Remove Salt Residue From Floors

How To Remove Salt Residue From Floors Fast And Easy

Get Rid Of Salt Residue On Floors

Winter weather brings with it additional areas of concern for cleaning professionals. When snow and ice show up, there are additional cleaning steps that need to be added to your floor care routine. These different challenges are easy to overcome when you understand how to remove salt residue from floors.

Trust me, I understand what you are facing. Mopping the floor just seems to make things worse. Stickiness is the biggest frustration. It not only makes the floor look dirty, but it also causes it to get dirty faster than ever. You just want to throw down you mop and give up, right? Well, don’t do that. Below you will see that it is not as difficult once you understand what is going on. A few minor changes will make your life much easier when the snow flies and you need to remove salt residue from your floors.

How to remove salt residue from floors

Winter time means salt residue makes a mess of your floors!

Salt Neutralizer For Floors

The answer to cleaning salt residue is to use a floor floor neutralizer cleaner. Something so simple as salt, it is really a big problem for many custodians. Removing salt residue from floors is difficult because the soil on the floor has changed from regular dirt, to calcium chloride or salt. This means that the chemical used to clean the floor must change as well.

When salt is dissolved in water, it becomes sticky and just seems to smear around as you mop or scrub the floor. Because the floor cleaning you normal use is probably a neutral cleaner, it simply will not break down the calcium chloride in the ice melting products that are tracked in. This is why it is so important to try and keep as much of the salt outside as possible. I suggest to use extra matting and remove the salt as soon as the sidewalks are clear. This will lessen the amount of salt that you have to deal with.

Most floor cleaning chemicals or neutral cleaners are designed to remove typical dirt and grime.

When a substance as different as salt or calcium chloride becomes the main soil overnight, it requires a different approach.

Why Salt Residue Is So Hard To Remove?

The makeup of most ice melting products is based around calcium chloride or salt, because of its effective melting properties and because it is relatively cheap. The problem when it comes to floor care is that it has a high pH, just like floor stripper.

To remove salt residue, it has to be neutralized, changing the pH to neutral or 7. When it is not neutralized, it dissolves in the mop water. This makes it smear on the floor and becomes a sticky mess when it dries. This stickiness has 2 causes:

  • The water used to clean the floor has a high concentration salt that has been picked up while cleaning. Obviously when you mop the floor it is still wet. The salt is suspended in that moisture that is left on the floor. As the water evaporates, the salt in the water is left behind, leaving a salty film on the floor.
  • The second reason is that the alkaline nature of the salt has begun to dissolve the floor finish. Chemicals used to strip the floor are highly alkaline. This is what breaks down the floor finish and allows you to strip the floor. While salt is not as high in alkalinity as floor stripper, it can, over time begin to dissolve the floor finish. Anyone who has stripped a floor knows that when floor finish starts to dissolve and dries, it gets sticky. The same could be happening via the salt. Just slower.

Either way, the stickiness is causing your floors to attract dirt. And we know that a sticky floor is very difficult if not impossible to clean.

If this dirt remains on the floor too long, it will cause un-repairable damage to the floor and result in a full strip and re-coat to correct.

Let’s not allow it to get that far. Below, you will see the steps to eliminate salt residue from your tile floors and maintain them even with heavy traffic during a show storm.

Remove Salt Residue From FloorsSteps To Clean And Remove Salt Residue From Your Floors

Here are the steps for removing salt residue from floors:

  1. Sweep the floor of any granulated salt and other debris
  2. Mix floor neutralizer in your mop bucket or floor scrubber.
  3. Apply the solution to the floor and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Pick up the solution with mop, wet/dry vacuum or floor scrubber.
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4 if there is still salt residue on the floor.

Why Neutralizer Removes Salt Residue

Why Floor Neutralizer Removes Salt Residue

Now that you know the importance of removing the salt residue lets look at why neutralizers are so much more effective for removing salt than neutral floor cleaners.

As stated above, the alkaline salt residue needs to be neutralized before it will release easily from the floor.

The best way to do this is to use an acidic chemical. No, not the big barrel of green goo you see in movies. Something a little more mild and a lot safer.

Floor neutralizers are very useful cleaning agents. They are commonly used in several cleaning processes, most notably in carpet cleaning. Most cleaning chemicals will fall slightly on the alkaline side of the pH scale as depicted in the chart. The low alkalinity breaks down greasy soils and releases them from strands of carpet.

