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How to Clean Salt from Car Carpet in 7 Easy Steps

  • How to Clean Salt from Car Carpet
    November 9, 2020

    There is nothing quite like salt to ruin the appearance of your car interior. Salt transferred from shoes, boots and bags onto your car carpet and mats leave behind wet spots and those unsightly white stains. Road salt, seawater from walks on the beach or sweat can all leave a mark. It is a particularly common problem in the winter months when deicing products are used on roads and sidewalks to make them safe and accessible for pedestrians and traffic. Nevertheless, the need to clean salt from car carpet still makes car owners shudder.

    Ice-melt products for roads include natural rock salt and other salt-based products. However, the combination of salt and the melting ice and snow quickly turns into slush. This easily ends up on your car floor when you are out and about. Therefore, it is handy to know how to clean salt from car carpet to maintain a fresh car interior.

    When using any cleaning solutions, don’t forget to do a spot test first on an inconspicuous area to be on the safe side. Here are some tips and steps to follow:

    Easy Ways to Clean Salt from Car Carpet

    1. Start with a Nylon Brush and Wet-Dry Vacuum

    Knowing how to clean carpet stains will ensure the inside of your vehicle always looks good and smells fresh. The correct tools get you off to a great start. This includes a wet-dry vacuum and a stiff nylon brush (an old nail brush will do) to tackle footwell carpets stained with road salt, also known as halite.

    Use your brush to agitate and loosen the dried salt. Then vacuum the salt and any other loose grit and dirt. This helps to prepare the area before you use a cleaning solution to clean salt from car carpet. Your wet-dry vacuum will also come in handy when it is time to suck up excess moisture from freshly washed carpets.

    2. Clean Salt from Car Carpet with Vinegar

    Vinegar makes a good DIY carpet cleaner. One way to clean salt from car carpet is to use a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar. All you need is some household white vinegar, warm water, a spray bottle or bucket, a soft cloth and a towel or paper towels.

    Then do the following:

    • Mix equal parts white vinegar and water
    • Spray or pour the vinegar-water solution into the salt-stained carpet
    • Let it soak for 2-3 minutes. This helps to break down the crystalized salt
    • Use a damp cloth to rub down the affected area
    • Blot with paper towels/dry towel. Or use your wet-dry vacuum
    • Leave to air dry

    Bear in mind, however, that vinegar has a pretty strong smell when used to clean salt from car carpet. This odor might linger for a while inside the car. Open all the doors and windows while you work to let the air circulate. You could also add a few drops of liquid soap to the vinegar solution if you’d like to take the sharp edge off the vinegar smell. If you have a sensitive nose, a better alternative is to try steam cleaning, see below.

    3. Use Steam to Clean Salt from Car Carpet

    For stubborn salt stains, it is quicker and more efficient to clean a car interior using steam. The high temperature of steam is powerful enough to dissolve the toughest stains, such as ingrained salt marks on your car carpet. This is done without damaging the carpet fibers or leaving behind an odor. Not only does steam remove stains and refresh carpets but it is also great for upholstery cleaning when you want to sanitize car seats.

    4. Carpet Shampoo to Remove Salt Stains

    You can clean salt from car carpet with a specially formulated shampoo solution that breaks down the salt. Mix a few drops of the car shampoo with warm water and rub into your salt-stained carpet. Leave for a few minutes before blotting dry. Look out for low-foam formulas that are easy to wipe away. For particularly stubborn salt marks, you might need to resort to a car carpet stain remover. The range includes powerful cleaning agents and eco-friendly products that get deep into the fibers of the carpet to leave it looking as good as new.

    5. Liquid Dish Soap and Water

    For light staining, use liquid dish soap to remove any white chalky residue that salt leaves behind on car carpets. To achieve best results, do the following:

    • Mix ½ teaspoon of soap into a cup of warm water. For larger areas, mix one-part liquid dish soap with four-parts warm water
    • Use a clean cloth to rub the soapy water into the stained carpet
    • Rinse the area well with clean water
    • Use a wet-dry vacuum to finish the job

    Once you’ve successfully removed the salt stains, you may find that over time the carpet starts to look a little faded from regular cleaning. If this is the case, car carpet recoloring can help to restore the appearance of your carpet.

    6. Try to Clean Salt from Car Carpet with Baking Soda

    You can use a mix of baking soda and water on carpet salt stains. Baking soda is also great for eliminating musty odors from damp carpets.

    • Mix one-part baking soda with three-parts water
    • Rub into the salt stain using an old toothbrush or a hard-bristle brush
    • Leave for a couple of hours
    • Use your wet-dry vacuum to remove all traces of baking soda and salt residue

    7. Preventative Measures Make It Easier to Clean Salt from Car Carpet

    Use rubber mats to protect your car carpet from salt stain. Mats won’t stop snow and road slush from being tracked into your car. However, it will make it much easier to clean your car interior. You can simply remove the mats when you need to scrub away salt stains, finishing the job with a high-pressure hose. Rubber is a durable material so it will withstand vigorous scrubbing to remove salt stains. However, be sure you know how to clean rubber car mats properly with the correct cleaning or treatment products, otherwise mats can become slippery underfoot.


    There are various ways to clean salt from car carpet. Aim to treat stains as quickly as possible to prevent the salt from drying and hardening into the carpet fibers. Leaving road-slush or seawater trapped in your carpets can also lead to the start of mold. Left untreated, the inside of your car will develop that unpleasant musty, mold smell. Knowing how to clean mold out of your car carpet will create a safe and hygienic car interior for you and your passengers.

    If you would prefer to leave the hard work to the professionals, schedule an appointment with DetailXPerts to have your car professionally detailed. Our services include carpet stain removal and all other aspects of vehicle interior cleaning.

    If you found this article useful, be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter for more tips like these, practical advice, as well as exciting discount coupons straight into your mailbox.

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