older pain surfaces, the gum can stretch and flake the paint surface. For nominal amounts of gum residue, use a high quality art eraser formulated to remove ink or a kneadable eraser to lightly rub and dislodge traces of gum. Brush away and discard the eraser/gum residue. For moderate amounts of gum residue, use a d-limonene based cleanser that is compatible with painted surfaces. D-limonene will help break down the stain. Hardware stores and housewares sections will likely have a wide variety of d-limonene based cleansers available, often marketed as citrus cleansers. Not all citrus cleansers have d-limonene as an active ingredient. Read the label carefully prior to purchase to look for the active ingredient d-limonene and compatibility with painted surfaces. For larger amounts of gum, like an entire wad, an effective and accessible technique is to use a product like Bengay, Vicks VapoRub, IcyHot Chill Stick (30% active)  containing the active ingredient methyl salicylate, to break down the stain. Apply dabs of a salve containing methyl salicylate directly to the sticky residue or persistent stains. Allow the salve to sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard the salve and softened gum residue.

If there is an oily blot remaining from the gum itself or the removal remedies, a poultice can be applied to attract the grease and alleviate oily marks on the painted surface. Put 1/4 cup of cornstarch in a shallow dish. Add water to the cornstarch 1 TB at a time, until a thick paste is formed. Apply the paste to any oily marks. Allow to dry. Remove and discard the cornstarch/oil poultice.

End the gum removal process with a light overall cleansing using a specially formulated cleaning solution of mild pH neutral dish soap or shampoo diluted with water. To a quart of this lightly sudsy cleaning solution, add 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1 TB of borax and 1 TB of glycerin. If there is particular concern regarding dark colored walls, the borax can be omitted. Use a clean sponge to apply the cleaning solution to the areas that were discolored with ink and marker to remove any removing residue. Avoid over wetting, and allow the wall to dry. If a large area was affected, you may wish to use fans to help facilitate drying and prevent lingering moisture that could  encourage mildew growth.

Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, the result can be dangerous or deadly. Before cleaning, always test the agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and to make certain it does not damage the material. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area. Accidental inhalation or ingestion of cleaning agents can be hazardous and even fatal, particularly to pets and children.

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