9 clever ways you can clean with salt

A bottle of table salt tipped on its side and spilled
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There are all kinds of natural cleaners available to help you get through your weekly chores. Some of the most popular ones include distilled white vinegar and baking soda. They’re more than sufficient when used independently, but combine them and you get a chemical reaction that has uses all over the home. That’s what makes baking soda and vinegar so good at cleaning. But, did you know that salt can lend a hand with your cleaning as well? 

That’s right, your table salt can be used for more than seasoning your meals. With its abrasive nature, it’s an ideal substance for scrubbing. Plus, it also works as a deodorizer and has excellent absorbency tendencies, which comes in handy when you’re dealing with stains. 

On top of this, it works well in tandem with those cleaners mentioned above, so it can only improve your cleaning power. 

Keen to learn more about it? Here are 9 clever ways you can clean with salt. Plus, these are 7 surprising things you can clean with a Magic Eraser.

1. Remove rust from cast iron skillets 

Cleaning Rust from Cast Iron Skillet

(Image credit: Future)

We all love to cook with our cast iron skillets. The trouble is, even the best cast iron skillets can develop rust. This is easily done — all it takes is prolonged exposure to moisture. You may simply have stored the pan damp, or someone may have accidentally run it through the dishwasher. 

In either case, rust can quickly take hold. But, don’t go throwing away your skillet just yet. Salt can actually remove rust from a cast iron skillet. Note — this method is for exposed cast iron, not enamelled. 

All you need to do is cut a large raw potato in half and, while gripping it flat-side-down, scrub some coarse Kosher salt into your skillet. Use a circular motion and feel free to add a splash of water if you’re not getting enough moisture from the potato. If your skillet has grill lines, scrub in the direction of those lines and angle the potato so you can reach in between the crevices. Soon enough the salt will brown and the rust will scrub away. Remember to re-season your skillet once you’re finished. For full details see how to clean a cast iron skillet and how to season a cast iron skillet.  

Salt can help with shifting burnt residue from cast iron skillets as well. Simply mix a tablespoon of coarse Kosher salt with a tablespoon of water and start scrubbing. 

2. Remove red wine stains 

Spilled glass of red wine

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When red wine spills, it’s always likely to cause a panic. That's because this is known to be one of the most tricky stains to remove, but salt can be a savior here too. 

Depending on where your spill has landed, the directions differ slightly. For carpets and upholstery, the first thing you want to do is gently blot up as much of the stain as you can, taking care not to spread it or transfer the stain from your cloth back onto the carpet. Following this, make sure it doesn’t dry out by spritzing it with water, just keeping it damp, not sopping wet. 

Next, cover your stain with a small pile of salt and leave it for 2-3 minutes to absorb. Vacuum up the salt with one of the best vacuum cleaners after this and check your progress. If a stain is still apparent, you can repeat the above steps until it fades away. Just remember not to give the stain a chance to dry or fully set. For more details on this, and specifics on how to remove this stain from clothing, see how to remove red wine stains.   

3. Remove tea and coffee stains 

how to clean a mattress: tea spilt

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Many aren’t aware of the difficulty of removing tea and coffee stains until they’ve experienced it for themselves. Because of the tannins that these beverages contain, they can both easily stain a surface — even porcelain cups can show tea stains with continued use, which the best dishwashers will struggle to shift. Don’t worry though, salt can help you out here too. 

If you’re dealing with a tea-stained cup, add a splash of distilled white vinegar and a teaspoon of table salt to the cup, then scrub at the stain using a microfiber cloth — the stains will soon lift thanks to the abrasiveness of the salt and the acidity of the vinegar. Just remember to wash your mug out before you use it again! 

If such a stain has occurred on your upholstery or perhaps your mattress, salt can help you here as well. The directions are much the same as they are for red wine stains. Simply blot away as much of the excess as you can, before spritzing cold water onto the stain to keep it damp. Then apply a layer of salt to the stain to absorb for 2-3 minutes — you can gently rub the salt into the stain, but you shouldn’t scrub. Then blot again to pick up any excess. 

