How to Get Chewing Gum and Superglue Out of Your Hair

There's nothing better than chewing gum to freshen up your breath or superglue for some DIY projects around the house. But, it's not so good when these products make contact with your hair, sticking hair shafts together and leaving a noticeable clump. Luckily, you don't need to reach for the scissors right away superglue and chewing gum can be removed using everyday household products.

What Makes Chewing Gum and Superglue Sticky?

Chewing gum is made up of polymers, which are long-chain molecules built from several smaller, identical molecules joined together. When you try to pull a piece of gum from your hair, the polymer bonds stretch rather than breaking apart. The long-chain structure of the polymers makes your gum elastic and chewy. 

When you remove chewing gum from your mouth, the drop in temperature freezes the polymer chain, which is why gum suddenly gets hard when it's stuck in your hair. Most of the gums sold in stores are hydrophobic, which means they repel water and instead attract grease and grime. This explains why gum sticks easily to oily surfaces.

Superglue is made of a special type of plastic called cyanoacrylate. In a tube of superglue, the cyanoacrylate molecules exist separately and float around in liquid form. When these molecules meet with water, they react with the hydroxide ions to make long polymer chains, which hardens the glue into its well-known solid form.

Most objects have a thin layer of moisture on their surface, including your hair shaft, which is why superglue is so sticky and difficult to remove.

Removing Chewing Gum From Your Hair

You can remove gum from your hair with some common kitchen ingredients and a little patience.

To start, find some vegetable oil or smooth peanut butter. Next, follow these steps:

  • Cover the gum with peanut butter or oil using an old toothbrush or your fingers.
  • Wait a few minutes for the product to sink in.
  • Pull the gum away from your hair shaft it should come off smoothly.
  • Wash your hair to remove traces of the food product.

The fats and oils in peanut butter are hydrophobic, which means they repel water, making the gum less sticky and loosening it completely. Peanut butter is quite thick, so it's also easy to apply to the affected hair and removes most of the mess.

Vegetable oil is particularly useful if you're trying to remove gum from your brows or lashes. But, if the oil is too messy, try freezing the gum off with ice. Wrap some ice cubes up in a small towel or cloth and apply the homemade ice pack to the affected area for 5 to 15 minutes. The gum will harden and you should be able to slowly pull or scrape it off. The freezing method only works with small amounts of gum.

Continued

Removing Superglue From Your Hair

To remove superglue from your hair, you can use acetone or an acetone-based product, like nail polish remover. Acetone is a clear, colorless chemical that helps dissolve other materials. Never use acetone on the skin, near your eyes, or other sensitive parts of your body including eyelashes, eyebrows, or near any open wounds.

Once you have some acetone, follow these steps:

  • Pour some acetone or acetone-based nail polish remover on an unused cotton ball.
  • Place the acetone-soaked cotton ball on the affected part of the hair and hold it there for a few minutes.
  • Comb through the strands of your hair with your fingers or a brush.
  • Wash your hair to remove traces of the acetone or acetone-based nail polish remover.

Acetone works by breaking the bonds of the glue, but if you don't have any acetone-based products, don't despair. You can soak your hair in vegetable oil which should eventually loosen the glue. You will, however, need to keep the oil in for an hour for this method to work. 

Washing Your Hair After Removal

Peanut butter and vegetable oil are greasy ingredients that leave a strong smell in your hair, and acetone is a chemical solvent. It's important to properly wash these products out of your hair once you've used them to remove chewing gum or superglue.

Use a clarifying shampoo to give your hair a deep clean. These shampoos contain a lot of surfactants soap-like chemicals that remove product build-up and other greasy residues from your hair.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 12, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Tips For Removing Gum Without Cutting Hair."

Chemistry World: "Cyanoacrylate." 

Public Health England: “Acetone: general information.”

Queensland Government: "Superglue." 

UCSB ScienceLine: "Why does peanut butter remove gum from hair?"

USC Viterbi: "Chewing Gum."

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Skin Care Tips In Your Inbox

Skin care and wellness tips to help you look and feel your best. Sign up for the Good Health newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.