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Salt Removal Techniques to Keep Your Car Clean

Winter driving

Salt removal can be a frustrating part of keeping your car clean during the winter months. Road salt is a pervasive and corrosive substance that will eat away at your car’s finish, interior and carpeting, leaving deposits that calcify over time and can become difficult-to-deal-with.

How do you get rid of road salt before it becomes a problem? How can you deal with it once it’s seemingly stuck there for good?

Spray, Spray, Spray

While it might seem like an unusual idea to wash your car in the winter, regularly spraying down your car at the local wash is a great salt removal technique that will keep the calcium chloride from building up on your paint. That white sheen that you see on the surface of your car’s body panels and glass during the winter months is actually road salt, and mixed with water from melting snow (or puddles during a warm spell) it can degrade your paint and plastic over time. Removing it on a regular basis is a great way to mitigate the damage it can do.

Homemade Solution
Salt truck

As mentioned above, road salt is calcium chloride, which means you can take advantage of basic chemistry to speed up salt removal from your vehicle’s interior. Mixing 50 percent hot water and 50 percent vinegar in a spray bottle, and then spraying that onto your floor mats and carpets is a good way to break down the bonds that road salt has on fabric, allowing you to more easily scrub it out with a brush. Using a vacuum to suck up the remaining salt particles will help maximize the cleaning power of this technique.

Enzyme Cleaner

Vinegar’s secret weapon against road salt is acetic acid, but there are other chemicals out there that you can purchase off the shelf to get the job done if you don’t feel like mixing up a batch yourself. Foaming cleansers and enzyme cleaners that can help with salt removal without leaving behind that same strong vinegar smell. As always when cleaning a car’s interior in the winter, remember to leave your windows down to let the cabin air out the moisture you’ve introduced during the cleaning process so that it doesn’t fog up your windows when you are driving.

Road salt is a grim reality associated with winter driving. Use these salt removal tips to help keep your car clean all winter long.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on salt removal techniques, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.


Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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