I love the winter but what I don’t love is the white marks that road salt leaves on my leather boots and shoes. Coming home to find salt stains on leather footwear isn’t ideal but it equally isn’t a disaster. Here’s what you need to know about how to remove salt stains on leather shoes and boots without ruining them.
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Does Salt Damage Leather Shoes and Boots?
So what are the salt stains and what do they do to your leather shoes and boots?
For the most part salt stains in winter are caused by the salt that is placed on the road and sidewalks to prevent them from icing over in cold weather. This helps you to drive or walk more safely but it gets on to your footwear when it’s wet and leaves those unsightly marks.
Can you wear your leather boots in the snow and ice? Well yes, but it depends on the boot or shoe. Read my post on the topic to find out more about the types of leather you can wear in winter weather.
Road salt stains can cause permanent damage to your leather shoes if you leave them on the shoe surface. Salt stains can:
Dry and Discolor Your Shoes – The telltale sign is the white marks it leaves behind.
The Salt Attracts Moisture – The salt absorbs moisture when you are indoors and that can make your leather brittle or crack. Hygroscopic salts can even ruin your walls but that is a whole other nightmare I experienced when renovating my old house).
Continued Exposure – If you keep on getting salt stains on your footwear and don’t do anything about it your shoes won’t last as long, the leather can crack and the color of your shoes starts to fade.
Are Salt Stains Permanent?
Salt stains on leather boots and shoes can be permanent especially if you do nothing about them.
Removing salt stains requires you to use various cleaning solutions to remove the stains on leather. I would always advise you to act quickly to prevent further damage to your footwear.
When you act fast the salt is generally only on the surface of the leather which means it is easier to remove. Leaving the salt stains on your shoes and leather boots allows moisture and salt to penetrate the footwear making it much harder to get out.
How Do You Fix Salt-Damaged Leather?
If you want to know how to remove salt stains on leather shoes and boots then I have a number of solutions that you can use. All of these methods work well for leather footwear but some I prefer to use more than others.
Most of the products I mention are household items that are relatively quick and easy to use which is great when you want to act quickly to remove the stains and stop further damage.
Just make sure that before you use any of the products I mention you test a small inconspicuous area of your shoes first. This saves you from worrying about fading or the products causing more problems than salt stains.
So let’s start with my favorite method which is to use a vinegar solution to remove the road salt.
Just create a simple solution of white vinegar and water. Use equal amounts of each in a small dish or bowl.
Then get a clean damp microfiber cloth and dip it into the solution. Then wipe the cleaning solution over the salt stains on your shoes.
Allow the shoes to air dry away from any heat sources. When the shoes dry use a leather conditioner on them to nourish the leather and prevent cracking.
How To Remove Salt Stains From Leather Boots Without Vinegar?
Another product that I have in my cleaning arsenal is rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). I originally used this to get mold out of a leather sofa but it can also be used to remove salt stains on leather.
Get a clean cloth and put a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto it and rub it over the salt stains. Gently wipe away any remaining residue and then clean your footwear with a damp cloth before letting your shoes dry naturally.
A word of warning rubbing alcohol can dry out your leather so really only use a small amount. Leather conditioner can help to add moisture back into your leather if you feel it has been too harsh to use on the stains.
Salt Stain Remover
A professional salt stain remover can also work wonders at removing the stains on leather shoes and boots.
Saphir Hiver-Winter is a professional product that works well at cleaning your footwear but it is hard to get hold of. I’ve found the product in the UK if you want to order it to send to the US or another country.
You only need a very small amount of this to dissolve salt stains. Just apply it sparingly with a cotton pad and then buff off with a microfiber cloth.
Using Warm Water and Soap
If you really want to take the gentlest approach possible to remove salt stains then you can’t get much milder than gentle soap and warm water.
Just mix some mild soap with the warm water in a small bowl and stir to create your cleaning solution.
Then dampen a cloth with the mixture and start to gently wipe the salt stains away. When you have finished rinse the residue off the surface of your leather boots and shoes and allow them to dry.
This a good solution when the salt stains are not too ingrained or left to dry.
Lemon Juice For Stain Removal
My husband always jokes with me that most of the natural cleaning solutions for the house tend to involve lemon or baking soda and he isn’t far wrong.
Equal parts of lemon and water can also remove stains on leather. Mix the two products together and wipe the solution over your footwear with a cloth. Wipe the residue with a damp cloth and then let your shoes dry and the stains should be gone
Baking Soda Solutions
Yes, you guessed it baking soda also works!
This time you need to make a paste of the baking soda and water. The consistency shouldn’t be too runny.
Apply the paste onto any stains on your shoes with a cloth and leave for five minutes. Then wipe off the past and clean with a damp cloth and let the shoes dry.
Remove Salt Marks on Leather Shoes With Cornstarch
Cornstarch is another kitchen staple that can be useful for salt stains.
All you need to do is sprinkle a small amount onto the stains and let the starch sit for a few hours.
Cornstarch will absorb the moisture off the surface and then you can brush off any residue.
I would still use a cloth dipped in water to remove any starch or stain you can’t see and let the leather shoes dry. Then finish up by using a leather conditioner to keep your footwear in tip-top condition.
Tackling Salt Stains on Leather Boots With Glycerin
My next tip also works but isn’t my favorite as I don’t tend to have glycerin in the house. If you use it then this might work as a solution for you.
All you need to do is put a small amount of glycerin on a cloth and then rub the salt stains on your footwear with it. Wipe off any excess, clean with that damp cloth and then let your shoes dry.
Cleaning Salt Off Leather Boots and Shoes With Baby Shampoo
Baby shampoo is a product that also works but as I don’t have any children I don’t tend to use it. As millions of households do however have kids I’ve included it as a possible cleaning product to use.
Just put a small amount of the shampoo into water and mix it into a solution. Get a cloth and dampen it with the product and gently wipe away your salt stains.
Next, get some clean water and dampen another cloth with this to rub off the solution, and let your shoe air dry.
Using Petroleum Jelly to Remove The Stains
If you want to know how to remove salt stains on leather shoes get some Vaseline or petroleum jelly and put a thin layer over any salt stains. This needs to sit on top of the stains for a few hours.
When the product has done its job wipe it off with a clean cloth then clean and condition your shoes.
Just be careful not to add the product to any stitching on your shoes and it can cause it to deteriorate and rot.
Hopefully, there is a solution to solve your problem in my tips and you are able to get off any unwanted stains quickly and easily.
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