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

How to Remove Salt Stains

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

The salt used to melt ice on sidewalks and streets contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, minerals that can leave white stains on clothes, shoes, and carpets. While salt stains are fairly easy to remove when they’re fresh, they can damage shoes and weaken or disintegrate fabrics, especially silk and wool, over time.

To prevent damage and keep your clothes and carpets looking their best, 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, don't wait for staining to occur. 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. Take dry clean only items 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. Stubborn stains should be treated with the stain removal product provided in the kit before tossing the item in the dryer.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools


  • Clean white cloth
  • Cotton ball
  • Soft-bristled brush for suede (optional)

Washable Clothes

  • Washing machine
  • Soft-bristled brush


  • Vacuum
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge (optional)
  • White cloth (optional)



  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Shoe conditioner (optional)
  • Suede and nubuck cleaner (optional)

Washable Clothes

  • Laundry detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar (optional)


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


items for removing salt stains from shoes

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How to Remove Salt Stains on Leather Shoes and Boots

  1. Wipe With Vinegar

    Mix 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar with 1 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 saturate the shoes if they are sheepskin (such as UGGs), as this can lead to shrinkage and permanent staining.

    wiping boots with vinegar to remove salt

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  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 might need to dry overnight or for up to 24 hours.

    letting shoes dry

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  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.

    conditioning shoes

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How to Remove Salt Stains From Washable Clothes

items for removing salt stains from clothing

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  1. Rinse or Soak the Area

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

    rinsing the affected garment

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  2. Wash as Usual

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

    laundering fabric as usual

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu


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

using a soft-bristled brush to remove salt stains

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How to Remove Salt Stains From Home and Car Carpet

materials for removing salt stains from carpet

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  1. Vacuum the Stain

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

    vacuuming the salt-stained area

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  2. Spray With a Vinegar Solution

    Mix a 1-to-1 solution of hot water and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the stain, being careful not to saturate the area.

    Allow the solution to work for at least five minutes, and then blot it dry with a paper towel. You can also use a wet vac to remove the moisture.

    spraying a vinegar solution

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  3. Let the Carpet Dry

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

    allowing the area to dry

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

Additional Tips for Handling Salt Stains

Boots and Shoes


  • If traces of salt remain on the clothes, try a solution of 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 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 you normally would.


  • If any stains remain, mix a solution of 2 teaspoons of liquid dishwashing detergent and 2 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, and then vacuum.