Finally, vacuum away what remains, and repeat if necessary. See how to clean a mattress if you’re dealing with tougher stains.  

4. Remove water stains on wood 

Glasses of water on table with water stains

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There’s nothing more annoying than spotting an unsightly water stain on your favorite wooden side table. This is easily done if you forget to use a coaster! Thankfully, salt can clear this up. 

All you need to do is mix up a paste of one tablespoon of salt with one teaspoon of water. Then apply it to the surface in a circular motion using a microfiber cloth. Take care not to add more water than this, otherwise you will only worsen the situation. You should see the stain start to fade. Once it’s gone, leave to dry and apply a wood polish to make it shine, such as the Old English Lemon Oil Furniture Polish ($13.89, Amazon). Baking soda is interchangeable with this hack as well. For alternative methods, see how to remove water stains from wood and walls.  

5. Deodorize refrigerator

Woman using a smart fridge freezer with her phone in hand

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When prepping your meals, the last thing you want to deal with is a smelly refrigerator. This can happen when you store foods for longer than you should, and spills and stains can also contribute. Considering the fridge is a mostly enclosed environment, it can be difficult to get rid of a smell, even when things are clean. Thankfully, salt can provide an answer here too. 

Much like baking soda, salt acts as a natural deodorizer. That means that by simply placing a small amount of salt within your fridge, it will start to get to work. You can add your salt straight to a small bowl or egg cup and place it at the back of the fridge. It should make an impact within a few days. If you want to leave a pleasant scent behind, you could always add the salt to a hollow citrus fruit, such as a lemon, orange or grapefruit. Just make sure it won’t roll over and spill everywhere! 

6. Unclog a drain 

Water running in the sink

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re dealing with a blocked drain, salt can come in use here. All you need to do is dissolve 2-3 tablespoons of salt in water. Then pour this solution directly down your drain and let it work its magic for 30-40 minutes. In this time it should break down any grease it encounters. 

Once time is up, boil one of the best electric kettles and carefully pour the hot water directly on top. This should rinse away what remains. For alternative methods, such as using laundry detergent or baking soda and vinegar, see how to unclog a drain.   

7. Clean your garbage disposal

Salt being poured down a garbage disposal unit

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The usefulness of salt down the drain doesn’t stop here either. You can also employ it to refresh your garbage disposal. Making sure your hands do not reach into the garbage disposal at any point and with the power switched off and unplugged, fill it up with ice until it reaches the brim, then add a cup of Kosher salt to the mix. Replace the baffle, then with cold water flowing through, run your unit and let the ice and the salt scrub the blades clean as they’re processed. 

If it seems smelly, throw some citrus peels down there too. Should you suspect a blockage, be sure to check out our full guide on how to clean a garbage disposal.  

8. Remove sweat stains 

Someone lifting an arm up to show sweat stains

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Sweat stains can be tricky to shift, even if you use one of the best washing machines. If your clothes often show evidence of sweat stains, salt can help out here too. Simply dissolve four tablespoons of salt into four cups of hot water. Then, using a microfiber cloth, work the solution directly into the fresh sweat stains. 

Don’t be too abrasive, or else you could damage the material. Just keep blotting and be persistent. Once you see the stains have lifted, you can add the item to your washing machine as you usually would.  

9. Clean a steam iron

Cordless Iron

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you use your steam iron regularly, you’ll know the plate can show up ugly stains all too quickly. Don’t worry though, salt can keep these at bay. 

All you need to do is sprinkle some salt onto a sheet of baking paper, while positioned on an ironing board, and then run your warm iron over the top, moving in different directions. The salt should remove hard water marks as well as other unsightly stains. Wait until the iron has completely cooled before you wipe the salt away and admire your handiwork. 

If you want to know more cleaning hacks, check out these 9 things you didn’t know you could clean with a lemon, and check out this TikTok hack to remove limescale from taps for more tips and tricks. Finally, always remember that even your cleaning products need cleaning, so it's worth learning how to clean a microfiber cloth.

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.