Salt. It's mandatory in a human diet. We must have it to survive. But salt can be as destructive as it is needful,l due to its ability to destroy and eat holes through metal and remove every last bit of moisture from leather.
DEAR MARY: I have several pair of beautiful winter fashion boots in suede and leather. I'd like to remove salt stains from last winter's misuse but don't want to take them to a cobbler. Any advice on how I can do this myself? -- Maha
DEAR MAHA: We should be thankful for sidewalk salt in the wintertime, because it's effective at helping us avoid injuries from slipping on icy surfaces. Of course, the downside is, these chunky salt particles get on our boots and shoes, causing damage and ugly stains.
Cleaning these stains from your leather and suede footwear regularly throughout the winter will help them last and looking good for many years to come.
LEATHER FOOTWEAR: Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup warm water into a small bowl and mix well. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture, then wring it out so it is not dripping. Dab the this wet cloth into the salt stains, wiping at them gently to remove the white residue. Following with a second cloth you've dipped into the clean water and wrung near dry, rubbing gently to rinse away the vinegar solution, then dry with a clean, soft rag. Repeat the process of dabbing with vinegar solution, rinsing with a wet rag and drying until all of the salt stains are gone.
If stubborn stains remain despite having followed the steps above, moisten a clean damp sponge with a good saddle soap like Fiebing's Yellow Saddle Soap. Rub it onto the spots in a circular motion. Following the instructions on the label, buff the leather with a dry rag to remove any residue that remains.
SUEDE FOOTWEAR: Brush the stained areas of the boots or shoes with a soft toothbrush to loosen any surface salt or other debris from the suede.
Mix 1 teaspoon blue Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent into 2 cups of warm water and stir. Dip a corner of a soft clean white rag into the soapy water and squeeze it gently to release excess water. Dab the stained areas of the suede gently. Don't rub or press hard on the suede. Leave the boot or shoe to air dry. If the salt stains remain after the boots dry, repeat the process. When the salt stains are finally gone, brush the dried area with a soft toothbrush or shoe brush until those boots look brand new.
AVOID FUTURE STAINS: Once your boots are back to their beautiful selves, treat them with a good water and stain protector like Meltonian Water & Stain Protector for Leather & Suede. Once treated your boots will repel future water and salt stains. You'll save the time of having to remove stains later and you'll save money too because your boots will last for more seasons to come.
Mary Hunt's weekly column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.