Spring Cleaning Tips to Get Rid of Winter Salt

Getting out of another harsh Canadian winter, it’s time to start thinking about Spring Cleaning. Of course, you need to clear road salt and sand from the undercarriage, but the interior of your ride also deserves attention. How did winter salt get into your floor mats, carpets, and seats in the first place?

Every year, according to Environment Canada, municipalities, highway maintenance crews, and homeowners spread some five million tonnes of road salt over sidewalks, driveways, parking garages, roads, and highways. Road salts, like sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), and potassium chloride (KCl), depress the freezing point of water below 0 °C, some as low as -18 °C, for safer travel.

When you step in road salts or meltwater from treated surfaces, your shoes transfer it to the car, where it soaks into the floor mats and carpets. As the water evaporates, it leaves telltale lines of crystalized salt. Fortunately, Spring Cleaning winter salt removal isn’t complicated – you just need water, vinegar, upholstery cleaner, clean towels, and a nice day to air out your car.

Step One – Water and Vinegar Dissolve Salt

Why aren’t we starting with the upholstery cleaner? The answer is simple, really, everyday science you probably don’t even realize you’re applying. You see, most cleaners and soaps are slightly alkaline and most stains are slightly acidic. This is perfect, because alkalines neutralize acids.

The problem with road salt is that it is alkaline, so an alkaline cleaner will just push it around. To remove an alkaline road salt stains, you’ll need a neutral or acidic cleaner. Clear water is neutral, a good starting point, but the addition of an acid would be great for road salt stains. You can make your own road salt cleaning solution with water and white vinegar. In a bucket or spray bottle, mix 16 parts water to 1 part white vinegar – concentrations as high as 1:1 are more effective but smell stronger.

Spray or dab the salt stains with the vinegar solution generously, letting it dissolve about 10 minutes. Use a stiff brush to gently work the solution into the salt stains. Add more vinegar solution as needed to keep it from drying out. Then, press dry towels into the wet areas to absorb it. Stubborn salt stains might require additional water-vinegar solution to dissolve them.

Step Two – Upholstery Cleaner Removes Vinegar

Because most people don’t care for the vinegar smell and your car carpet likely has other dirt on it, Spring cleaning to remove road salt might as well include a thorough cleaning. An automotive upholstery cleaner can be used to remove all kinds of stains and odors, including the vinegar. Most upholstery cleaners are spray-on types, and you can use a stiff brush to work it into heavier stains. Always but be sure to follow the instructions on your cleaner. Steam cleaners are also effective.

Then, use towels or a wet-dry vacuum to remove the cleaner and any leftover dirt and sand. Most importantly, though, allow sufficient drying time, which can be a challenge in our ever-changing weather. If possible, leave the doors open for a few hours on a breezy day or in a garage with fans to speed up evaporation.

Check out all the seasonal maintenance services available at any of our 600 NAPA AUTOPRO locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on Spring cleaning and other seasonal maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTOPRO Service Centre.