How to Clean Salt Off Car in Winter/Snow? (Detailed Guide)

how to clean salt off car in winter

Your car is one precious asset you want in the best shape for many years. Its lifespan depends much on your use, care, and proper maintenance. But no matter how often you clean your car, especially in winter, using it regularly exposes it to stubborn dirt, grime, and road salt.

Road or winter salt poses a special threat to your car by enhancing rust to develop quickly. Sodium chloride, a common ingredient, causes this.

Knowing how to clean salt off car in winter will make it perform better, and look even more amazing than before!

Steps to Wash Salt Off Your Car’s Interior and Exterior

It’s a bad idea to put off cleaning your car after the winter. As your car is exposed to the harmful elements, you should be prepared to clean it with necessary tools and cleaning agents:

  • Car pressure washer
  • Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner
  • Microfiber cotton cloth
  • White Vinegar
  • Fabric Cleaner (Optional)
  • Stiff bristle brush
  • Empty Spray Bottle
  • Clean water
  • Cotton buds
  • Mild Detergent

Remove Salt From Car Interior

Interior materials absorbing salt could also damage metal components. Do not leave salt on your car for long.

When you want to clean your car in winter, do it immediately after salt marks appear. As much as possible, do not let salt marks calcify or harden.

On upholstery, carpet and mat


  1. On a stained car carpet or mat, use first a stiff bristle brush to remove salt marks. Use a vacuum cleaner to get sap off car mats.
  2. To neutralize road salt on your car’s interior, mix half hot water and half vinegar in a spray bottle to create a homemade salt neutralizer solution.
  3. Spray this warm solution to areas where road salt has deposited or calcified. Let it stay for about 2 minutes. 
  4. Use a clean, moist microfiber cotton cloth to wipe away the road salt deposit or mark on the car seats or upholstery.
  5. Repeat wiping until the mark is removed or greatly reduced. Brush the stained area repeatedly if wiping is not enough.
  6. If stains remain, apply fabric cleaner to spruce up the seats and upholstery.
  7. Get the smelly air out by opening the windows.

On the steering wheel, dashboard and console


  1. Use the same vinegar mixture with a dash of dishwashing soap when cleaning the plastic and vinyl components.
  2. Gently spray the mixture on the exposed parts, or moisten the microfiber cloth first as you wipe the affected area.
  3. Repeat the step until the salt deposits are removed.
  4. Remove any moisture left with a dry cloth. Use cotton buds to get into tight areas and corners. Again, let the car rest to dry with the windows open.

Remove Salt Stains From Car Exterior


Washing – Pressure spray washing with water remains the best way to clean snow off your car without scratching.

  1. Park your car in a clean open space. 
  2. Using a pressure washer, rid your car’s exterior of brine deposits through regular bursts of water with mild detergent.
  3. With a damp microfiber cloth, wipe away the remaining salt deposit stains. Do this gently to avoid scratching your car’s paint.
  4. Repeat wiping until the surface is without any salt stain and shows glow. For the undercarriage, spray it profusely as well.

To wash the salt off your car’s exterior without a hose, like windows, headlights, and taillights, always use a damp microfiber cloth to avoid scratching.

Other Ways to Prevent Salt Stains and Maintain Salt-free Car Exterior


After washing, your car’s exterior will always be exposed to external elements, no matter how you avoid them.

  1. Make sure your car’s clean and dry. After using commercially available road salt remover for cars, apply wax, let dry, then buff.
  2. The wax coating offers an additional protection layer to keep salt off your car exterior.

Cover your car


It might sound impractical, but when not using your car, one best practice to get salt off car is by covering it.

By not allowing or minimizing your car’s exposure when you’re not on the road, this step is more prevention than a solution.

Any cover such as polypropylene, plastic, or woven polyester could give your car that second skin against external elements such as rain.

Frequently Asked Questions


How does road salt damage a vehicle?

The sodium and calcium chloride in road salt contains ions that when mixed with water (H2O), they form a very corrosive combination that’s bad for metal.

Since the car’s body is usually painted metal, the oxidation process breaks down this cover resulting in rust developing and eventually eating up your car.

Salt on car paint damages your car’s wax detail cover and its protective paint covering.

What can you do to avoid road salt from building up?

Get salt off car by regularly cleaning it. Every time you expose your car to road salt, spray it with water to eliminate possible build-up.

Your undercarriage is critical. Prevent rust from developing in your car’s undercarriage by cleaning it up, especially the parts where salt deposits sit and accrue.

How often should you wash your car in the winter?

How often to wash car in winter due to salt will be every two weeks or so.

For total precaution, you should wash your car as often as you expose it to road salt. The exterior especially needs you to regularly remove brine from car.

How much does salt removal cost?

To wash salt off your car by yourself, you only have to buy the supplies you need for car washing. It could cost you less than $10 for sure.

For a premium car wash service, prepare between $13-$18. Inflationary costs these days could cost more dollars from your pocket.

What car washing option is better, handwashing or automated?

If you have spare time, hand car washing is better than automated. Manual washing gets into the deeper crevices of cars where deposits stay or sneak in.

Additionally, you (if you do it yourself) can control the wiping, brushing, and bristling on your car’s surfaces, ensuring its utmost care.


Road salt effect on your car in winter is unavoidable. Now you know how to clean salt off car in winter due to frequent exposure. With proper care and maintenance, several ways are available to care for your car’s interior and exterior before and after use.

Do-it-yourself techniques allow you to use your own equipment, tools, and materials and perform the cleaning you want best for your car.

For automated service to clean car in winter, spending takes some dollars off your pocket but keeps you from sweating at all.

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