How to remove road salt stains from your car’s carpets and floor mats

Aaron Widmar

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Photo: The news wheel

When winter comes and salt trucks drive through your neighborhood, you will have to deal with road salt on the ground. It is almost impossible to avoid getting off your shoes and into your car. To reduce the powdery, crusty residue in the carpet, you can quickly remove road salt stains as follows.

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Step 1: Remove the floor mats and shake them out

If there are still chunks of salt or dirt on the floor mats, you don’t want to let them fall into the carpet underneath. Gently lift each of the mats out of the car and shake them vigorously to loosen any debris. It doesn’t hurt to hit it well to loosen dust and grime.

Step 2: Vacuum any loose residue from the carpet and mats

Particles that have fallen through and are in the carpet fibers must be removed before you start scrubbing. It’s more than just hiding salt – dirt, gravel, and other debris also build up over time. Take a vacuum (preferably a wet-dry vacuum) with a hose attachment and suck thoroughly.

Step 3: Prepare the cleaning solution

Now you can focus on the actual contaminants that have entered the fabric. To remove these, you will need a liquid cleaning solution. However, some are more effective than others. Hence, it is best to mix up your own.

New York-based J & R’s Carpet Cleaning recommends using a solution of 50 percent hot water and 50 percent distilled white vinegar. Pour equal amounts of both into a spray bottle and shake them.

Step 4: spray and dab the carpet and mats

Some people recommend scrubbing the area with a bristle brush, but this should only be done as a last resort. Vigorous scrubbing of the fabric will allow the dirt to penetrate deeper into the carpet as it is dissolved.

Instead, spray the cleaning solution onto the stained area and gently blot it off with an absorbent cloth or paper towel. Gently dab the soaked area by pulling out the salt instead of rubbing it in deeper.

Use another, clean cloth to wash the area. Dip it in warm water and keep dabbing.

Repeat this tactic to clean the floor mats that you removed earlier.

Step 5: let the surfaces dry

Let everything air dry before placing the damp mats back on the damp carpet until they no longer feel wet to the touch. You can help if you ventilate the car in an enclosed garage where you can run a dehumidifier nearby.

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Lower exterior of a vehicle caked in road salt and mud from a long winterPhoto: The news wheel

Why does this method work?

Since road salt is typically a mixture of sodium chloride (table salt) and calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate, it must be persuaded a little more to dissolve in water. The chemical reaction caused by the interaction with the vinegar makes the minerals soluble in water. Then all you have to do is soak up the water in a cloth and the salt should immediately stand out.

Alternative solutions when vinegar isn’t working

Unfortunately, distilled vinegar may not be enough to completely remove the road salt. You may need to upgrade your game and use a tougher cleaning solution. Soap is used for a backup. This is most effective when you stir two teaspoons of dish soap into two cups of lukewarm water and apply it to the carpet and Cr mats with a brush. Just make sure to wash away all of those bubbles.

It is important to remove road salt inside and outside the car as soon as possible. While it’s a useful tool for removing asphalt from ice, it can also permanently damage your vehicle.

Aaron isn’t ashamed of being a Cleveland native and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully uses his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles for nearby teens. Mr. Widmar happily lives in Dayton, Ohio with his great wife Vicki, but travels often to explore new destinations. Aaron has great ambitions for his writing career, but is often distracted thinking about the profound nature of the human condition and forgetting what he wrote … More articles by Aaron.

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