How to Remove Salt Stains From Shoes, Clothes, and Carpet

Remove Salt Stains From Shoes

Getty Images/ Andreea Selagea/ EyeEm

We're all happy to see icy winter sidewalks and streets salted down to make walking and driving safer. But that same sodium chloride (rock salt), calcium carbonate, and magnesium carbonate used to melt ice and snow can leave our clothes, shoes, and carpets looking pretty bad. While it’s fairly easy to remove these salt stains when they’re fresh, they can damage shoes and weaken or disintegrate fabrics, especially silk and wool, when the salt is left on the garments. 

To prevent damage and keep your clothes and carpet looking their best, neutralize and flush out the salt as soon as possible after stains appear. Better yet, if you've just come in from a walk through slushy streets, toss your pants in the washer and give your shoes a quick cleaning before the salt dries.

Stain Type Salt-based
Detergent Type Regular detergent, Distilled white vinegar
Water Temperature Cool

Before You Begin

Before washing a garment with a salt stain, check the care instructions to make sure it is washable. If the garment must be dry cleaned, take it to your dry cleaner or use a home dry cleaning kit. If you use a kit, dampen the salt-stained area with a light mist of water and blot away as much moisture as possible. If the stain remains, treat with the stain removal product provided in the kit before tossing in the dryer.

How to Remove Salt Stains on Leather Shoes and Boots

Project Metrics

Working Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: Up to 24 hours

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cotton ball
  • Shoe conditioner (Optional)
  • Suede and nubuck cleaner (Optional)

Tools

  • Clean white cloth
  • Soft-bristled brush for suede (Optional)
  1. Wipe With Vinegar

    Mix one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar with one cup of cool water. Soak a cotton ball with the mixture and wipe it over the salt stains on the shoes. Be careful not to over-wet the boots if they are sheepskin (such as UGGs), as this can lead to shrinkage and permanent staining.

  2. Let the Shoes Dry

    Allow the shoes to air-dry away from direct heat; this is particularly important for sheepskin boots. Real leather and sheepskin shoes and boots may need to dry overnight or for up to 24 hours.

  3. Buff the Leather

Buff the entire shoe or boot upper with a clean, dry cloth. If desired, you can treat the shoes or boots with a shoe conditioning product to make them more waterproof. Be sure to test any product on a small interior area to see how it affects the color of the leather.

If the stain is still visible after the initial treatment, repeat the same process. For persistent stains on suede shoes, try a suede and nubuck cleaner, and finish by brushing the suede finish with a soft-bristled brush designed specifically for suede.

How to Remove Salt Stains From Washable Clothes

Project Metrics

Working Time: 1 minute

Total Time: 1 hour to overnight

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Laundry detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar (Optional)

Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Soft-bristled brush
  1. Rinse or Soak the Area

    Rinse the salt-stained area in cold water as soon as possible. If the salt stains have dried and stains have set in, brush off the salt as much as possible, then soak the garment overnight in cool water.

  2. Wash as Usual

Launder the garment as usual, following the care label instructions and using your regular detergent and cool water.

Give Salt the Brush-Off

Use a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush) to remove dried salt stains from clothing. This whisks away the salt without forcing it into the material.

If traces of salt remain on the clothes, try a solution of one tablespoon white vinegar and one quart of water. Dampen a clean cloth with the solution, then blot the stain with the dampened cloth, followed by a dry cloth. Wash the garment again, as usual.

How to Remove Salt Stains From Home and Car Carpet

Project Metrics

Working Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: Up to 24 hours

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Paper towel
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent (Optional)

Tools

  • Vacuum
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge (Optional)
  • White cloth (Optional)
  1. Vacuum the Stain

    Vacuum the stained area of the carpet or floor mat to remove any dry, loose pieces of salt.

  2. Spray With a Vinegar Solution

    Mix a one-to-one solution of hot water and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the stain, being careful not to over-wet the area. Allow the solution to work for at least five minutes, then blot it dry with a paper towel. You can also use a wet vac to remove the moisture.

  3. Let the Carpet Dry

Allow the area to air-dry completely. Vacuum to lift the fibers and restore the carpet's loft.

If any stains remain, mix a solution of two teaspoons liquid dishwashing detergent and two cups of cool water. Dip a sponge or soft-bristled brush into the solution. Start at the outside edge of the stain and work the cleaning solution into the stained area. Blot with a clean white cloth or paper towel to transfer the stain out of the carpet. Keep moving to a clean, dry area of the cloth until no more stain is transferred.

Dip a clean white cloth into some plain water and use it to rinse the area. It is particularly important to rinse away any cleaning solution that can attract soil to the area. Blot until no more soapy residue remains. Allow to air-dry, then vacuum.