Tough Salt Stains In Your Car Mat? Here’s What To Do!

Get Rid Of Salt Stains In Your Car Mat

Houses get dirty over time as dust and grime accumulate. It is no different for your car’s interior. The carpeting is subject to the occasional spill caused by messy toddlers, or perhaps from the dirt from the bottom of your shoes as you go about your daily commute. Especially so if you live somewhere with colder temperatures, as snowfall can lead to the appearance of whitish stains on the carpet. This is due to the minute amounts of salt tracked into your car. Fret now, as the white stains are removable once the snow thaws out. If you need new car mats, head on over to Simply Car Mats.

Wondering how snow leads to salt stains? The answer is simple. Salt is naturally occurring in snow. Not just that, in countries up north, they also tend to salt the roads for increased traction and to reduce the chances of an accident occurring on the roads. This means that the salt can then stick to your shoe sole, eventually transferring over to your car carpet. This is made worse by how the salt used to salt the roads are often made of a mixture of other chemicals as well, such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride, and is not just the usual table salt we eat. This highly alkaline substance is good at withstanding freezing temperatures but eventually leaves behind a whitish blemish when the melted snow water dries out. Removal is easy, despite the nasty look of the stains.

It can be expensive to send your car into an automotive shop for stain removal, so consider our solutions before trying this option, or even going so far as to reupholster your vehicle.

Here are two easy ways to do so on your own:

The Vinegar Method

Though it may smell sour, vinegar has long been an effective and organic cleaner which is easily available in most households. If you don’t have a bottle on hand, it should be readily and cheaply available at your nearest supermarket or grocery shop.

You will need a scrub brush, a spray bottle, a towel, water and white vinegar for this method.

Step 1:

Fill half an empty spray bottle with vinegar, and the other half with water to make the solution. This mixture will be strong enough to get rid of the stains, while still being weak enough to not have an overly acidic odour. Lukewarm water may be used, to allow for the vinegar to mix quickly with the water.

Step 2:

Spray the salt-stained areas of your carpet generously with the solution. If you have removable floor mats, these should be removed for cleaning and for treatment of possible salt stains. Once the mats are properly cleaned, they can then be returned to where they are supposed to be within the car. Take this chance to also thoroughly clean your floor mats of any dust, dirt and grime that may have accumulated.

Step 3:

Using a brush, gently scrub the affected areas, ensuring that there isn’t the use of excessive force. This brings the salt up to the surface for easier removal. If excessive force is used, the salt will instead sink into the carpeting fibres, making removal of the stains more difficult; as the fibres will be scrubbed away and result in a permanently damaged carpet.

Step 4:

Blot a clean, dry towel over the stained area to get rid of the moisture. Use a dry towel whenever the current one you use becomes too wet. If the carpet still feels wet despite the towel not blotting any more moisture, consider leaving your car doors open for better ventilation and faster drying.

If there seems to be a lingering smell of vinegar after the cleaning, take out your floor mats if you have any, allowing them to dry outside of the car. If you don’t have anywhere to hang out your mats to let them air dry, consider rolling down the car windows to allow for better ventilation. If a vinegar smell still exists, an air freshener can be sprayed to mask the unpleasant sourish smell.

Step 5:

Repeat steps one to four as many times as needed until there is no sight of the salt stain.

The Carpet Cleaner Method

If you prefer a method which doesn’t smell as acidic, consider the carpet cleaning method. Foaming carpet cleaners usually have a less intrusive scent than vinegar. It is also quite easily available on the market, with some brands of carpet cleaner even coming with an integrated brush on its cap.

You will need to purchase the foaming carpet cleaner, a scrub brush if your carpet cleaner does not come with one, and a vacuum.

Step 1:

Liberally spray the foaming carpet cleaner on the part of the carpet which has been stained by salt.

Step 2:

Using the integrated scrubber or a scrub brush, gently scrub the stained area. Take care not to use excessive force to prevent permanent damage to the carpet due to the removal of carpet fibres.

Step 3:

Air-dry the carpet to prevent any mould or odours from forming. This is especially important if you have carpet floor mats or if you live in an area with high humidity.

Step 4:

Using either a wet or dry vacuum, vacuum the dried cleaner residue of the surface of your carpet. Also take this opportunity to generally vacuum off any dust and debris found inside your car, to ensure that the interior of your car remains as clean as possible.

Step 5:

Repeat the above-mentioned steps on all areas with salt stains, until no more stains remain.


Though you may prefer one method over the other, it is not uncommon to have to repeat the process with a mix of both just so your carpet comes out as clean as possible. Have patience when you do the cleaning, as salt stains can be difficult to remove, though they do eventually wash out.

Remember, always scrub gently so you don’t worsen the situation; and have faith that with time and patience, your car floor mat or carpet can look as good as new!


Published: 04-Jan-2021

Author: Colin Watson
photo of Colin Watson

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