How to Remove Salt Stains From Shoes

Removing salt stains from shoes can seem daunting, but with the right techniques and products, it is possible to get your shoes looking clean and fresh again. As experienced shoe care experts, we have compiled this comprehensive guide to removing salt stains from shoes to help you through the process.

What Causes Salt Stains on Shoes

Before we dive into removal methods, it’s helpful to understand what causes salt stains in the first place.

Salt stains on shoes are caused by sodium chloride, which is the chemical name for table salt. Salt is often spread on sidewalks and roads in the winter to melt ice. As you walk through these areas, the salt sticks to the bottom of your shoes. When the salt gets wet from rain, snow, or other liquids, it forms a saltwater mixture. This mixture dries and leaves behind the white salt stains on your shoes.

Salt stains can affect leather, suede, canvas, mesh, and other shoe materials. The stains appear as crusty white deposits that feel grainy or crystalline to the touch. If left for a long time, the salt can start breaking down the fibers in the shoe material, leading to permanent damage.

Now that you know why those pesky salt stains show up on your shoes, let’s go over some effective removal methods.

Removing Salt Stains from Leather Shoes

Leather is one of the most common shoe materials that gets affected by salt stains. Here are the techniques we recommend for removing salt from leather shoes:

Gather Supplies

  • Soft brush or old toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Leather cleaner or mild soap
  • Small bowl of water
  • Towel
  • Leather conditioner

Brush Off Excess Salt

Use the soft brush to gently brush away any dried salt crumbles that are loosely attached to the surface of the leather. Brushing helps lift and sweep away the salt instead of grinding it further into the leather fibers.

Create a Leather Cleaner Solution

In a small bowl, mix a small amount of leather cleaner or mild soap with water. Use a minimal amount of cleaner – you want the solution to be gentle.

Spot Clean the Stains

Dip the corner of the microfiber cloth in the solution. Gently rub the damp cloth over the salt stains to lift and dissolve the salt. Rinse the cloth as needed in fresh water to keep it clean.

Avoid vigorously scrubbing the leather, which can damage the material. Be patient and let the solution do the work of dissolving the salt deposits.

Rinse and Dry

Once the salt stains have been removed, rinse the area with a clean damp cloth. Make sure to wipe away all soap residue.

Allow the leather to air dry completely. Stuff the shoes with paper or towels to help them hold their shape as they dry.

Recondition the Leather

Once totally dry, apply a leather conditioner. This helps restore moisture and suppleness to the leather after cleaning. Buff the conditioner in with a soft cloth until fully absorbed.

With this cleaning process, you can safely remove salt stains from leather shoes without causing damage. The shoes will look refreshed.

Eliminating Salt Stains on Suede Shoes

Suede shoes are delicate, but salt stains can still be removed with care. Here is our method:

Gentle Brushing

Use a suede brush to lightly brush the surface of the suede. This will lift some of the salt deposits from the nap. Avoid heavy scrubbing which can damage the suede fibers.

DIY Suede Cleaner Solution

Mix a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water. Vinegar helps dissolve salt stains.

Alternatively, use a small amount of suede cleaner mixed with water. Read the label to avoid cleaners that may discolor suede.

Spot Clean the Suede

Dip the edge of a clean rag or sponge into the solution. Gently dab it onto the salt stains, working the solution into the suede nap. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing vigorously.

Rinse the rag frequently as needed. You want to lift the salt without excessive moisture on the suede.

Dry Thoroughly

Once the stains have been removed, place paper towels or cloth inside the shoes to absorb excess moisture. Allow the suede to completely air dry.

Use a suede brush to restore the nap. Brush gently in multiple directions.

With cautious cleaning, suede can be refreshed and saved from salt damage. Avoid over-wetting the material during the process.

Removing Salt Stains from Canvas Shoes

The flexible cotton fabric of canvas shoes is prone to absorbing salt stains during winter. Here is how to fix it:

Remove Excess Salt

Use a dry toothbrush to gently whisk away any dried salt from the canvas material. This will reduce what needs to be cleaned.

Mix Soap Solution

Create a mild soap solution by adding a small amount of gentle soap to warm water in a bowl. Avoid detergents which may bleach the canvas.

Spot Clean

Dip a small towel or cloth into the soap solution. Gently blot it onto the salt stains, soaking the area to dissolve the salt deposits.

Avoid vigorously rubbing, which can damage the canvas weave. Rinse the cloth as needed.

Rinse and Air Dry

Once stains are removed, rinse away all soap with a clean damp cloth.

Stuff the shoes with towels and allow them to fully air dry before wearing again. Fans can speed up the drying process.

