Why Does Bubble Gum Get Sticky?

The subject of today’s Wonder of the Day is a substance that is both soft and sugary. Most children consider it a special treat. However, it is important not to swallow it! It is not meant to be eaten. What are we referring to? Bubble gum, of course!

If you enjoy chewing bubble gum, you know how enjoyable it can be. However, eventually, the gum loses its flavor and the fun comes to an end. What do you do then? We hope you spit it out into the trash. Unfortunately, many pieces of bubble gum end up on the sidewalk or stuck to the bottom of school desks.

Have you ever accidentally stepped on bubble gum on the sidewalk? If so, you know what a sticky situation that can be. As you try to remove the gum from your shoe, it stretches and sticks to your hands and other parts of your shoe. Even using cleaning agents does not seem to help remove the sticky residue, which can linger for several days.

What exactly makes bubble gum so sticky? Let’s examine the science behind the materials used in bubble gum.

Each type of bubble gum has its own unique recipe. However, there are common ingredients found in all types of bubble gum. For instance, the sweet taste usually comes from a variety of sugars and flavorings.

The elastic and chewable properties of bubble gum come from other ingredients, such as polymers (including elastomers), plasticizers (such as natural or paraffin waxes), and resins that act as stabilizers. These ingredients give bubble gum its texture and elasticity.

Unfortunately, they also give bubble gum its sticky nature. The polymers in bubble gum are hydrophobic, which means they repel water. The watery saliva in your mouth dissolves the sugars and flavorings, but the polymers do not dissolve, allowing you to continue chewing.

While these polymers repel water, they are attracted to oil. When they come into contact with oily surfaces, such as sidewalks, shoe soles, fingers, and hair, they form a strong bond and stick firmly. The long chains of chemical bonds within the polymers make cleaning up even more challenging, as they tend to stretch rather than break.

However, sticky bubble gum messes may soon become a thing of the past. Scientists have developed new bubble gum polymers that are hydrophilic, meaning they break down in the presence of water and naturally deteriorate over a short period of time.

Will these new non-sticky gums be beneficial? Some city officials certainly hope so. Officials in London, England, estimate that it costs English taxpayers nearly four million dollars each year to remove used gum from public places, such as subway trains and stations.

Give It a Try

We hope today’s Wonder of the Day really sticks with you! Be sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

There is a song about how sticky bubble gum is available on the Macaroni Soup! website. You can read the lyrics and listen to the song there. You can also sing along with a friend or family member.

After reading today’s Wonder of the Day, you might be eager to chew some bubble gum. Feel free to do so! You can ask a friend or family member to take you on a field trip to a local store to buy different types of bubble gum. Then, you can compare the various types and determine which one has the most flavor and which one seems to be the stickiest.

If you can’t get enough of bubble gum, you can explore Bubble Gum Science online. With the assistance of a friend or family member, you will be able to conduct experiments to test the scientific properties of bubble gum. It will be a fun experience!

The following sources were used for this Wonder:

– http://illumin.usc.edu/118/chewing-gum/

– http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/nonstick-chewing-gum/

– https://www.polymersolutions.com/blog/sticky-situations-thoughts-on-polymers-in-chewing-gum/


1. Why is bubble gum sticky?

Bubble gum is sticky because it contains a type of gum base, which is a natural or synthetic substance that gives it its chewy texture. Gum base is usually made from a combination of polymers, resins, and plasticizers. These ingredients are responsible for the adhesive properties of bubble gum, allowing it to stick to surfaces and hold its shape when chewed.

2. How does bubble gum get its stickiness?

Bubble gum gets its stickiness from the gum base, which is mixed with sweeteners, flavors, and softeners. The gum base contains polymers that have a high molecular weight, making them sticky and elastic. When you chew bubble gum, the heat and pressure from your mouth cause the polymers to soften and become sticky, allowing the gum to adhere to surfaces and stretch without breaking.

3. Can bubble gum lose its stickiness over time?

Yes, bubble gum can lose its stickiness over time. Exposure to air and moisture can cause the gum base to harden and become less sticky. Additionally, if the gum is not stored properly, it can dry out and lose its adhesive properties. To keep bubble gum sticky for longer, it is best to store it in a cool, dry place and ensure it is properly sealed.

4. Is there a way to make bubble gum less sticky?

There are a few ways to make bubble gum less sticky. One method is to freeze the gum, as cold temperatures can make it harder and less sticky. Another way is to sprinkle powdered sugar or cornstarch on the gum, as these substances can absorb moisture and reduce stickiness. However, it is important to note that altering the stickiness of bubble gum may affect its texture and chewability.

5. Why does bubble gum stick to hair?

Bubble gum can stick to hair because of its adhesive properties. When bubble gum comes into contact with hair, the sticky polymers in the gum base adhere to the strands, making it difficult to remove. The stickiness of bubble gum combined with the texture of hair can create a strong bond. To remove bubble gum from hair, it is recommended to use a lubricant, such as oil or peanut butter, to help break the bond and make it easier to comb out.

6. Is bubble gum sticky because of sugar?

No, bubble gum is not sticky solely because of sugar. While sugar is one of the ingredients in bubble gum, it is the gum base that provides the stickiness. The gum base contains polymers and other substances that give bubble gum its chewy and adhesive properties. Sugar adds sweetness and flavor to bubble gum but does not contribute significantly to its stickiness.

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