Winter is Coming: Safety Salt Basics


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Why is salt used on roads/ sidewalks/ driveways?

There is nothing we can do about it; winter is coming, and I do not mean Game of Thrones. You may have forgotten by now but the next few months in Cleveland will bring us blizzards, whiteouts, and drifting snow. Even on less dramatic winter days, we are forced to experience freezing temperatures and black ice. Leaving us to battle slippery surfaces for basically the entire winter season. We have all fallen, maybe our cars have spun, and near misses are a regular occurrence.

Now is the time to prepare for the sake of safety. The perfect first step is to assure that you have plenty of rock salt on hand. Perilous cold weather situations can be a little less so by using rock salt to prepare and maintain your walkways, sidewalks, and driveways. Doing so will help to reduce or eliminate winter slips and falls outside your home or place of business.

Rock salt is a natural element also called sodium chloride or NaCl if you are a chemistry nerd. It works by lowering the temperature at which water freezes. This phenomenon spurs melting and inhibits freezing. When salt combines with ice, and it melts, a brine forms. The brine exacerbates the process by traveling under ice and enabling it to separate from the pavement. In addition to melting ice, rock salt provides excellent traction for pedestrians To maintain the safety of your family, employees, and visitors:

  • Pretreat profoundly affected areas such as sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and porches. This will allow the rock salt to prevent ice from ever forming.
  • Remove as much snow as possible to reveal the underlying ice.
  • Use a salt spreader to assure an even, thin layer. If you choose to spread the rock salt by hand, use a cup and wear a glove to protect your skin (a broom works well for spreading).

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 What is the difference between rock salt and ice melt?

Rock salt is the mineral form of sodium chloride (NaCl) that in other contexts is called Halite. Ice melt, on the other hand, is made from sodium chloride (NaCl) combined with magnesium and calcium chloride. Both are effective at their jobs of melting ice but there are a few differences:

  • Rock salt tends to be more economical.
  • Rock salt is active at temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rock salt provides excellent traction.
  • Ice melt is effective at temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ice melt acts very quickly as it not only melts the ice but generates heat to exacerbate the process.

What is the difference between road salt and table salt?

In a word (or two), not much. All salt is mined underground and then processed. Table salt gets ground into much smaller pieces than road salt. The more modest pieces make it palatable and better suited for flavoring your food.

Both table salt and road salt are made of sodium chloride. However, that does not mean they are both edible. Road salt is treated with anti-caking chemicals to assure its property distribution. As does table salt along with iodine, however, it is food grade and safe to consume, road salt is not.

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How Much Rock Salt to Buy and Use

To determine how much safety salt you will need you should begin by measuring the area to be treated in square feet. Then consult the advice of the manufacturer regarding how many pounds of the product should be used per square foot.

Let’s just say that your parking lot is 800 square feet. The directions on your bag tell you to use 4 pounds of salt for every 100 square feet. Grab a calculator, and you will find out that it will require 32 pounds of salt to cover your parking lot properly or slightly under one bag (most bags are 40 pounds).

To get through the entire season, you will need to estimate the number of snow events, which can be very difficult. But, it is safe to assume that in the Cleveland area we will see significant white at least 10-20 times each year. Therefore, you need 10-20 bags to get through the entire season.

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Storing Rock Salt

Rock salt stores well but, you must keep it somewhere dry. The product has been treated to avoid clumping but, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is most preferable to transfer your safety salt into sealed containers. Also, it is preferential to keep your stockpile off of the floor.

If storage of safety salt does not appeal to you or fit your business, there is a solution: have it delivered on a regular schedule. This is a service that you can preset for the entire season.

Schedule your safety salt delivery here:>>

Additional resources:

Thank you to our sources for this article:

https://www.accuweather.com/en/home-garden-articles/earth-you/icy-sidewalks-and-roadways-can/5631019

https://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/questions/whats-the-difference-between-table-salt-and-the-kind-used-to-melt-ice-