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Common Types of Road Salt

Common Types of Road Salt

Justin Rollin

One of the most effective tools for managing snow and ice and keeping roads and lots safe is utilizing road salt in combination with other de-icing methods, like plowing. Knowing which salts to use for the best results is crucial, so we are breaking down what road salt is, how it works, and the different types of road salt.

What Is Road Salt?

Everyone talks about road salt, but what is it? What is road salt made of and what kind of salt is road salt? Road, or de-icing, salt is halite. It can be sodium chloride or table salt, or it can be a different hygroscopic salt like magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. Road salt production is different from that of regular table salt, as it is not purified after evaporation or mining. It does contain certain chemical additives for other purposes, like making it more effective in colder temperatures. 

 How Does Road Salt Work?

street salt

But how does road salt work? It is just a simple chemical process. The salt used for de-icing serves to lower the melting point of the snow or ice, in other words, it lowers the freezing point of the water. Essentially, it allows for ice and snow to melt at colder temperatures and disallows it from freezing following its melting.

After absorbing heat and moisture from its surroundings, salt dissolves in the snow and breaks down into two ions, a chloride ion, and a sodium ion (if you are using sodium chloride), which then disperse the water molecules. Simply put, the water molecules are being pushed apart, making it more difficult for ice to form. As the ice does not immediately reform, there is more time for manual snow removal, such as the use of plows.

Road salt can also prevent ice and snow from adhering to surfaces, making the manual removal of any remnants even easier. Overall, the use of salt is very effective in lowering the risk of accidents, both vehicular and pedestrian. Using it in parking lots and on sidewalks and roads can help decrease danger.

Types of Road Salt

With so many different kinds, it’s important to know what type of salt is used for roads under specific circumstances and factors like temperature, application area, and level of precipitation. So what are the differences between the different kinds of road salt? 

Sodium Chloride

Easily the most common type of street salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), or table salt. Otherwise known as halite, sodium chloride is typically a dark gray color and is especially popular because of its ready availability, and even more so, its affordability.

This rock salt is especially good for adding traction to roads, pavements, and other similar surfaces. It is most effective and fast-acting in temperatures between 15º and 20ºF, but will work in any temperature above 5ºF.

Magnesium Chloride

what type of salt is used for roads

Magnesium chloride is another salt used for roads but has a higher water content than sodium chloride. This means that, even in colder temperatures, this salt will form a brine rather quickly. The downside of this is that it will dilute more quickly as well, so more may need to be applied.

Another benefit that makes magnesium chloride so popular is its environmental friendliness. It is less corrosive to metals than some other salts and is less harmful to plants and animal life.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride is a commonly used road salt in areas that experience extreme cold - as it can be incredibly effective in temperatures as low as -25ºF. This, coupled with its ability to prevent further ice from forming, makes calcium chloride a popular choice.

Calcium chloride is incredibly fast-acting, working to melt ice immediately, and has a large melting capacity. The EPA classifies it as environmentally safe, and, when compared to other road salts, it is not particularly corrosive to surfaces and infrastructure.

Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride is a common fertilizer additive, making it a somewhat popular choice because it is not harmful to plant life, pets, and other vegetation. However, it is not the most effective option, as it requires a higher working temperature to be truly effective and has been known to corrode metals and roads. This is a huge detriment to the infrastructure and surrounding environment and should be considered before application.

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Knowing the right salt to use for your municipality, facility, or property is crucial. Now that you have a better understanding of each road salt option, it’s time for you to find the right bulk rock salt for sale.

Ninja De-Icer is a respected, experienced supplier of loose road salts with a team of experts ready to help you ensure the safety of your employees and visitors. You can get a quote and we will answer all your questions!