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Everything You Need to Know about Salt Spreaders

Everything You Need to Know about Salt Spreaders

Justin Rollin

Salt spreaders are powerful tools for snow and ice removal from sidewalks, roads, parking lots, and other high-traffic outdoor surfaces. Undoubtedly, they're the best equipment used for spreading de-icing products.

Despite the simplicity of what salt spreaders are designed to do, choosing the right one is a little more complex. As leading rock salt suppliers, we'll explain everything you need to know about salt spreaders, including how they work and what to consider when buying one.

What Is a Rock Salt Spreader?

Salt spreaders are apparatuses used to dispense granular salt like calcium chloride, sodium chloride, and magnesium chloride over large portions of pavement like roads, parking lots, and sidewalks. They’re commonly used in winter, to decrease the likelihood of accidents on slippery surfaces.

Rock salt lowers the freezing point of water, forming a brine solution of salt and water, which flows under the ice and breaks the bond between the ice and the ground. This makes it easier to clear it away from roads and other surfaces.

As you can imagine, de-icing large areas is not as simple as sprinkling some salt on your sidewalk. It’s a labor-intensive activity. Hence, the invention of salt spreaders. They make the job a lot easier. With a salt spreader, you can disperse vast amounts of salt over large surfaces in minimal time.

Types of Salt Spreaders

Walk-behind rock salt spreaders

From a commercial salt spreader to a walk-behind spreader—knowing the different types and what they can do goes a long way in helping you purchase the right one:

  • Walk-behind spreaders: Also referred to as pedestrian spreaders, these are commonly found in households across the USA. They’re operated similarly to a wheelbarrow; filled up and pushed by the operator as they walk. Walk-behind spreaders are most effective for residential applications.
  • Tailgate salt spreader: This type of rock salt spreader attaches to the back of compatible vehicles and agricultural equipment to disperse salt on parking lots in the winter for ice control and fields in the summer for dust control. These types of spreaders have an electric-powered impeller and are typically used with pickup trucks, tractors, ATVs, or utility vehicles.
  • Tow-behind spreader: These salt spreaders are dragged by a vehicle or tractor via a tow hitch attachment. They're best suited to cover large areas, although they're not as accurate as tailgate or V-box spreaders.
  • V-box spreader: Ideal for large commercial projects, this is a type of industrial salt spreader that attaches to dump truck beds and has many moving parts. These spreaders are often used by municipalities and commercial snow removal companies.

How Do Salt Spreaders Work?

Salt spreaders are fairly simple to use. The rock salt is placed in a hopper (a container that tapers downwards and disperses salt).

As you push or tow the spreader, gravity drops the salt through an aperture onto a spinning broadcast plate, which spreads an even layer of salt over the desired area in a wide, even pattern.

Fuel-powered salt spreaders mounted to trucks are controlled from inside the cab to regulate how much salt is distributed per mile.

Benefits of Using a Salt Spreader

Equipment used for spreading deicing products

Using a salt spreader offers many advantages. Trust us; you'll never want to apply rock salt manually ever again.

  • Versatile: Salt spreaders are versatile and are not just for winter. They can also be used to apply fertilizer and sand over large tracts of land during spring, summer, and fall.
  • Save time: Most people don't have time to manually apply rock salt. A salt spreader gets the job done faster in less time.
  • Less effort: Those with limited manual labor or chronic injury can have a hard time de-icing surfaces. However, a salt spreader scatters grit quickly and easily with less effort.
  • Efficient: Shovels and plows can’t clear the road on their own, they need to be followed by salt spreaders. Spreaders have spinners specially designed to distribute rock salt evenly over large surfaces.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Salt Spreader

Whether you are a snow management professional or only responsible for de-icing your driveway, there are a few things to consider when picking the best spreader:

  • Purpose: Do you need a commercial salt spreader, or will a simple walk-behind spreader suffice? Someone who needs to maintain a school parking lot during winter has different needs from a person who wishes to keep their residential driveway safe.
  • Capacity: Consider the size of the area you need to cover. Tailgate and v-box spreaders are better for big jobs, whereas walk-behind spreaders are suitable for sidewalk applications.
  • Durability: Good rock salt spreaders are made from solid materials that are resistant to corrosion. They're an investment that lasts many years. It might be tempting to buy a cheaper one, but it'll be a waste of money in the long run.
  • Weight and size: Always choose a salt spreader that you and/or your vehicle can haul in harsh weather. It's important to make sure you don't exceed your vehicle's gross vehicle weight ratio (GVWR) when traveling with a loaded spreader.
  • Agitation system: Although the material rock salt spreaders are made from influences how well they distribute the salt, most have agitation systems to keep de-icing products from clumping together and blocking the hopper. It's worthwhile investigating different types of agitation systems as they all have pros and cons.

How to Spread Salt with a Salt Spreader

Commercial salt spreader

We recommend spreading between 5 and 15 pounds per 1,000 sq ft, depending on how severe the weather is. While spreading salt with walk-behind spreaders is different from using tow-behind spreaders, the same principles more or less apply.

Here are some salt-spreading tips:

  • Make sure your salt spreader is properly calibrated to prevent over-salting and causing damage to the environment.
  • Use just enough salt to break the bond between the ice and the ground, so it can be removed.
  • Store your rock salt in a dry environment. This stops it from clumping together, which can be a hassle to break up when you need to use it.
  • Consider the temperature — potassium chloride, sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride are all effective at different temperatures. For example, most traditional rock salt stops working when pavement temperatures fall below 15 degrees.
  • Try to apply salt before it snows or just as a storm begins. This keeps snow and ice from sticking to the pavement.
  • Clean up after the storm. It doesn't take a lot of salt to cause environmental problems. Always sweep up and properly dispose of excess salt.
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Where to Buy De-Icing Salt?

Buying a salt spreader is an investment for your home and business. So is buying the right de-icing products. Once you've decided which salt spreader works best for you, you'll need to stock up on the right supplies.

Ninja De-Icer is a nationwide salt supplier of bagged rock salt, liquid de-icer, and bulk salt products. Many municipalities and businesses use our products to de-ice roads, parking lots, and other pavements. Want to find out how much our salt costs? Get a quote today!