As a person who was raised in Cleveland, there are things you take for granted as common knowledge, such as seeing a lot of road salt on the streets. When I first visited Texas, I made a comment about the “salt trucks” during Winter, only to be met with confused stares. “Is that like the ice cream man, but salt?” was one reaction.
Salted roads, sidewalks and any other surface that needs to be ice-free in the frozen North is already being coated with snow-melting salt pellets. Whether real rock salt or other chemical compounds, the safety they bring roads also causes erosion on cars, carpet, shoes and any other surface the solution touches. That great new pair of boots you purchased can quickly become a milky-white, salt-stained mess.
CLEANING SALT STAINS
To avoid the unattractive look and even more unattractive destruction of your property this Winter, there are two things you should never be without: White vinegar and microfiber towels.
White vinegar is one of only cheap, reliable fixes to break down the chemicals that can embed themselves in fabric and other surfaces. How much to use is the variable in cleaning.
CLEANING SHOES (Leather & Sneakers)
When cleaning sneakers and leather shoes, combine two parts vinegar with one part room-temperature water in a bowl. Dip the microfiber towel into the mixture, and BLOT the shoes until the salt lifts out. (Do NOT scrub, you need to lift the salt out, not push it down further) Rinse out and repeat as needed. If you are cleaning leather, finishing up with a little saddle soap with help prevent cracks. Buy a good weatherproofing spray, and give your shoes a spray-down to make cleaning easier next time.
CLEANING SHOES (Suede)
Suede shoes (or any suede clothing) is a little different. You’ll want a soft toothbrush (or a suede brush, if you are fancy) to gently brush off as much of the salt residue as possible. Then combine 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts COLD water, and 1 quick drop of a gentle dish detergent (like Dawn). Dab away at the salt with the microfiber towel until the stains have lifted. (If the suede is colored, test a small area to make sure the dye doesn’t run.) Let them air dry, don’t blast them with a hair dryer. The heat may cause further damage.
CAR CARPET (or home carpet)
Keep your car from turning into a cave floor by filling a spray bottle with a one to one white vinegar and water solution. After giving the carpet a vacuum, spray down the carpet thoroughly (the worse the stain, the more you’ll need), and alternate scrubbing with a soft brush and blotting away at the salt with a microfiber towel. Don’t want your car to smell like a vinegar factory? Add some lavender scent drops or lemon juice to detract from the potential strong smell. Do a final vacuum.
Sweep your floor, and mix up one cup white vinegar to one gallon of warm water. Mop your floor thoroughly, rinsing and repeated as needed if the salt is really embedded in the floor. Do this until all visible residue is cleared. Rinse out the bucket and fill with floor cleaner and water, giving it a final once-over. Let air dry.
Okay, here’s where we have the bad news: You shouldn’t use vinegar on hardwood floors. You just shouldn’t. It can really mess up the flooring. What you should use is a solution like Squeaky Clean, a product that will be more intense than your normal floor cleaner, but without the abrasive nature of vinegar. It will also shine them up nicely, and no, they did not compensate us to promote their product.
Let’s keep our stuff looking bright and clean this year, even if the elements like road salt on the streets try to fight us every step of the way. We’re all in this together.
Or better yet, stay indoors and watch some movies.