The side effect of this is the inherent stickiness of alkaline chemicals. Too often, cleaning people will use too much chemical in an attempt to do a better job or get it done faster. With cleaning chemicals, this is not the case. The excess sticky chemical is left behind and can build up over time. Stickiness equals dirty. So a neutralizer is used the dissolve the chemical residue and remove the sticky soils.

This also does the job to remove the alkalinity of salt residue. Just make sure to follow the directions for cleaning floors rather than cleaning carpets. The dilution ratios are often different and obviously so are the procedures.

Where To Get Floor Neutralizer?

There are many brands of acidic pH neutralizer cleaning chemicals out there. Here’s an Amazon affiliate link to the floor neutralizer I have had good luck with. The dissolving packets make it easy to quickly change to winter floor care mode and maintain your floors without a change in the procedures. This neutralizer can even be used in an automatic floor scrubber. Just make sure you adjust the number of packets for the volume of your solution tank.

I prefer to use actual neutralizer chemicals in commercial cleaning due to the liability of using other, home-made methods. Ensuring you have the proper documentation (Safety Data Sheets) is essential for any business and these types of professional cleaning products provide the health and safety documentation that is essential for everyone to protect themselves.

Using Vinegar To Remove Salt Residue From Floors

Vinegar is an acidic pH chemical, the same side of the scale as a floor neutralizer. It can be effective for removing salt residue on floors when used correctly. Adding it to plain water in a mop bucket will help to neutralize the salt, but it is not a cleaner. It simply performs the chemical reaction of neutralizing the salt. After the residue is removed, you will find that you will need to re-clean the floor using your regular neutral floor cleaning chemical. This extra step is time consuming.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am not a proponent of making your own cleaning products or “DIY Chemistry” because there is just too much that can go wrong and the liability is too great. Vinegar can be dangerous to both the user and the floor if not used properly. I have never seen a vinegar bottle with floor cleaning instructions on it so it is difficult to know what the “right amount” is.

That being said, if you do want to use vinegar to clean your floors.

Steps For Using Household Vinegar To Remove Salt Residue From Floors:

  1. Add 4 to 5 oz. of vinegar to 4 gallons of plain water
  2. Do not mix with other cleaning chemicals
  3. Using a mop, apply the mixture to a small area of the floor
  4. Allow the solution to dwell on the floor for 5-10 minutes
  5. Remove the mixture from the floor using the mop or wet vacuum
  6. Use another mop to rinse the floor with plain water
  7. If there is still a salt residue on the floor, repeat the steps above
  8. Mop floor with neutral floor cleaner

Once the salt residue has been removed, you may need to use your regular neutral floor cleaner to clean away any other soils that remain

I know cleaning floors is challenging, especially during winter. But when you understand how to remove salt residue from floors and plan ahead, it really is not that big of a deal anymore. Good luck keeping your sanity and floors clean during the next snow storm. Remember, spring is just around the corner!

Get More Winter Floor Cleaning Tips Here

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Remove Salt Residue From Floors
winter floor care tools
microfiber mop heads
how to clean sticky floors
Neutralizer and neutral cleaner for floors
automatic floor scrubber
Cleaning Rubber Gym Floors
Winter Floor Care Tips - Removing ice melt from floors

27 replies
  1. Jhayla
    Jhayla says:

    What if the vinegar doesn’t work? I work at a convenience store and no matter how much I mop the floor still dries white

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      The heavy concentrated traffic in convenience stores make floor care tough. It it probably due to a heavy buildup of residue. I would suggest using a floor neutralizer rather than vinegar. The vinegar is an easy solution if the residue isn’t too bad, but neutralizers are designed for this. Mopping the floor in small sections may help also and change your mop water more often. A LOT more often. You can, use a floor scrubber or at the very least, a deck brush to agitate the solution while it is on the floor. Remember, you are causing a chemical reaction between the cleaning solution and the residue. When the residue is heavy, it can take some time to work. In a busy store, this is where working in smaller sections is pretty much a must. Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  2. Jane
    Jane says:

    I clean bars, a messy job to begin with. We use a degreaser on the floors, it does work to a point. We then rinse with a water/vinegar and most times twice is all we have to mop, except one are the is a main entrance and I have seen us wash that part of floor 10 times. We also have tried Winter Rinse and it is the same on this part of floor. Any ideas???

