Cleaning Road Salt Off Your Car In 5 Easy Steps: Full Guide

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Let’s face it, winter can be exhausting. Between snowstorms, having to wear extra layers, and scrunching your face like a wrestler every time the wind picks up, most of us want to spend as little time outside as possible.

We’d rather not have to deal with red-knuckles and a garden hose that sprays water the same temperature as the White Witch from Narnia. Yet one look at the wavy white lines of salt on wheel wells, car bodies, and even floor mats is enough to know the obvious: we have salt on our cars.

Cleaning road salt off your car is easy with these 5 steps. Click To Tweet

But who cares? We eat salt, right? If our stomachs can handle it, why not our vehicles, too? Sadly, your car isn’t as tough as your tummy. All that steel, aluminum, rubber, plastic and vinyl starts to quiver like the Cowardly Lion in front of the Wizard of Oz. Salt is the great destroyer of cars.

Fortunately, salt is as easily dismissed as a telemarketer. A little water, some wax, and maybe some all-weather mats are enough to keep the Wizard at bay. And if you’ll recall from the movie, the Cowardly Lion looked pretty good after he got his bath, too.

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Step One: Wax Up

If you knew you were going to get stabbed by a troll, wouldn’t you wear your mithril body armor? Exactly. Wax works exactly the same way on your car’s body. Rather than let the salt do permanent damage to your car, apply a coat of wax before the really nasty part of winter.

Here in North Carolina, that would be right after Christmas. Your car will be shielded from the corrosive effects of salt, and you won’t have to worry about washing your car as frequently.

Imagine what this salt is doing to the paint underneath

Imagine what this salt is doing to the paint underneath

Step Two: Find an Undercarriage Cleaner

The car section that is most susceptible to the corrosion and rust of winter is the one section you can’t clean for yourself: the underside. You definitely want to wash your vehicle about every 10 days during winter (details below on how) to get the salt off.

The most vulnerable part of your car is the hardest to clean: the underside. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, the highest concentration of salt will be the 1,001 nooks and crannies on the underside of your car. Unless you’re six inches tall, it’s going to be hard to clean all of those. Find a cleaner that can do this, or find an angled shower head for your garden hose.

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Step Three: Wash Regularly

Your city and county will be laying salt and sand on roadways all winter. That salt could linger on the roads for weeks after placement. For as long as winter lasts in your area, you should get used to the idea of washing your car every 10 days. Here’s how:

  • Begin with a rinse of non-recycled, fresh water using a well-pressured nozzle.
  • End your rinse by focusing on the underbelly, wheel wells, wheels, and muffler.
  • Be careful not to spray water into the exhaust pipe or any air intakes.
  • Using a car shampoo, wash your car. Dish soap strips your car of its protective coating.
  • Have a second bucket to rinse your sponge clean. Soapy water gets its own bucket.
  • Rinse your car completely.
  • Dry all door edges, window edges, trunk edges and door locks so they don’t freeze overnight.
  • Apply fresh wax to reseal your car’s body if it needs it. Rubber and vinyl get their own protectants.
As much as 450,000 tons of salt is used by NC every winter

As much as 450,000 tons of salt are used by NC every winter

Step Four: Your Carpet

You’re pretty happy to warm up once you’re driving, but that also means the salt and snow on your shoes are melting right into your carpet. One solution is to get a set of all-weather rubber mats. Come springtime, you can peel those back to see carpet as fresh as it was in the fall.

If salt has already gotten to your mats, don’t sweat it (that would only add more salt to the situation).

  • Make a solution that’s half warm water and half white vinegar.
  • Spray the salty area. If you don’t have a spray bottle, pour a little bit.
  • Scrub gently with a brush, just enough to get the salt to the surface.
  • Use a dry towel to absorb the salt. Flip the towel and press until the salt is absorbed.
  • Repeat entire process until the salt is gone. If the salt is stubborn use a vacuum instead of towel.
  • It might take a while but the salt will leave. Keep at it. And buy rubber mats next year.
It might take a while, but the salt will leave your floor mats. Click To Tweet

Step Five: Dealership Resources

During winter weather, we make every effort to remain open in case you need service. Before stormy weather you can always find accessories and car care items at our shop. Call or visit our service department online to see hours, check whether we’re open, and to schedule a visit. We’re more than happy to help you keep your vehicle protected during this season, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

If you like this article, please share it so others can keep their cars clean, too.

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Cleaning Road Salt Off Your Car In 5 Easy Steps: Full Guide was last modified: February 18th, 2016 by Leith Volkswagen Cary

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