How To Remove Salt Stains From Floors

Of all the inconveniences winter weather brings–icy roads, power outages and high utility bills just to name a few—damage to household flooring isn’t typically a top concern. But maybe it should be. Salt, and the chemicals from some ice-melt products, can cause lasting damage to all types of flooring such as hardwoods, carpet and even concrete.

Rock salt and other melting products are commonly used on sidewalks, porches and streets to prevent ice buildup and make walking or driving safer. Even if you don’t use it on your own property, it’s almost impossible to avoid tracking the residue from these products onto the floors of your home or office.

The Harsh Reality of Floor Damage

Imagine sprinkling a combination of calcium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, magnesium chloride and urea—yes, the protein from animal urine—onto your floor. Of course, you never would! But those are the chemicals found in most ice melt products. They can break down the protective finish on wood or laminate floors and cause discoloration or breakage in carpet fibers. And if you think using pure salt is safer for your flooring, think again. Salt’s high pH level works like a chemical stripper to melt away the finish on wood products and leech the color from rugs and carpets.

Salt can even damage concrete floors, causing the molecular structure of the concrete to weaken, allowing water and other chemicals to seep into the concrete. This process may cause chipping or flaking on the surface of the floor and lead to deterioration. And if salt residue can harm concrete, just think of what it can do to pets or babies crawling on the floor.

De-icing salt may leave behind a white residue, but even if you don’t see salt stains they are probably there, slowly eating away at your floors. That’s why it’s important to take precautions and properly clean flooring during the winter months.

Prevention Is The Best Defense

It’s impossible to completely prevent salt residue from coming into your home if you live in a region where it’s commonly used. But reducing the amount of de-icing chemicals that get tracked inside also reduces the amount of cleaning needed and the chances of damage. Follow these tips to protect your flooring this winter:

  • Remove snow from steps, sidewalks and driveways as soon as possible to prevent ice buildup
  • Use kitty litter instead of salt or chemical ice melt products on your porch and walkways. Kitty litter will not melt ice, but provides a safer surface for walking
  • Place at least one mat outside the door and one inside for wiping shoes. The more times shoes are wiped on a mat the less likely they are to bring chemical residue inside
  • Remove shoes indoors
  • Don’t forget to remove wet socks. Keep a set of house slippers or warm socks next to the door for each family member as a reminder to take off wet ones as soon as they come home
  • Place a boot tray at each entrance to store wet shoes safely

Tips For Removing Salt and Ice Melt Stains

As mentioned earlier, even if you don’t see stains, salt residue is building up on your floor all winter. Make special “de-salt” cleaning a regular part of your household routine during the winter to minimize the chances of damage. Working quickly is the key to successful cleanup for all flooring types. Don’t wait if you see a puddle or signs of residue. The sooner it gets taken care of the less likely it will leave a stain. It’s a good idea to keep towels or rags near the door to mop up messes as soon as they happen.

Cleaning Wood and other Hard-Surface Floors

  • Wipe up slush or water immediately with a dry cloth
  • Sweep or vacuum the area to remove any granules that might scratch the surface while cleaning
  • If a white film appears on the floor, wipe with a soft cloth that’s been dampened slightly with clean water
  • For stubborn stains, mix one-third cup of white vinegar in a gallon of warm water. Lightly dampen a cloth with the mixture and wipe the stain in a circular motion. Buff the area dry immediately. As with all floor cleaners, doing a spot test is recommended first. You may also mop the entire floor with this mixture and buff dry with a towel
  • Fill a spray bottle with the vinegar/water mixture for easy spot cleaning
  • Micro-fiber cloths and mop heads are often recommended for wood or laminate flooring because they are soft and are less likely to scratch the finish

Cleaning Carpets

  • Blot wet spots with a rag, getting up as much of the liquid as you can. Make sure carpets are completely dry before continuing
  • Vacuum at least once every day. Work the vacuum over the carpet in a variety of directions to remove as much debris as possible
  • Use a soft brush to loosen salt or other debris from carpet strands and vacuum the area a second time
  • Mix one-third cup of white vinegar with one-gallon warm water. Dip a sponge in the solution and wring it out, apply the solution to stains as needed. Do not soak the carpet, only dampen it. Do not scrub the carpet, scrubbing can damage delicate fibers. Dab the solution into the stain and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Remember, always try a spot test before cleaning
  • Blot the area dry with a clean sponge or cloth
  • Blot the area again with a clean sponge and plain water to remove any residue of vinegar
  • Continue blotting with dry cloths until the area feels dry to the touch

When to Call A Floor Cleaning Professional

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, winter can take its toll on your flooring. If stains or scratches remain even after careful cleaning, it may be time to bring in the professionals. Deciding to live with damaged floors is not only unnecessary, it’s a costly mistake. Once the finish of a floor has been compromised, it becomes more vulnerable to scratches and other types of staining. Left unchecked, minor flaws can lead to a floor that needs replacing or complete refinishing before its time.

Professional cleaners can not only make your flooring look better, but can extend the life of your woods or carpets. Consider making an appointment with Maid Sailors at the end of every winter to thoroughly remove salt and ice melt residue and refresh your flooring for the coming spring.

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