When it comes to winter weather safety and clearing those snowy and icy parking lots or driveways, the conversation comes down to one big question: Which is better – ice melt or rock salt? The difference between rock salt and ice melt is in their chemical composition and how they work to melt ice.
What is Rock Salt?
Rock salt is a mineral. It contains sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride. How does rock salt melt ice and snow? Rock salt lowers the freezing point of water to form a brine solution of salt and water. This brine flows under the ice and breaks the bond between ice and the surface it’s on, i.e., pavement.
What is Ice Melt Salt?
Ice melt salt is an anti-icer, meaning it prevents new ice from forming. If you wonder what salt is used for snow, it’s usually sodium chloride. However, this ice melting composition is typically made from calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, sodium acetate, and other inorganic compounds.
When Is the Right Time to Use Ice Melt or Rock Salt?
- Use ice melt if temperatures frequently drop below 5 F.
- Use rock salt for snow if temperatures are frequently above 5 F.
- Always select products with high proportions of calcium chloride, as this compound lowers the freezing point of water the most.
- Ice melt should be used right before icy conditions, whereas rock salt can be used during these extreme weather conditions.
Which Is More Cost-Effective Salt for Snow?
Rock salt is more affordable than ice melt. A 50-pound bag of rock salt costs about $15, while ice melt retails at most around $25.
Will Salt Damage My Concrete Parking Lot?
‘Does rock salt damage concrete?’ is a question we’re frequently asked. Rock salt and ice melt are corrosive and can damage concrete in the long term.
Which One Is Safer for My Employee’s Vehicles — Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt?
Rock salt's acidic compounds are incredibly corrosive towards vehicles. Ice melt can also damage vehicles, but the effects are less pronounced and take longer to occur.
Which One Won’t Kill My Landscaping? Which One Is More Eco-Friendly?
Will rock salt kill plants? Sadly, it will, and if used frequently, it can make soil unsuitable for future plant growth. Ice melts coated in magnesium chloride are safer for lawns and animals.
Which One Works the Quickest?
Does rock salt melt ice faster? The truth is, certain ice melt products can work all the way down to -25 F, making it more effective and faster.
Ice Melt vs. Salt Pros and Cons — Dotting the I's
- Rock salt melts existing ice and snow, whereas ice melt prevents ice and snow from forming.
- Ice melt is less corrosive than rock salt but can be equally destructive if not used correctly.
- Rock salt for snow is cheaper. While more expensive, some ice melt products are eco-friendly and better to use around pets, children, and plants.
- Rock salt is best if you require a cost-effective solution that provides instant traction on snow and ice.
- Ice melts have different levels of effectiveness in terms of melting temperatures, de-icing capabilities, and environmental risks. You should always conduct research to ensure you’re buying the most suitable product.
What Is the Right Way to Use Rock Salt or Ice Melt?
How to use rock salt on ice:
- First, shovel as much snow away as possible before applying to frozen areas.
- The ice will start to melt as soon as the salt is applied.
- Then, brush or shovel away the remaining ice. You can reapply salt as much as needed.
How to use ice melt on ice :
- Always sprinkle ice melt in layers and use gently when applying to concrete.
- Lay a thin layer before a storm and then another layer during the storm.
- As the snow falls, the salt will melt into a solution, and the snow and ice can be shoveled away.
Some Tips and Warnings Regarding Salt Use
- Salts have a long shelf-life and can be bought in bulk, which can reduce costs.
- Try as best as possible to keep rock salt and ice melt away from lawns and flower beds as they can have adverse effects.
- Wash your pets’ paws and clean your shoes when you come inside, as the chemical components in salt can damage floors and carpets and agitate fur.
- Salt has calcium chloride that can irritate the skin, so be sure to wear gloves when using both products.
When it comes to what salt to use for snow, it depends on your budget and whether you need a product that increases traction or a product that melts ice and snow as fast as possible. Eco-friendly and environmental factors also play a part in selecting the product most suitable for you.
If you’d like to find out more about ice melt, rock salt, or how we can help you, don’t hesitate to reach out and get a quote. Contact us now!