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How Does Temperature Affect How Well Rock Salt Works?

How Does Temperature Affect How Well Rock Salt Works?

Justin Rollin

Rock salt will always be one of the most efficient ways of taking care of snow and ice on a large scale. Whether it’s wet or dry, road salt is simple to apply. Most of all, it’s a material that is readily available and can be bought in bulk.

However, rock salt has its limitations. The simple truth is that, the colder it gets, the more we rely on clearing away snow and ice, and the less effective rock salt becomes. This has been the hard truth for commercial snow and ice removal since its beginning. However, understanding how rock salt works with its environment can give you the knowledge to overcome this obstacle.

What Temperature Does Road Salt Stop Working?

When does road salt stop working? We get this question all the time as a bulk salt supplier. Our clients’ fears are almost always directed at that sore point; if it gets too cold your salt will stop working. Yet, how cold is too cold? The answer to that question isn’t simple—it depends on a few factors, most of all, how much snow and ice you need to melt. We found a rock salt performance table to illustrate this point:

30 46 pounds of ice
20 8.6 pounds of ice
15 6.3 pounds of ice
10 4.9 pounds of ice
5 4.1 pounds of ice
0 3.7 pounds of ice
-6 3.2 pounds of ice

As you can see by the table, the performance of rock salt takes a major dive at just 20F. As temperatures decrease further from 15 degrees downward, the performance suffers exponentially. At 0F and below, you might as well not be using any salt at all. It’s also worth noting just how many pounds of ice you’ll find in a single layer of ice on a parking lot surface; it adds up.


Improve Rock Salt Performance

Temperature is a major detractor from rock salt performance. Fortunately, there are ways to increase rock salt’s performance, especially around temperature performance. There are two major ways to fundamentally change the way rock salt interacts with parking lot pavement; a salt brine solution and using treated rock salt.

Both methods of applying rock salt to pavement change the fundamental principles of the underlying chemical makeup of the solution. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to upgrade your rock salt by turning it into either of these two products. We think you’ll find that much of the industry is familiar with brines and rock salt treatments. You might also be surprised to find how many snow removal companies rely on these solutions to deliver their snow and ice removal services.

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Using a Brine

We’ve discussed salt brine in the past. A brine is a relatively straightforward mixture of 23.3% salt, whether that’s sodium chloride and magnesium chloride, and 77.7% water. When these two innocuous materials mix, they change the way rock salt performs when applied to a road or parking lot surface.

For one, a salt brine’s effectiveness is increased, which allows it to work in lower temperatures (as much as 18F lower than its regular operating temperature, proportionally). Since brine is liquid, it also sticks to surfaces more efficiently, giving you much more accuracy in your application, which serves to reduce your overhead costs while working faster.

Using Treated Rock Salt

While treated rock salt isn’t a liquid, it’s often pre-wetted to have many of the adherence properties of salt brine. However, treated rock salt really shines through its performance-enhancing additives. Through the use of organic-based performance enhancers (OBPE), chemical additives (like magnesium chloride), and biodegradable dyes, treated rock salt will change the freezing temperature of snow and ice when you desperately need it most.

When temperatures drop to the point where rock salt just won’t cut it, treated rock salt will melt ice like it’s no big deal. Having a stock of treated, pre-wetted rock salt on hand will keep you in the game when many other snow and ice removal businesses will have fewer options for their clients.

Using Treated Rock Salt

You’re Smart, So Show Your Clients

Your snow and ice removal business isn’t successful because your business is centered around simply dropping salt all over your clients’ properties and calling it a day. You’re methodical, strategic, and simply smart about how you tackle winter storms. Understanding the fundamental properties of rock salt and how you can work around them and improve them will give you the edge that keeps you successful.