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How to Remove Salt Stains From Fabrics, Shoes & Flooring

Salt stains are more common than you think. For one, the persistent white stains that show up on dark clothes contain salt, and so do stains that appear on your shoes in the winter. This is because salt is used in anything from deodorants to deicing agents, making salt stains pretty much unavoidable.
Salt stains mostly appear as white stains, drips, dots, or splashes. Such stains are relatively easy to remove when they’re fresh but become increasingly persistent as they dry. If you don’t clean salt-stained floors, shoes, or clothes quickly, they could even potentially damage fabrics, tiles, and hardwood. Therefore, it’s best to clean up such stains as quickly as they appear or even prevent them.
In this post, we go through salt stain removal on the 6 most common surfaces they appear, namely clothing, shoes, carpets, car interiors, hardwood, and tiles. Note that most of these methods use white vinegar, which helps dissolve and pull out salt from pretty much any surface.

1. Get rid of salt stains on washable garments

Remove Salt Stains clothing

Deodorant stains, sweat stains on hats and sportswear, as well as white stains on swimsuits or winter outerwear are all caused by salt. Before cleaning an article of clothing that has a salt stain on it, make sure that the item is washable. If the care label says that the garment is ‘dry-clean only,’ it should be treated by a professional. If the garment is safe to clean at home, proceed as follows:

1. Fresh stains should be thoroughly rinsed in cold water. Set salt stains, on the other hand, require some soaking. Start by brushing off any salt residue with a dry soft-bristled brush or old toothbrush, and then proceed to soak the article of clothing in cold water overnight.

2. Launder the stained clothing item as usual, preferably on the cold water setting, and then let it air dry.

3. If you can still see the stain, mix 1 teaspoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of cool water in a small bowl. Dip one corner of a clean, dry cloth in this mixture and gently blot the stain. Then soak up the liquid with a dry corner of the same cloth. 

4. Finish by washing the article of clothing again. This should remove any salt residue from the garment. If it does not, you can repeat steps three and four once more until the stain is completely gone.

Related Article: You Need To Know This! Shoe Care 101

2. Remove salt stains from shoes

Remove Salt Stains cleaning winter shoes

Although all shoes can develop salt stains from sidewalk salt, leather and suede shoes are especially susceptible to salt damage because it dries them up. So when it comes to your leather shoes, protection is key. This can be done by applying a water-repelling lotion or spray on dry, clean shoes. If salt stains do occur, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting rid of them: 

1. Wipe off any dirt or visible salt residue from the surface of the shoe with a dry cloth.

2. In a small container, combine 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 1 cup of cold water. Saturate the corner of a clean cloth with the mixture and use the cloth to gently wipe the surface of the shoe. In this process, think less is more, and avoid getting the shoes soaked, especially if they are made of leather, sheepskin, or suede. Oversaturating the shoe in water can cause warping, stains, or could ruin the finish of the footwear.

3. Air-dry the shoes in a well-ventilated area at room temperature. This may take a full day or more. But be patient and avoid placing the shoes near the central heating or any other direct source of heat because this can cause shrinkage. If the stain remains, repeat steps two and three.

4. Polish the shoes with a dry cloth. In the case of suede shoes, it’s advised to brush the shoes using a dedicated suede brush. This is also the time to apply any care products like a leather conditioner or a water-resistant spray.

3. Get rid of salt stains on hardwood floors and tile

Remove Salt Stains hardwood floor vacuuming

When it comes to any type of flooring - hardwood, tile, or carpet - it’s always better to prevent salt stains than having to remove them. This is because salt can scratch and damage the flooring. With the exception of outdoor tiles on your patio or yard, prevention is easily achievable by keeping your slush-covered shoes outside. If this isn’t possible, however, you can use the following tips to remove salt stains from hardwood and tile:

1. Start by vacuuming up all the salt from the floor and wait for the floor to dry completely before you begin.

2. In a spray bottle, combine 2 tablespoons vinegar with 2 cups of water. Spritz the mixture onto the stained surface. Avoid saturating hardwood floors, as too much moisture could damage them.

3. Let the solution work for 5-10 minutes and then proceed by mopping the area.

4. If any bits of salt remain, dampen a clean cloth with the mixture and gently rub the stained areas. Wait for 5 more minutes and then rinse the area clean using a damp cloth.

5. Finish by wiping the area dry using an old towel or dry cloth.

Note: avoid using this method on stone floors because vinegar can lead to irreversible etching on stone.

4. Clean up salt stains on carpets

Remove Salt Stains woman cleaning carpet

If you notice a salt stain on a carpet, you need to act fast and clean up the mess as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’re risking permanent discoloration, and this, if at all, can only be remedied by calling a professional. So don’t waste time and follow these steps.

1. Start by loosening up any debris with a soft brush. Then vacuum up any loose salt crystals from the stained area.

2. Combine ½ cup cold water and ½ cup vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray it onto the stain and allow the vinegar to dissolve the salt for 5-10 minutes. 

3. Pt-dry the stained area with a dry cloth and let the carpet dry. If needed, repeat the vinegar treatment again until the stain is completely lifted.

4. Once the carpet is dry and clean, vacuum it once again to restore the fluffy finish.

Related Article: How to Keep Your Carpet Looking Clean and New!

5. Lift salt stains from your car’s interior

Remove Salt Stains cleaning car
Unfortunately, road salt is bound to end up in your car at some point, and there’s little you can do to protect your car’s exterior from its damaging effects other than parking in the garage. However, salt can get inside the car too, leading to ugly white stains on the carpeting, flooring, and even the car door panel.
When this happens, it’s best to rinse the car floor mats thoroughly and clean any carpeting using the method we outlined in the section above - the one about cleaning up salt stains on carpets.
As for any rubber or plastic parts, it’s best to avoid using vinegar on them because it’s a mild acid and can damage the finish. Instead, we recommend using a solution of 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap to 1 cup of water. Just dip a sponge into the mixture and start cleaning the stained areas. Start at the edges of the stain and work your way into the middle, rinsing the sponge continuously in a bucket of water. Finish by rinsing the area with water until no soapy residue is left and blot the area dry using a dry cloth or old towel. And voila, you're all done!
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