dirty boots

How to Remove Salt Stains from Leather and Suede

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

Stain and Salt

Dear Mary: I have several pairs of beautiful winter fashion boots in suede and 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’s effective in helping us avoid injuries from slipping on icy surfaces. Of course, the downside is, as you know, these chunky salt particles get on boots and shoes causing damage and ugly stains.

Cleaning these stains from your leather and suede footwear regularly throughout the winter will help them last and looking good for many years to come.


  1. Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup warm water into a small bowl and mix well. Dip a clean, soft, white cloth into the mixture, then wring it out so it is not dripping.
  2. Dab this wet cloth into the salt stains, wiping at them gently to remove the white residue.
  3. Follow with a second cloth you’ve dipped into the clean water and wrung near dry, rubbing gently to rinse away the vinegar solution, then dry with a clean, soft rag.
  4. Repeat the process of dabbing with the vinegar solution, rinsing with a wet rag and drying until all of the salt stains are gone.

If stubborn stains remain despite having followed the steps above, moisten a clean damp sponge with a good saddle soap like 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 residue that remains.


  1. Brush the stained areas of the boots or shoes with a soft toothbrush to loosen any surface salt or other debris from the suede.
  2. Mix 1 teaspoon blue Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent into 2 cups of warm water and stir. Dip a corner of a soft clean white rag into the soapy water and squeeze it gently to release excess water.
  3. Dab the stained areas of the suede gently. Don’t rub or press hard on the suede. Leave the boot or shoe to air dry.
  4. If the salt stains remain after the boots dry, repeat the process.

When the salt stains are finally gone, brush the dried area with a soft toothbrush or shoe brush until those boots look brand new.

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RELATED: The Heartbreak of Ink Stains on Leather and How to Remove

Avoid future stains

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

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

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

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3 replies
  1. Lynn says:

    Hi Mary – I just found your site, and am intrigued by your many stain solutions. For the suite boots and blue Dawn, you don’t mention rinsing the soap out. Should I be concerned about what the residual detergent will do to the suede? Thank you for responding.

  2. Cally says:

    I recently read a “WD-40” article which said that it would remove salt stains from leather and suede…. have you ever tested that? It kind of scares me!


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