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Question DetailsAsked on 1/28/2014

How do you remove salt from your car without damaging it?

This seems to be an ongoing concern for many people in our area with the onslaught of snow and ice we've had this month. Right now, my car is absolutely covered in salt from the roads. How do you go about washing it off without scratching or messing up your paint job?

We recently interviewed one of our highly rated auto detailing providers about the subject on the Angie's List Experts podcast and got some great information on the subject. Take a listen:

What techniques and tricks do you use to keep your car clean during the winter months?

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8 Answers


Best thing to do is to emusify/dissolve it. Wet the car lightly and rinse the salt from the vehicle.

Once you have removed a bulk of it, you can use a bit more direct and purposeful pressure.

Just had my car washed and they offered this pre-wash service as a small premium. Well worth it.

There is little you can do to keep the salt off and a regular washing does help with the long term issues associated with road salting.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


Your local road departments can tell you what products they use - though many buy various types depending on price at the moment.

Straight salt (sodium chloride) will wash off - dissolves best in warm water, you can add car washing soap to get the dirt too.

Calcium chloride and Magnesium chloride, also used as granular deicers, leave a more resistant film - you will need very warm water (not too hot to put your hand in) and a detergent like Dawn to get it off - put on, let soak 15 minutes, then hose off (to remove as much grit as possible), then wipe off with soaking wet rag with circular motions, turning the rag to a new face after every wipe or two, and rinsing rag frequently in clean hot water. If it leaves a white film (common with calcium chloride) you may need to use a wet rag soaked in white vinegar. Do NOT leave sit on the car, and keep off chrome and painted bumpers.

Calcium / Sodium / Magnesium Acetate - the liquid used in some areas, particularly at intersections, which leaves the nasty streaky film on windshields, can be tougher. I know NAPA carries a product in our area that takes it off - made by Prestone, as I recall. Is a general grease/tar/bug remover that also takes off the acetate nicely - just don't let it sit, and keep away from chrome, painted bumpers, and rubber parts.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


One thing to remember is the paint job can handle salt a lot better than the underside, especially the inside face of body panels and light framing elements like rocker panels (door sills) and inside of doors and the back side of bumpers - so if you are able to, at least once a year (right after end of snow season) and more often if possible, take a good high-flow spray nozzle and get yourself good and wet - crawl under car (at least your hand and arm) and spray every place well, working all the way around the car so you hit all spots from several angles. Avoid hitting a lot of water into the engine compartment, and of course if you have holes already in the floor boards avoid those spots.

Also, if you are able to peel your carpets or floor mats back to expose the metal underneath, at least wet sponge that clean a couple of times to reduce the salt - and if the mats are removeable, hose them well down with a bit of dish soap (does not take much) with a jet nozzle.

Can extend you body life several years, especially if you do a good job of getting the salt that settles into the bottom curl of body panels, rocker panels, etc.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Seriously? With a garden hose.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9600280


wow wash it like any other car with a spong and water

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9627319


Locally, we don't freeze that much so it's easier to soak it, then locate hot water car washes from coin-op to drive through + once/year get soaked down under it with pressure hose.

So friends up there I know have heated garages with enough work room and equipment to hot/steam water pressure clean the underside from a mechanics creeper - ref. Sears or other suppliers

The residual salt goes down their driveways, which is sort of a help ....

Answered 5 years ago by tgivaughn


I'm not sure where you live, but I'm guessing somebody is scamming your area with fears of your car rusting away before your eyes. You WASH IT. Seriously, here in MO every car is salt gray for 3 mos of the year. When the weather clears we all sit in line for an hour at the local car wash and pay the extra for an undercarriage spray. $12 and you're good to go. I've got a 1997 Dodge Stratus that started showing rust last year (2014). Now, if you've had poor body work or some other issue, it could cause some rust, but that's a different issue. On my new car that I'm still babying, I have it detailed every June with a good, quality wax. $180. That will help protect it. It's just salt. Really. Don't panic.

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9184627


in my garage i have two hoses that i use for watering they have the little holes in them that spray a nice mist. i have them hooked to my hot water heater. in the winter i drive in over them and turn the water on at the heater let it spray for about 10 15 minutes. i have a basin in the floor. when all melted and spray has removed sand an salt i just wet vac the water and sweep up the sand.

Answered 3 years ago by dmccoy1971

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