RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Treating our roads and sidewalks with salt and deicers helps us trudge through the winter weather. But those snow- and ice-busters can take a toll on your shoes, clothing, and floors. Cleaning up the salt needn't involve cleaning products or dry-cleaning services that are full of potentially toxic chemicals. With a moist rag, a dry brush, and a dab of distilled white vinegar, you can easily removed dried-on salt before it does serious damage. Here's how.
Floors: Salt crystals can act like sandpaper underfoot, dulling a floor's surface or damaging a finish. And once the surface is damaged, the underlying materials can be damaged or stained by water and other foreign matter that soaks in. First line of defense: Immediately remove water droplets that may contain salt. For that, I keep a Swiffer-type mop handy, outfitted with rectangles of old terry-cloth towel, which I can launder and reuse. To pick up salt that's dried onto floors without scratching the finish, you'll first need to spray the floor with warm water, or water mixed with a splash of vinegar. Let the liquid sit for a minute or two, and wipe it up with a dry towel on your trusty mop.
Cars: Dried road salt and deicer stains look nasty, and can actually damage your car. Wipe off spots and thin coatings with a soft cloth dipped in water or a solution of half water¬ and half vinegar. In the event that your car is too dirty to spot-clean, take it to a car wash rather than wash the car in your driveway. Car washes send oily, polluted water off to the treatment plant, rather than letting it run off into storm drains and into streams.
Read on to clean salt from clothing, including leather and suede.