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The Taft Blog

How to get rid of salt stains from leather shoes

One of the most common shoe care questions we get this time of year is, “how do I get these white stains out of my leather shoes?” We have a couple useful suggestions on how to get your shoes back in ship shape, but first it’s important to understand why salt stains happen in the first place.

Most people think salt stains are a result of just walking on salted roads in the winter time, but there’s more to it than that. Salt is used in the tanning process of most leathers, so when the shoe gets soaked, any internal salt rises to the top of the leather and can cause the leather to bubble and create salt stains. It’s important to understand this because it’s not just about removing the stain, but also about conditioning the leather and trying to avoid extremely wet conditions. All that being said, here’s our quick-list for getting a handle on salt stains. 

  1. Mix two parts water with one part vinegar and use it to dampen a clean cloth. Gently rub the stains with the cloth until lifted. You may need to repeat the process multiple times but in most cases, this will be enough to remove the stains. For persistent stains, a designated Salt Stain remover may be necessary. If all else fails, try taking your shoes to a local cobbler - they’ll likely have access to a wider variety of materials.
  2. Once the stains are removed, it’s crucial to condition and polish the shoes. Salt sucks the moisture out of leather, so making sure they get the treatment they need is important. Using a conditioning oil, leather lotion, or conditioning cream will ensure your shoes keep looking their best. Follow it up with the polish of your choice and you’ll be set.  

A couple tips:

Try not to let the salt stains really set in - the sooner you can remove them, the better. If you have been out in rainy or snowy conditions, try wiping down the boots with a damp cloth once you arrive at home. If you want to really hit a homerun, use shoe trees as well...moisture can cause the shape of leather to warp. Shoe trees will make sure the structure and shape of your shoe is unaffected. 

Whenever possible, avoid wearing your leather shoes in extremely wet conditions. Our shoes can stand up to the elements, but they are not winter boots. Any leather-soled shoe will be vulnerable when wet. If you’re going to be in a downpour, spare your leather shoes and opt for a pair of rain boots. Rubber soles are best in wet conditions. 

Leather soles are porous and will absorb water. When they are wet, the leather becomes softer and more prone to being damaged. If you are stuck out in the rain in leather-soled shoes, try to be as gentle as possible. It is very easy to damage your soles when they are wet and soft.