The popular, sticky Pike Place Market attraction will get a heavy-duty scrubdown next week. Officials know the gum is sure to come back, but they’re hoping it will be contained to a smaller area.
Once named the world’s second-germiest tourist attraction, Pike Place Market’s gum wall will soon be scrubbed of 20 years’ buildup of sugary stickum.
Emily Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA) 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.
Related: Where will all of the gum go?
The PDA has hired a contractor, Cascadian Building Maintenance, “because it’s going to be a very large job,” Crawford said.
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Kelly Foster, of Cascadian Building Maintenance, said the gum will be removed with an “industrial steam machine that works like a pressure washer.”
The machine will melt the gum with 280-degree steam; it will fall to the ground, and a two- to three-man crew will collect the gum in five-gallon buckets.
“This is probably the weirdest job we’ve done,” Foster said.
Crawford said the PDA estimates 1 million pieces of gum are adhered to the walls of Post Alley, and the buildup is in some places 6 inches thick. The cleaning job is expected to cost $4,000.
More accurate figures on the amount of gum could be forthcoming.
“We want to weigh it,” she said.
Crawford said the gum needs to be cleaned off the walls to preserve the historic buildings in the Market district.
“It was never part of the charter or the history of the Market to have the walls covered with gum,” she said. “Gum is made of chemicals, sugar, additives. Things that aren’t good for us. I can’t imagine it’s good for brick.”
Crawford said cleaning will begin Nov. 10. The job will likely take three or four days.
Colorful globs of salivated chew will no doubt return shortly, the PDA expects.
“We’re not saying it can’t come back,” Crawford said. “We need to wipe the canvas clean and keep (it) fresh.”
The PDA hopes that fresh start hinders gum-wall sprawl. In recent years, Crawford said gum has advanced to new turf “far beyond the original wall.”
Her theory: “It’s so gross,” she said. “People don’t actually want to touch or get near the gum wall. They’re looking for empty surfaces.”
The PDA plans to place more public art in the alleyway and hopes having 20 years of gum removed will keep future visitors more targeted when in placing their gum.
Meantime, the Market is holding a photo contest on its Facebook page, where people can vote on favorite gum-wall pictures.