Updated: Mar 12
How do you deal with road salt?
That ugly, white clump of salt sitting in your car's carpet or floor mat. I say "in" because it was wet at one time and was able to get into the fibers of your carpet. Once dry, it's stuck in your carpet and vacuuming sometimes will do little to get it out.
Living in the Buffalo area, or any colder climate where road salt is used, we all have to deal with it.
Below, I outlined how I tackle road salt and hope that this will help you when it comes to cleaning it up.
So what do you do?
If you just get it wet and wipe it up with a towel, it probably won't do much. Two, if it does break up a bit, you'll just spread the salt around and make a bigger problem.
Over the years, I've tried lots of different things, hot water, and vinegar (hope you like the smell of vinegar), and all propose cleaner I could find, gasoline and a match . . .
The best advice I can give anyone gets as much up as you can while it's dry.
The best results always came from using something to break it up and vacuuming.
Different scraping tools, my current favorite 90-degree pick tool and different wire brushes (which you need to be extra careful with), I found work the best.
While using these techniques, caution is always advised.
Not all carpet material is created equal. Most of your domestic vehicles have a deeper, more robust carpet that can handle some very rough agitation from wire brushes, etc...
Imports can be troublesome. While your European cars are OK for the most part, the Asian made cars have carpeting that is less than desirable. I'm looking at you Honda and Toyota. A lot of times you'll need to rely on cleaners and steam to get road salt out without ruining the carpet on foreign cars.
One of the problems you'll run into is too much cleaner/liquid and you'll saturate the padding under the carpet. If it doesn't dry properly and quickly, you'll run the risk of mold or mildew forming.
Floor mats are easier to deal with since you can leave them out in the sun during the warmer months. I still like to clean up as much as possible while they're dry though.
I've found a lot of different techniques for getting road salt out while it's dry.
The simplest way is just my 90-degree pick tool and scraping away, vacuuming as I go.
Sometimes, the handheld ice scrappers work great in bigger areas along with the end of the vacuum hose.
Areas where the road salt is just a big huge chunk, need to be broken up a little. I found just beating it a couple of times with the handle of the ice scraper or other tool will bust it up a little. Then you might be able to scrap at it with a tool and loosen it up.
Most of the time, areas like that will need to be steamed to really break it up. Usually making multiple passes to get it all.
If I have to resort to cleaners, it's just to help move it along a little until I get steam on it. Used more as a pre-treater to make my steaming efforts go a little quicker.
In this case, I use a stronger All-purpose cleaner, like IGL Multi. Spray it on the area, let it dwell for a few minutes, then hit the area with steam.
After, it's just a matter of using microfiber towels and a vacuum to clean up any residual liquid and road salt.
There is a video on our YouTube channel that shows the removal of some road salt from a carpet of a BMW. Link here. Cleaners and steam were not needed with this one as I was able to get the salt out 100% dry.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to, Clean Protect and Maintain!
Watch my Youtube video on salt removal here!