Ask LH: What Should I Do When Poo And Gum Ends Up On Me?

Ask LH: What Should I Do When Poo And Gum Ends Up On Me?

Dear Lifehacker, Birds have pooped on me, I’ve stepped in gum, I’ve fallen in mud, and that’s just the beginning. I realise that sometimes life happens, but what I hate more than a moment of grossness is cleaning it all up. What are the most efficient ways to deal with these sticky situations? Sincerely, Crapped Out

Dear CO,

I’m sorry you’ve had to put up with so much crap. You truly have my sympathies. But I have good news! There are easier, less degrading methods for removing poop, gum and other annoying substances. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.

Dog Poop on Your Shoe

Scrubbing isn’t effective because you would need the world’s tiniest brush and a microscope to really get in there. It’s also a slow and tedious method. Here’s a better one:

  1. Stick your shoe in a plastic bag and toss it in the freezer for several hours.
  2. Come back later, grab a pencil, take the shoe outside, and use it to pick the frozen dog doo out of your shoe’s treads. Because the poop is less of a mushy substance and more like an ice cube, it won’t stick to the rubber. You’ll be able to get it out easily and go on with your day.
  3. If you want to really clean the shoe thoroughly, get yourself a toothbrush specifically for this occasion and brush the bottom of the shoe with soapy water. The tiny bristles well help remove any residue.
  4. When you’re done, spray the bottom of the show with a stream of water and let it dry. (The truly paranoid with non-leather shoes can toss them in the washing machine too.)

This method will take a full day, but it offers two very important advantages: minimal effort and very little contact with the actual poop. Plus, it works for gum too!

Bird Poop on Your Clothing

We usually scream, grab a paper towel and try to wipe it off as quickly as possible. If the poop is on your skin, go for it. If it landed on clothing, however, avoid doing this. Because bird crap has a lovely, liquid consistency, attempts to brush it off clothing will just smear it deeper into the fabric. You might win the battle, but you certainly won’t win the war. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Find somewhere appropriately private to remove affected clothing.
  2. Grab a gentle, colour-safe spray cleaner if you’ve got one. If not, laundry detergent will suffice. If you’re completely bereft of soap, find some soda water to help lift the stain.
  3. Let the item dry. You can expedite the process with extreme temperatures — either using your freezer or a hair dryer — but doing so can cause problems. Freezing can solidify your soap, making everything tougher to remove, and high heat can cause a poop stain to set into the fabric. For these reasons, room temperature is ideal.
  4. After several hours, wash the poop off outside with a hose (if you’ve got one, otherwise just do it carefully in the sink).
  5. Use a washing machine and dryer to finish the job.

If the mess is dealt with quickly, you’ll save yourself a stain. But I can’t promise you won’t need counselling for the trauma. Most of us are lucky to only get bird poop on our skin or in our hair. Some of us are less fortunate, however, and wind up with crap in our eyes and mouths. Aside from the grossness of it all, there is also some concern of contracting illnesses if this happens. If poop lands in your mouth and you don’t inadvertently swallow it, gargling with mouthwash should do the trick. Your eyes, however, are a pathway to the bloodstream. I probably don’t need to tell you that introducing poop into your blood is bad for business. While you’ll probably be OK, if you get poop in your eyes, it would be wise to see a doctor.

Gum in Your Hair

We’ve previously noted that softened butter and WD-40 can do the trick. What do these substances have in common? They’re slick and oily. Just about anything with these characteristics will loosen chewing gum from your hair. Even peanut butter can work. To get it out with the grease of your choice, follow these steps:

  1. Apply the oily substance liberally around the chewing gum and the surrounding hair.
  2. Massage the gum very gently with the substance.
  3. Get a grip on the hair below the area where the chewing gum attached and slowly slide the gum off.
  4. Wash your hair.

Gum, unlike poop, can be easily removed with products you already own. The situation may seem dire at the time, but getting gum out of your hair takes very little work.

Life’s Various Other Stains

Few stains are equal. When you get crap on you, whether that’s literal or figurative, the cleaning method varies. We won’t get into them all, but we can point you to some additional resources to help you out:

Also, this infographic provides a variety of stain-removal tips. Keep it handy and you’ll always know what to do.


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Icons by Rob Schill, The Noun Project and andromina (Shutterstock).


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