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Bar floors are never fun. There are lots of different types chemicals in play usually. The degreaser may be your issue if it is being used at too high of a dilution. The vinegar or Winter Rinse neutralizer could be battling against the degreaser residue and never getting to the actual dirt that is being tracked in. I would recommend using a large, high quality entrance mat to help contain the tracked in soils at the door. There are two different types of soils you are fighting. The ones from inside, food and drink and the ones tracked in from outside, the dirt and salt. Unfortunately these require different cleaning solutions to remove.

      Best of luck!

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Alonzo. Ceramic floors are just like any other floor when it comes to salt residue, except they are very porous. Especially the grout lines. A floor neutralizer will work very well, but you may need to allow it to dwell on the floor for a few minutes to release the alkaline residue from the salt.

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Miguel. Thank you for your question. I am not a marble floor expert although I have worked with them in the past. The natural stone does take some special care. I would look into the Stone Care International product line to see if they have a neutralizer for removing alkaline from marble floors.

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Don. Thank you for your question. Yes it does! My back always lets me know when I have used too big of a mop! ha! You should only use a mop that is manageable for you to use. If it is too small, you will not get good consistent cleaning. If it is too large, you will struggle to cover enough area.

  3. Jeni
    Jeni says:

    I clean an office that has the wood look laminate flooring. The ice melt has become a real problem. I am not supposed to use water on the floor, but will try your vinegar idea – unless you have another suggestion.

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Jeni. Thank you for your question. I am not sure why you wouldn’t use water on the floor? Most laminate flooring is designed to be wet cleaned, or mopped. If you would like to limit the amount of moisture on the floor, I would suggest looking into using a flat microfiber mop. They are able to capture and hold more soils with less water. And as always, make sure to remove as much of the soil dry, before mopping, with a dust mop or vacuum cleaner.

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Judy. This is a great comment. Dialysis floors are very difficult to keep clean. The heavy alkaline makes it very challenging. I have found that a small auto scrubber and a neutralizer works best.

  4. Steve snyder
    Steve snyder says:

    I clean floors for a living. An winter months are the worst. Expecially dust moping. Is there something I can use on the dust mop for it to slide across the floor instead sticking an not being able to push it?

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Steve. Thanks for your question. The most common dust mops are made from cotton and cotton does not react well when it gets wet. Any moisture at all and it grabs at the floor. Years ago I started using nylon dust mops (like this one) They glide much easier when the floor is damp and still collect the dirt. They work because the plastic fibers build up static electricity and hold dirt much better than cotton. They are also a lot easier to clean!

      Trust me, these will make your life so much easier. They sure did mine!


  5. Joey
    Joey says:

    What would you recommend for high traffic areas for a commercial car dealership? Need to remove salt residue in the winter and heavy grease from the floors. Is there one very effective item to use in both areas or should I use multiple cleaners?

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Joey. Those are 2 different types of soils. Typically, you would use a neutral cleaner or even a de-greasing chemical to remove the heavy grease. But, when salt is thrown into the mix, the chemical needs to change as well. The salt residue is alkaline, which is on the same side of the pH scale as neutral cleaners and de-greasers. This will only result in smearing the salt residue around. Floor neutralizer is slightly acidic, the opposite side of the pH scale. This will “neutralize” the alkalinity and let the salt dissolve into your solution.

      I hope this helps!

  6. Matt
    Matt says:

    I’ve heard conflicting information about using vinegar on hardwood floors. I really want to get these salt stains up without damaging my floor. Is vinegar or other neutralizing cleaners an option for me, or is there a better solution? (oooh I punned!)

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Matt. As with any new cleaning chemical on any type of floor, it is a good idea to try a small section first. Vinegar typically will not harm hardwood floors if used at a low dilution. The same with floor neutralizer. Remember, you are cleaning the finish on the hardwood, not the wood itself. The finish is there to protect the floor and make it easier to clean. As long as you have a good finish on the floor, and use a conservative dilution, you should have great results.

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Linda. I hear this a lot. Keep in mind that the residue may be pretty concentrated. What I would suggest is to increase the amount of vinegar you are using until the film goes away. Also, let the solution dwell a little while on the floor. If the residue is really heavy, I will often wet the floor and wait 5 minutes or so before mopping again to remove the dirty water. Hope this helps.


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