With a cautious cleaning approach, canvas shoes can be restored after dealing with winter salt.

Clearing Salt Stains from Mesh and Knit Shoes

Lighter shoes made from mesh or knit fabrics can also attract stubborn salt stains. Here is how to remove them:

Vacuum First

For dried and caked-on salt deposits, use the brush attachment of a vacuum cleaner to lift and remove excess salt through suction. This makes cleaning easier.

Mix Soap and Water

In a bowl, stir together warm water and a small amount of gentle laundry soap or detergent. Avoid harsh detergents.

Spot Treat Stains

Dip a soft-bristle cleaning brush into the solution. Gently blot and scrub stains to dissolve salt. Rinse brush often.

Minimize moisture to prevent the knit fabric from stretching. Work carefully to avoid snags.

Rinse and Dry

Rinse away all soap residue with a clean damp sponge or cloth. Don’t leave wet spots.

Stuff shoes with towels and allow to fully air dry. Point a fan at them to speed up drying.

With light scrubbing, mesh and knit shoes can be freshened up after salt exposure.

Removing Salt Stains from Shoe Soles

Salt stains frequently collect on rubber or synthetic soles. Here is how to remove them:

Scrub with Baking Soda

Make a paste by mixing baking soda with just enough water to form a thick paste.

Use an old toothbrush to gently scrub the baking soda paste onto stained areas of the sole. The abrasion helps lift stains.

Rinse thoroughly when finished cleaning. Allow to fully dry.

Clean with Magic Eraser

Dampen a Magic Eraser and carefully rub stained areas to lift salt buildup. Rinse any residue.

The melamine foam chemistry helps dissolve and wipe away dried salt deposits.

Try Vinegar Rinse

Warm white vinegar can help dissolve salt stains on shoe soles.

Wipe or gently scrub soles with a cloth dipped in undiluted vinegar. Rinse thoroughly after cleaning.

With an abrasive scrub or vinegar dissolution, shoe soles can be cleaned of white salt stains after winter weather wear and tear. Avoid over-wetting shoes.

How to Prevent Future Salt Stains on Shoes

Preventing salt stains in the first place will save you the cleaning hassle! Here are our top tips:

  • Spray shoes with a stain protector like Scotchgard to create a barrier. Reapply as needed.
  • Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or beeswax leather balm before wearing shoes in snow. This prevents salt from absorbing in.
  • Choose footwear with waterproof coating when walking places with heavy salt.
  • Immediately wipe salt stains after getting home. Don’t let it dry and cake on shoes.
  • Stuff shoes with paper towels after exposure to salt to absorb moisture.
  • When possible, avoid heavily salted sidewalks and take cleared paths after a storm.

With vigilance against salt and prompt attention to stains, you can avoid permanent damage to your footwear. We hope these removal tips restore your shoes! Let us know if you have any other tricks for eliminating stubborn salt stains.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Salt Stains from Shoes

Can I put salt-stained shoes in the washing machine?

No, we do not recommend putting salt-stained shoes in the washing machine. The agitation and water can damage many shoe materials and cause the stains to set permanently. It’s best to spot clean salt stains by hand for a gentle approach.

How can I get rid of salt stains on suede boots?

Gently brush away surface salt with a suede brush. Create a solution of white vinegar and water. Dip the corner of a cloth in the solution and dab the stains to dissolve salt. Avoid scrubbing. Let boots fully air dry after rinsing, then use a brush to restore the nap.

What is the fastest way to remove salt stains from shoes?

For a fast approach, mix a paste of baking soda and water. Gently scrub this paste onto stains with an old toothbrush, then rinse. The mild abrasion of baking soda can help lift dried salt. Vinegar can also quickly dissolve salt stains.

Can I use rubbing alcohol on shoes to remove salt stains?

We don’t advise using rubbing alcohol, as it can dry out and discolor leather and other shoe materials. A mild soap and water solution is safer for spot cleaning salt stains on shoes.

How do I get white rings off my shoes after salt stains dry?

For white rings and residue left after salt dries, mix a solution of warm water and mild soap. Use a microfiber cloth to gently blot the area, allowing the solution to soak into the stain. Rinse thoroughly once stain is removed. Avoid scrubbing too vigorously.


Salt stains on shoes can certainly be frustrating, but they don’t have to be permanent. With the right cleaning methods and care for your shoes, you can remove those unsightly white stains. The key is using gentle spot cleaning techniques instead of being overly aggressive on delicate shoe materials.

Whether your shoes are leather, suede, canvas or something else, take time to assess the material and test cleaning solutions in an inconspicuous spot first. With the procedures outlined here, you can safely eliminate salt stains without ruining your favorite shoes in the process.