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How To Remove Salt Stains From Cowboy Boots? A Thoroughly Practical Guide

How To Remove Salt Stains From Cowboy Boots? A Thoroughly Practical Guide

Salt stains are among the most stubborn stains that form on the surface of cowboy boots (whether suede or sleek leather).

The reason is that they are a combination of chemical compounds instead of just water or mud, like water stains or mud stains.

Some salt stains even cause colored marks on the surface and stitches of the cowboy boot upper, requiring some elaborate procedures to make these disappear completely.

The worst part may end up leaving you with only 2 options. One is to wear those stained boots or toss them in the trash, and the other is to open your wallet while taking the boots to the cobblers to handle them for you.

For that reason, when your cowboy boots have got some little salt stains, do something right away before it’s too late.

Besides, if you get a pair of supple cowboy boots with distressed leather, the chances of getting salt stains are much greater as these materials are finished with poor water resistance.

Meanwhile, cowboy boots with a heavy glossy finish will often be more resistant to salt stains thanks to the chemical coating on top.

However, that is only an initial perspective. There are several causes of salt stains that you need to understand to avoid.

Let’s just dive in and figure them out!

Why do salt stains happen?

Why do salt stains happen on cowboy boot

Most of us think that salt stains are formed by walking on salt sidewalks in the winter. You are right, and this is also the cause of these kinds of stains on the surface of cowboy boots from the outside.

If you live in an area with heavy winter snow like New York, you may have seen many large trucks strewn with salt all over the roads, especially before any snowstorm hits the town. This kind of salt contains sodium chloride and magnesium chloride to help melt snow faster.

This way, as soon as the snow falls and hits the salt, it melts instead of accumulating, reducing the risk of traffic obstructions and slips. When the snow melts, they will take with them some of the chemicals from the salt and then accumulate in puddles on the road.

If you accidentally soak your cowboy boots in those puddles, they may have salt stains all over the vamps, toes, and heels.

Another unexpected reason for salt stains is the inside of the leather material of cowboy boots. If you don’t know, an intensive amount of salt is used in the tanning process of an animal’s skin.

Therefore, these salts will still remain inside the structure of the leather. When you soak the boots in water long enough to saturate this layer of salt, the scum will rise to the surface of the material, forming visible salt stains.

How to remove salt stains from cowboy boots?

The most expected part of this article is coming right now. Here you can find the most complete ways to remove tough and unsightly stain salts from cowboy boots.

For leather cowboy boots

Sleek leather cowboy boots are most often used in the winter because they are warm and look great. Here is an effective way to remove salt stains from leather cowboy boots.

1. Warm water right away

The best way to eliminate the risk of salt forming a stain on cowboy boots is to treat them immediately after they have been exposed to salt.

You can use warm water to gradually dilute the concentration of the salt solution that touches the surface of cowboy boots, thereby reducing the formation of salt stains on the leather surface.

You need to use a soft cloth moistened with warm water and wipe the entire surface of the cowboy boots as soon as possible after the leather comes into direct contact with salt. You may need to reapply several times until the stain is completely removed.

After that, you will need to dry the cowboy boots immediately so as not to damage the leather structure. I highly recommend using a boot dryer or boot tree.

Keep in mind to moisturize your boots after they dry up completely, as salts will dehydrate the leather, causing more wrinkles and bad looks.


  • Eliminates the risk of forming salt stains
  • Cheap and easy to use
  • No special technical requirements


  • Can only be used on very new and little salt stains.

2. A mix of water and natural light acid liquid

Abrade the gloss coating on cowboy boots with alcohol

Some salt for sidewalks is white or colored. As a result, they can leave colorful stains on the leather.

If you are experiencing multicolored, newly formed salt stains that appear dark or light in many places all over the leather cowboy boot upper, you need a stronger solution than warm water.

You can mix a solution of water and some natural, mild acid like apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Remember that the ratio of water to an acidic solution is always 2:1.

This mixture not only helps to clean colored salt stains effectively, but it also helps clean other stains such as water stains or mud stains. 

You need to clean cowboy boots from dirt first, and then rub the areas where salt stains appear with a soft cloth soaked in the mixture above.

You can reapply several times until the stains are completely clean.

Finally, you must thoroughly dry and moisturize your cowboy boots in order to restore their original appearance.


  • Removes new, colored salt stains effectively
  • Does not damage the material structure
  • Helps to clean other stains
  • Cheap and easy to conduct


  • Not effective on aged salt stains.

