In some parts of the country, stains from winter road salt are basically unavoidable. Come spring, though, it takes just a little work to wash them away.
Diet of salt
What you'll need
Step 1: Get rid of the loose debris
Step 2: Option 1: Water and Vinegar
Option 2: Carpet Cleaning Solution
Option 3: Carpet Cleaner
Option 4: Dish soap
Go to the Pros
Preventing future stains
Cleaning rubber mats
If you live in an area where salt is used on roads in winter, you’ve likely noticed those telltale white stains on your vehicle’s mats and carpets.
You don’t want to leave them there, as the salt will eventually damage the fibres. It’s not always easy to “desalinate,” though and it may require more than one attempt.
There are several methods you can use, depending on what you have on hand and how severe the stains are. We’ll take you through a few
Depending on your chosen method for tackling those pesky salt stains you will need some combination of the following items.
- A stiff brush
- A vacuum (A wet/dry shop vac is preferred for some methods)
- A spray bottle
- Terry towels
- Carpet cleaner solution
- Steam cleaner with upholstery attachment
- Liquid dish soap
Materials needed: vacuum and stiff brush
No matter what method you choose, your first step should always be to loosen and collect as much dried-on crust as you can. The easiest way to do this is with a stiff brush and a vacuum. If your car has removable mats, start by taking them out and give them a good beating.
For your next steps, there are a few different products and methods to choose from…
Materials needed: vinegar, warm water, spray bottle, terry cloths
First, take your 50-50 mixture of vinegar and warm water, spray the salt stains and let it sit for a minute.
Next, fold up a small terry towel and press it firmly onto the wet area, holding for several seconds.
Repeat as necessary, re-folding or using a new terry towel so you’re always blotting with a clean surface.
Materials needed: Carpet Cleaning solution, terry cloth, stiff brush
When using a store bough carpet cleaning solution should always follow the directions on the label. There are several types of cleaning solution available to you should you choose to go this route.
Some come as a liquid that you dilute with water, others as a full-strength liquid spray. There are also spray foams, which are often packaged in a can with a bristle scrubber in the lid.
Depending on what kind you buy you may need to brush the solution in or blot away any excess at the end of the treatment.
Materials needed: Carpet Cleaner with upholstery attachment
If you already own one, great. If not, home carpet cleaners can generally be rented from your local hardware store. Make sure the one you get has an upholstery attachment for use on your vehicle carpet.
Follow the instructions, keeping in mind that using twice as much cleaning solution may not make your car’s carpet and mats twice as clean.
Materials needed: liquid dish soap, warm water, bucket, cloth or scrub brush, wet/dry vac (optional)
This method works best for removable mats as it will get your mats more we than some of the others.
Blend one part liquid dish soap (do NOT use automatic dishwasher liquid) with four parts warm water. Rub the solution in with a clean cloth or scrub brush. Rinse with clean water.
Vacuum the rinse water out of the carpet using a ShopVac capable of sucking up water, or hang the mats to dry.
If all else fails, take your car in to a detailing expert. They will have professional-strength products and the know-how to take your carpets off their salty diet and have them looking like new.
It’s always a good idea to practice prevention. Using rubber mats in winter (laid down directly on the floor, not on top of your carpeted mats, where they can potentially interfere with the pedals) can help trap salt and water.
Knock excess snow off your boots before you get in, too. If your carpets stay wet in winter, it can encourage rust to form on the floor, or can damage the seat supports or the power seat motors and wiring.
Cleaning your rubber mats at the end of the season is quick and easy.
First, use the same 1:4 dish soap and water mixture to give the mats a quick scrub with a stiff brush. Next, rinse and let dry.
Try to choose a nice dry day to clean your car’s carpets or do it in the garage, when you can leave the doors open to let everything dry.
No matter what method you use, make sure you dry everything. Don’t get your carpets too wet unless you can vacuum the water out of them. Hang any wet mats or let them dry in the sun and never put mats down on wet carpet, otherwise you may face mildew and other moisture problems.
With any luck, your carpets will be back looking like new in no time.