Can I remove salt stains from my leather shoes?

Damn! Ruined another pair. The most expensive shoes I’ve bought yet, and clearly the best looking (and surprisingly comfortable). Ruined, because I failed to look at a weather report and happen to work in an area where the sidewalks are not just salted, but salt encrusted like some fancy French dish.

In my experience, once salt gets on leather shoes, there is no removing it. No amount of rubbing, wiping, and polishing will fix it. It always shows through.

Does anyone here know of a good method where I can restore my shoes back to their original luster and get rid of the salt stains for good?

You can’t.

Sorry. The part that got marked is permanently darker.

If you feel they are already ruined you can take the nuclear option and soak the entire upper in water to even out the stain (remove the laces first). Wear them dry, and then apply loads and loads of saddlery conditioner such as Hydrophane, Lexol ph, or even Horseman’s One-step, repeating the conditioner daily for about a week or until the conditioner stops soaking in overnight. Don’t use neatsfoot oil; it’s acidic and will damage stitching.

The stains aren’t dark, they’re white. These are black shoes. Does that make a difference?

What do you mean to wear them dry? Does that mean put them on while their wet and keep them on while they dry? Is that so that they keep their shape?

A cobbler or dry cleaner could have salt stain remover. You press the bottle on the salt stains, wait for the cleaner to evaporate. Then if the stains are still there, you reapply it.

This will dry the affected surface even more. So use conditioner. Let the conditioner dry for a few hours and polish the shoes.

I got salt on my (burgundy) A&E, (black) Rockport and (black) Florhseim and you’d be hard pressed to tell me where the stains were.
When taking care of salt stains, I think time matters a lot so you may want to do this quickly.

Instead of trying to deal with this on my own, would it be a good idea to seek professional help? Would a shoe repair place be able to help me?

I was picturing brown shoes with a water/salt stain; but I don’t think it makes much difference if you already cleaned the surface with saddle soap and were unable to remove the discoloration. The salt traveled into the leather via the water and embedded itself.

Yes, the leather will contract as it dries; you want to be wearing them so they contract around your foot and still fit (the good news is, at the end they will be essentially custom fit).

Since they are black you also have the non nuclear option: Clean the surface well and polish the hell out of them. You’re just covering up the mark of course and it will not have the original lustrous sheen of quality leather. Use Meltonian/cream polish for a more matte finish; Kiwi/wax polish for a reflective finish.

On the leather contacting: If you use shoe trees of the right size (which you should, if they’re nice leather shoes), that shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

Yes, this is probably the best idea of all if you really like the shoes.

Years ago, in my early days in the Cdn navy, I had the same thing happen, and really badly. What I had to do was fill the shoes with water and let the water force the salt out over a few days. Once they dried I was able to remove the salt (probably with a damp cloth or something - this was a long time ago) and was able to polish them back to an acceptable level. The only leftover affect was the leather was very slightly raised where the salt was but it was not noticeable unless you looked for it.

Wow, filling them with water? For DAYS? That’s about the most counter-intuitive advice I’ve ever read. I’m really reluctant to do that.

Well, in Cdn, do as the Cdns do.

I tried the intuitive stuff first until I realized that the salt had to be forced out. What were supposed to be black leather shoes had significant coverage of white salt which was in the leather as well as on the surface, hence my methodology.

I believe you, but I’m still reluctant. It’s like sticking my head in a lion’s mouth even though everyone is telling me it doesn’t bite. :eek:

And if I do that they still have to be dry by Monday morning. I don’t have backups.

That is the reason I suggested something similar only if you already consider the shoes ruined and unwearable. There’s no loss then if it goes horribly awry.

OK, then tomorrow I’ll just take them to a repair place and see what they can do for me.

I have always just rubbed vaseline into the leather after wiping with a wet cloth.


White vinegar works wonders:

See here and here and here, for example.

I usually take a clean cloth, drench it in white vinegar and then wring it out and simply wipe my shoes. It’s never failed for me.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

i have also used white vinegar and water, though i’ve done it real wet until the salt has come off.

after desalted then saddle soap, after dry then oil (it will darken lighter shades) or other waterproofing…

Yo, cobbler checking in here.

Just a few points:

  1. Attend to salt stains as soon as possible.
  2. USE WHITE VINEGAR. Seriously. We use it in the shop all the time, have a gallon jug on standby. Apply vinegar to cloth, apply cloth to leather/suede. Gently wipe until salt is gone.
  3. Condition (if leather)
  4. Let dry thoroughly
    5a) polish leather
    5b) brush suede

Is it going to work 100% of the time? No, especially on suede. However, it does work remarkably well, remarkably often.

If color is still affected you can (for leather) use a colored cream polish. Massage it into the leather and allow to dry to a dull finish, then buff/polish.

For suede, the only solution would be to over dye the suede. For that you probably do want to consult a professional. It’s not that you can’t do it on your own, you can, but the results might vary considerably.