3. Salt stains remover

A professional and highly effective way to remove any salt stains is to use salt stain removers.

They are specialized products for handling stubborn stains on leather surfaces, even if they remain for weeks. However, you may not get the results you expect right from the first time you apply the product.

You will probably have to clean multiple times until the salt stains are completely gone. These product lines can also fade away the glossy finish of cowboy boots, replacing them with a matte leather surface.

You may also notice that the leather is drier immediately after using the remover. I know it doesn’t sound very elegant and brilliant. But you can deal with this situation by polishing the entire surface of the cowboy boots right after.


  • Work well for long-time salt stains
  • Easy to apply
  • A great effect of erasing stains


  • Multiple times of applications to get the expected result
  • Potentially damage the leather construction if without care afterward.

4. Leather cleaner

A basic way to deal with salt stains is to use a leather cleaner. After all, salt stains are among the most common stains that leather cleaners can completely remove.

Leather Care Kit includes Leather Cleaner and Conditioner with Cloth from Tecovas

Leather Cleaner and Conditioner | Image copyright Tecovas Boot Company | #CommissionEarned | Click image for more info

In addition, this kind of professional product is also safer and more friendly to the material and does not cause potential damage to the leather structure like other stain-bleaching agents.

If you need to remove old, heavy salt stains, you will need to briefly refresh and soften the leather with warm water or a water + lemon juice solution.

You can then treat salt stains by rubbing leather cleaner directly onto the surface of your cowboy boots with a thin cloth. Not only will it help remove salt stains, but leather cleaner will also help clean some other stains like water stains, oil stains, and mud stains.


  • Easy to use and easy to buy
  • Does not harm the leather structure
  • Effectively remove heavy stains


  • If the stain remains for too long, you need to do a deep cleaning treatment for the leather before using the leather cleaner.

5. Household items are also good

Aside from lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, there are a few household items that, when used correctly, are also effective in removing salt stains.

  • Soap with water:

Soap is well-known for being a household cleaning agent. They are quite gentle (you can feel this because they do not harm the skin of your hands) but are still good at removing stains.

Besides, a mixture of 1:4 soap and water acts as a more effective cleanser than lemon juice or apple cider. They not only remove colored salt stains, but they are also effective at cleaning light ink stains or other chemical stains.

soapy water

Use a toothbrush to scrub the stains for a cleaning effect. However, keep in mind that soap solutions can leave some unexpected watermarks.

Therefore, you should not soak your leather cowboy boots in water after applying soap but rather wipe the wet towel little by little over the soap liquid areas on the boots until the bubbles no longer rise.

Drying cowboy boots with a boot dryer immediately reduces the likelihood of watermarks forming later.

  • Baking soda:

A baking soda ingredient in cooking, like baking soda, works great for removing heavy stains.

baking soda

You just need to clean the dirt on the surface of cowboy boots, sprinkle baking soda on the salt stains and leave it for about 4 hours. Then, pat with a damp cloth. Some mild salt stains may disappear completely.


  • Both are easy to find and apply
  • Works well to remove salt stains


  • Baking soda may not be really effective for heavy salt stains.
  • Soap liquid may potentially dehydrate the leather.

6. Ways to hide the stains

If salt stains are way too heavy to remove, it’s better to find elegant ways to hide the marks. There are two most common ways that you can take advantage of:

  • Polish your cowboy boots with colorful wax:

This is recommended if your boots are dark in color and the salt stains you’ve encountered are similarly dark. Colored polish has the ability to effectively hide stains by even discoloring the entire surface of the leather upper

man is polishing a cowboy boot .

The glossy finish will eventually make everything beautiful and new as if nothing happened. However, you will likely have to clean salt stains with a mild detergent solution of water and lemon juice, apple cider, or baking soda before polishing the boots.

The disadvantage of this method is that you cannot conceal salt stains that are the opposite color of your cowboy boots. For example, white stains on black cowboy boots.

  • Dye cowboy boots black:

Dyeing the boots to black is the only way for you to save a pair of cowboy boots with layers of salt stains.

This is also a way to treat light stains on dark leather (or vice versa). But the weakness is that they are quite complicated, expensive and after many times of self-experiment, I recommend you to meet a cobbler to save time, effort and money (I am telling the truth).

It doesn’t really work well like everything you have seen on Youtube so far as we all have no experience in this field like experts. Dyeing the cowboy boots black can conceal every flaw, dirt and stain.


