Flickr/Izzy Smith

Former tourists bid farewell as the city prepares to remove 1 million pieces of gum from its popular attraction.

There’s a lot to see in Seattle, including the Space Needle, Chinatown, and—earning its spot as the second-germiest tourist attraction in the world—the Market Theater Gum Wall. (You win, “copiously kissed” Blarney Stone in Ireland.) But if you haven’t already gotten your hands dirty with a visit to the wall, which has over 20 years worth of gum packed on by tourists and locals, you’ve got about a week before the city scrubs it down with an “industrial steam machine.”

The wall usually gets washed every other month, but on November 10, it will be completely cleaned for the first time, according to the Seattle Times. The cleansing process will take three to four days and 280-degree steam to melt the estimated 1 million wads of gum. Then a two- to three-person crew equipped with five-gallon buckets will be ready to collect them all. The job will cost roughly $4,000. (As The Atlantic previously reported, gum cleaning costs cities and business owners millions of dollars).

What began in the 1990s as a place for theater-goers to stick their gum while waiting in line has become a participatory attraction over time. It’s where tourists from around the world visit to contribute their own pieces of chewed-up gum, some going as far as using the gum to make their own artwork. Some simply come for to take a photo, but more daring types challenge themselves to see how close they can get with their tongues sticking out.

Clearly, the Gum Wall was not meant for germaphobes.

A Hawaiian* flag made entirely of gum. (Flickr/RLEVANS)
Not that we recommend doing this, but how close would you get to the wall of gum? (Flickr/Clintus)

But officials say that over the past 20 years the enthusiasm and sugary stickiness has started to taken a toll on the brick surface. In some areas, the buildup of gum has reached six inches thick. And the more people who stop by, the further the gum has spread—a gum-wall sprawl, if you will.

“People don’t actually want to touch or get near the gum wall. They’re looking for empty surfaces,” Emily Crawford, a spokeswoman for Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority, told the Seattle Times.

For those who can’t make it to Seattle before November 10, try coming back in a little bit. Market officials expect the Gum Wall to eventually make a comeback not long after it gets cleaned. After all, they’ve tried cleaning it three times, and each time people have come right back, armed with pieces of freshly chewed gum. If you need your Gum Wall fix now, here are some photos from Instagrammers bidding farewell to their beloved wall.

A photo posted by KamiLaNYC (@kamilanyc) on

A photo posted by Sally Mason (@littlehiccups) on

*Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the flag of Hawaii. We regret the error.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Bicycle riders on a package-blocked bicycle lane
    Perspective

    Why Do Micromobility Advocates Have Tiny-Demand Syndrome?

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  2. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  3. Uber Eats worker
    Life

    The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

    As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash, the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.

  4. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×