The Gross American Tourist Attraction That’s About to Get Scrubbed


Pike Place Market’s “gum wall” in the US city of Seattle will soon be scoured of 20 years of sticky, sugary buildup.

Cleaning the wall, which has been called the world’s second-germiest attraction (after Ireland’s Blarney Stone), will cost upwards of $4,000 USD.

Market officials know that people are still likely to deposit their gum on the wall, but they’re hoping the clean-up will help preserve the market’s historic walls.

“It was never part of charter or the history of the Market to have the walls covered with gum,” said Emily Crawford, spokeswoman for the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA). “Gum is made of chemicals, sugar, additives. Things that aren’t good for us. I can’t imagine it’s good for brick.”

Ms. Crawford said the gum wall is cleaned every other month by the PDA with a steamer, but this will be the first time all the gum is removed from the original wall.

bubble gum wall

The PDA has hired a contractor, Cascadian Building Maintenance, “because it’s going to be a very large job,” Crawford said.

Kelly Foster, of Cascadian Building Maintenance, said the gum will be removed with an “industrial steam machine that works like a pressure washer.”

“This is probably the weirdest job we’ve done,” Foster said. Crawford said the PDA estimates about 1 million pieces of gum are adhered to the walls of Post Alley, in some places 6 inches thick.

4249785772_de859ff2f3_bThe cleaning will begin next Tuesday, November 10, and will likely take three or four days.

The PDA plans to place more public art in the alleyway home to the gum wall, and hopes having 20 years of gum removed will keep future visitors more targeted in placing their gum. Meantime, to mark the big clean, the Market is holding a photo contest on its Facebook page for people to vote on favourite gum-wall pictures.

Seattle’s world famous Pike Place Market opened more than a century ago on August 17, 1907.

Fishmongers at the market toss the day’s catch with great flourish, although these days the show is mostly for the entertainment of tourists. The market is also known for the original Starbucks cafe, which opened in 1971.

About Author

Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a freelance writer who has been specializing in travel, culture and current events since 2012. She currently writes on travel and news related topics for has traveled to Peru, throughout west and eastern Europe, and has lived in southern Spain.At the moment, Lisa’s favorite pastimes are learning foreign languages, exploring hiking trails in the Olympic National Forest, and ending the day with friends at one of Seattle’s many microbreweries.