  • Covers salt stains effectively to an invisible extent
  • Contributes to the maintenance of the leather structure
  • Polish the boots can be easy to get things done


  • Dyeing cowboy boots is quite laborious and requires skill
  • Colorful polish cannot hide opposite-colored salt stains on leather cowboy boots.

For suede cowboy boots

Salt stains can stay on suede cowboy boots longer than leather due to their fuzzy finish. However, they can be very easily removed.

1. Use the suede brush in the first place

Suede brush

If salt stains have only recently formed on your suede cowboy boots, simply use a suede brush to remove these stains. Interestingly, when stains adhere to the suede and dry, they can be completely removed simply by brushing the surface.

However, if your boots are submerged in salted water, you should wait for them to dry completely and then use a suede brush.


  • Simple and easy to get things done
  • Works well with light salt stains on suede


  • It may not work for colored salt stains.

2. A mixture of light soap and water

This is the recommended method for suede cowboy boots with colored salt stains. Patchy stains are not easily removed with a brush alone. You may need some mild detergent to clean up stains.

You can mix a mixture of water and light soap in a ratio of 3:1. Use an old toothbrush and rub the salt stains with the mixture above.

soap and toothbrush

You should not apply too much solution on the suede surface because these napped layers adapt pretty well to soap, so they will be cleaned quickly. Use a boot dryer to dry cowboy boots safely.

After that, you will probably find that the suede area being cleaned will fade a bit. Don’t worry, use the brush to gently scrub these areas and they will return to their original appearance.


  • Removes colored salt stains
  • Available and easy to implement


  • It takes a long time to complete the whole process

3. Suede eraser

Some of my friends are loyal fans of suede erasers. They love the convenience, speed, and efficiency of this product. Personally, after experimenting, I find that they can have some effective cleaning effects, but not really thoroughly.

A man is holding suede eraser and suede brush

For example, suede erasers are mostly unable to completely remove dark salt stains from white or beige suede cowboy boots. They can only fade the stains away. Therefore, this method is better suited to stains of the same color (or close to the color) as the boots.

After using suede erasers on the salt stains, you need to brush these areas carefully to make sure the surface is even.


  • Can remove mild salt stains
  • Easy application
  • No side effects


  • Not suitable for heavy-colored salt stains on suede.

4. Suede shampoo

The suede shampoo is an amazing product to remove salt stains. They also work well with other heavy stains on suede surfaces.

condition suede cowboy boots with suede brush, conditioner and cloth

If a mixture of soap and water causes you to wipe it off several times with water, suede shampoo definitely works better and does not require a water wipe afterward.

All you need to do is mix a small amount of suede shampoo into the water. Take a small amount of the solution on a small brush and rub it over the suede surface that contains salt stains.

Then, you take a dry towel to absorb the surface of the boots and let them dry naturally within 24 hours. The next day, they will return to a completely clean appearance, like new.


  • High cleaning efficiency
  • Easy to get things done
  • No need for a boot dryer to dry the boots out
  • Helps to remove dirt
  • Do not damage the suede construction
How to Clean Suede & Nubuck Using Suede Shampoo | Removing Wine Stain

Clean the stitches

In particular, white and colored salt stains can stain the stitches of cowboy boots in a patchy manner. This is when you need a solution to deal with this problem.

Use colored or white pens

Personally, I don’t really appreciate cleaning cowboy boots’ stitches with soap and water, although the method does work.

The stitches for stitching cowboy boots aren’t too thin, but they’re also not really durable enough to never wear out.

If you wash the stitches too much with soap, they will corrode and probably end up broken afterward.

You should cover the colored stains on the stitches with colored pens or white pens (if the stitches are white). However, now we have the problem of how to color the stitches without smearing the surrounding areas.

color pens

You need to skillfully line up the right square corners of a piece of paper between the stitches, then draw a pen over the stitches. This will ensure the stitches are dyed back to their new color without the need for re-stitches.


  • Perfectly conceals dirty stitches
  • Dye back color stitches
  • Doesn’t cost too much

Final thoughts

Salt stains can be formed either from the outside or from the inside surface of cowboy boots, as explained above. However, the most important factor in making this happen is soaking the boots in water.

Therefore, the best way to never have to find a way to remove salt stains from cowboy boots is to keep your boots safe from contact with water. Waterproof sprays and nylon boot covers are excellent methods to work things out.

In case you still get the ugly salt stains, we’ve got what you need to get the boots back to their original look.