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

Shoes By Leaf On Snow Covered Field
Getty Images/Andreea Selagea/EyeEm

Winter brings slushy snow and stains from salted sidewalks. We're all happy to see icy sidewalks and streets salted down to make walking and driving safer whether we are headed to work or the ski slopes. 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 may damage shoes and weaken or disintegrate fabrics, especially silk and wool, when left in garments for a period of time. 

Learn how to remove the salt stains from leather or faux leather shoes as well as clothes and fabrics.

Salt Stains on Leather Shoes and Boots

Begin by mixing one cup of cool water and one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar. Soak a cotton ball with the mixture and wipe it over the salt stains. The acetic acid in the vinegar will dissolve the salt deposits without damaging the leather finish. Be sure to buff the entire surface with a clean, white cloth. 

You'll have the best results if you do this as soon as possible after the shoes are exposed to salts. This method works well on leather, fabric, and faux leather shoes. Allow the shoes to air dry away from direct heat and repeat if necessary.

Once the shoes are dry, they can be treated with a shoe conditioning product to make them waterproof. Test on a small inside area first as it may change the color slightly.

Remove Salt Stains From Sheepskin Boots

If your sheepskin or UGG boots have salt stains, follow the same vinegar and water salt removal tips for leather. However, it is very important to not over-saturate the sheepskin because it can shrink and create permanent staining. 

After removing the stains, allow the sheepskin boots to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. After drying, if the stains remain you will need to use a suede and nubuck cleaner. Finish by brushing the suede finish with a soft bristled brush designated specifically for suede.

How to Remove Winter Rock Salt Stains From Washable Clothes

Winter salt stains can splash up onto the hems of coats and trousers and must be removed as soon as possible to prevent staining and even changes to the dye color of the fabric.

For washable garments, rinse the salt-stained area in cold water as soon as possible. If the salt stains have dried and stains have set in, you may need to allow them to soak overnight in cool water. Then launder as usual following label instructions using your regular detergent and cool water.

The same principle applies to ocean salt stains. Swimsuits and beachwear should be washed as soon as possible to prevent staining and fading.

Winter Rock Salt Stains and Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment must be dry cleaned, be sure to identify and point out the salt stains to your cleaner

If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, you should take the following steps before following the directions in your 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.

Remove Winter Rock Salt Stains from Home and Car Carpets

When rock salt gets tracked onto home or car carpets, it takes a bit of effort to remove the white traces that can remain. Mix a solution of 50 percent hot water and 50 percent distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. 

Vacuum the stained area to remove any dry, loose pieces of salt. Then spray with the water and vinegar mixture.Try not to over-saturate the area. Allow the solution to work for at least five minutes then blot the area with a paper towel. You can also use a wet vac to remove the moisture. Allow the area to air dry and when completely dry, vacuum with a regular vacuum to lift the fibers.
If any stains remain, mix a solution of two teaspoons of hand dishwashing liquid and two cups cool water. Dip a sponge or soft-bristled brush in 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 to rinse the area. It is particularly important to rinse away any cleaning solution that can actually attract soil to the area. Blot until no more soapy residue remains. Allow to air dry, then vacuum.