How To Remove Annoying Salt Stains

Salt is a part of winter when you live in an area that gets snow and ice. It's necessary to make walking and driving safer but it can leave salt stains on your boots, shoes, and clothing.

Below, I share a simple technique that can be used on all three above-mentioned items to effectively and inexpensively remove annoying salt stains.

P.S. The sooner you treat the stains, the better.

How-To Remove Salt Stains from Boots and Shoes

During a long and snowy winter, it’s bound to happen. You have winter boots and shoes with salt stains that look nasty. You want to wear them but not looking the way they do now but how can you get them to look good again?

black leather ankle boots with chunky heel and blue jeans on snow covered concrete steps

There is a very easy and super inexpensive way to remove those stains and I'm going to show you a comparison between the two standard household items I used so you can see for yourself which is the most effective.

Before photo of salt stained tennis shoes

Above are my most comfy tennis shoes and yes, they have seen better days.

I wear them outside to grab the mail, take out the trash, or when I know I am going to be trudging through slush and snow because they have been retired to "home use" but that doesn't mean I don't want them to at least look somewhat presentable....neighbors, the mailman, or someone walking their dog may see me in these and I don't want to be overly embarrassed. 

black leather women's boots in snow

I've tried this method on leather boots and shoes as well and it works great!

Stain TypeSalt
Cleaning MethodDistilled White Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol
Water TemperatureCool

What You'll Need


Clean White Cloth - I prefer microfiber cleaning cloths for this

Cotton Balls

Distilled White Vinegar

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol

To Clean Fabric Shoes and Clothing

Alcohol versus Vinegar

So, anyway, after wearing them out in the snow a few times these salt stains remain and I thought I had nothing to lose so I would try to remove the stains just to see what would work.

Household alcohol bottle and cotton balls next to salt stained black shoe - how to remove salt stains from shoes

I wanted to do a split testing trying household alcohol on one shoe, 

Vinegar spray bottle next to black salt stained tennis shoe

and vinegar on the other to see which one would work better.

For the alcohol option, I simply soaked some cotton balls in the alcohol and then dabbed them all over the salt stain and waited for it to dry.

When using the vinegar, I sprayed it on the tip of the shoe, again where the salt stains were, and then waited for it to dry. You could also use the cotton ball method with the vinegar but since I had it in a spray bottle, I just went the lazy route and sprayed it on. This is a similar method to the one used to remove deodorant stains from dark shirts.

Black tennis shoes after cleaning to remove salt stains

The Results

Once both shoes were dry, I did a side-by-side comparison and the winner, but not by much, was the shoe whose salt stains were treated with vinegar. 

The side treated with alcohol still showed some residual staining.

How To Clean Leather Shoes and Boots

Mix 1 tablespoon of the distilled vinegar with 1 cup of cool water.

Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and wipe over the salt stains but do not soak the leather.

Allow the shoes to air-dry away from direct heat or direct sunlight.

Once dry, buff with a cloth if desired.

Another big win for vinegar in the household cleaning category!

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