Dear Angie: How do you get gum out of carpet? My husband recently cleaned our carpets but afterwards there was a spot caked with gum that is hard and really stuck in the carpet. I'm not sure how it got there or how to get it out. Any advice? — L.E., Virginia Beach, Va.
Answer: The tempting thing to try to do is to pull up the gum immediately. Doing so, though, could damage carpet fibers.
Your best option for ensuring complete removal of the gum is to call a qualified carpet cleaning company to do the work.
A carpet cleaning company probably will use a solvent-based product to break up the gum and then flush it from the carpet using hot water (steam) extraction methods.
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I've been advised by highly rated carpet cleaning companies that homeowners should not try to remove gum with a solvent product themselves unless they have the training and experience. When not used properly, a solvent could stain the carpet or penetrate it and cause permanent delamination of the carpet's backing. You could rent a steam cleaner from your local hardware store to try this yourself, but I would caution that the water you use in those is typically straight from the tap and won't get nearly as hot as a commercial cleaner would, meaning it might not work as effectively.
If you wish to try a home remedy, the most common method is to apply ice to the affected area. Ice will harden the gum after 20 minutes or so, making it easier to lift off the carpet. Once the gum has hardened, gently pry the edges free from the carpet using your fingers, a spoon or butter knife. Be sure to go slowly, so you don't pull up carpet fibers with the gum.
You might be able to get most of the gum up by doing this. If there are small traces left behind, you can try to remove them by lightly scrubbing the carpet with dish soap. Of course, you'll want to test this first on an inconspicuous area of the carpet, or you could risk leaving a stain in the area you're treating.
Another method of removing gum from carpet involves the use of heat, typically from a hair dryer or iron. Cover the residual gum with a brown paper bag or rag, and apply heat to the area to soften the gum. As it softens, it should adhere to the bag or rag as it lifts from the carpet fibers. This is another step where you want to move slowly and use extreme caution. Carpet fibers can burn easily. Again, it's best to test on a small, hidden area first if you're going to try this method.
What you don't want to do is cut or scrape the gum off the carpet with a sharp blade, as that could damage the carpet and lead to a more expensive repair.
Unless you're confident your carpet is durable enough to stand up to home remedies, I recommend that you contact a professional carpet cleaning company with the training, experience and tools needed to remove the gum from the carpet without causing lasting damage. It shouldn't be an expensive repair and it probably likely save you time and money from potential repairs if you tried it on your own.