How to Remove Salt Stains on Leather Boots

How to Remove Salt Stains on Leather Boots
Mary Hunt outlines how to clean salt stains from leather and suede footwear. (Serhii Ivashchuk/Shutterstock)

Salt. It’s mandatory in a human diet. But in other situations, salt can be as destructive as it is necessary because of its ability to eat holes through metal and leave ugly stains on footwear.

Salt stains on leather are a problem, but one not without an easy, effective solution.

Dear Mary: I have several pairs of beautiful winter fashion boots in leather. I'd like to remove salt stains that have built up, but don’t want to take them to a cobbler. Any advice on how I can do this myself?—Maha
Dear Maha: We should be thankful for sidewalk salt in the wintertime because it is effective in helping us avoid injuries from slipping on icy surfaces. And you know there is an annoying downside! Those chunky salt particles melt and get on boots and shoes, causing damage and ugly stains.

Regular cleaning of these stains from leather and suede footwear will definitely help to keep boots and shoes looking good for many years to come. Good news! It’s not difficult when you follow these simple steps.

You'll need: a stiff brush, clean cloths, water, white vinegar, and olive oil.
  1. Remove dirt, dust, and debris from the surface of the leather with a good brush. Pay special attention to the area around the seams. This is where dirt, dust, and dry salt tend to accumulate.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup warm water into a small bowl. Dip a clean, soft, white cloth into the mixture, and then wring it out so it is not dripping.
  3. Dab this wet cloth into the salt stains, wiping them gently to remove the white residue.
  4. Follow with a second cloth you’ve dipped into the clean water and wrung nearly dry, rubbing gently to rinse away the vinegar solution, and then dry with a clean, soft rag.
  5. Repeat the process of dabbing with the vinegar solution, rinsing with a wet rag and drying until all salt stains are gone.
  6. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a small bowl. Take a small lint-free cloth and dip it into the olive oil. Using a circular motion, rub the leather boots. Leave the olive oil on the leather for five minutes. Use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe off any excess olive oil and buff the leather to a lovely, subtle shine!
If stubborn stains remain despite following the steps above, moisten a clean sponge with a good saddle soap such as Fiebing’s Yellow Saddle Soap. Rub it onto the spots in a circular motion. Following the instructions on the label, buff the leather with a dry rag to remove any remaining residue.

Once your boots are back to their beautiful selves, treat them with a good water and stain protector such as Apple Brand Garde Rain and Stain Water Repellent.

Once treated, your leather and suede boots and shoes will repel future water and salt stains. You'll save the time required to remove stains later, and save money, too, because your footwear will last and look beautiful for many more seasons to come!

Good luck with those boots, Maha. We'd love to know how this works out for you!

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” COPYRIGHT 2022 CREATORS.COM
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