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What Is Magnesium Chloride?

What Is Magnesium Chloride?

Justin Rollin

Commercial property managers are constantly faced with the daunting task of efficient snow and ice removal during the winter months. Many use magnesium chloride because it's a reliable ice melt that’s safer, smarter, and more efficient compared to similar products on the market. Let’s examine this compound’s unique properties, multiple uses, and why it works so well. 

What Is Magnesium Chloride? 

Magnesium chloride is a naturally occurring compound found and produced worldwide. In nature, it occurs in liquid form and is always coupled with other minerals, like potassium chloride, sodium chloride, and calcium chloride. These accompanying natural brines usually provide the feedstock (raw materials) for the processes that produce magnesium chloride as a by-product when the other minerals are removed and processed. 

The chemical formula for magnesium chloride is MgCl₂. Technically, magnesium chloride is a hygroscopic salt that absorbs moisture from the air to lower the freezing point of water and reduce ice production. It is commercially available in various hydrate forms, such as magnesium chloride flakes, pellets, pastilles, and even in liquid form.

What Is Magnesium Chloride Used For? 

Ice on road

In commercial settings, magnesium chloride is primarily used for anti-icing before the onset of snow and ice, as well as for dust control. For instance, The Department of Transportation (DOT) uses liquid magnesium chloride to pre-wet salt it applies to roads during snowstorms. It is also utilized on pavements, parking lots, man-made pathways, and common commercial outdoor areas to maintain safe surfaces.

Magnesium chloride ice melt is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture. It is used as a de-icing agent, dust suppressant, and for plant nutrition. Magnesium chloride is widely considered to be safer and better for the environment than products made from sodium or calcium chloride, but even so, it should always be applied with caution using correct techniques.

De-Icing with Magnesium Chloride 

De-icing is one of the most common commercial magnesium chlorides uses. While different suppliers will add various anti-corrosion or temperature lowering additives, magnesium chloride usually comes as an odorless liquid or as flakes or pellets that are sprayed or thrown directly onto pavements, roads, parking lots, and driveways pre-storm.

Magnesium chloride salt interacts with water and ice to form a liquid brine that generates heat to melt ice. This brine spreads over the ice and breaks its bond with the pavement or road, which loosens the frozen water, making it easier to shovel and remove.

Pre-Wetting with Magnesium Chloride

Pre-wetting salt is the process of spraying or coating salt with a liquid de-icing agency (magnesium chloride liquid). This accelerates the brine-making process, which improves melting action. It also reduces bounce and scattered material during spreading and the total number of de-icer materials needed to obtain safer outdoor surfaces.

Pre-wetting increases road safety and saves money, minimizing the environmental impact. However, it does require equipment, including pumps, controllers, sprayers, and trucks, to ensure maximum impact. Even though it necessitates a little more spending, the investment pays for itself, as it performs faster and requires fewer applications over time.

Dust Control with Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium Chloride on roads

Magnesium chloride is also used as a dust suppressant on roads, construction sites, sports tracks and fields, and other aggregate surfaces. Due to its hygroscopic nature, magnesium chloride on roads sucks moisture from the air and makes the road’s surface damp when it settles. This action binds dust particles together in a hard film on the road. Magnesium chloride dust control stabilizes road and aggregate surfaces — lengthening the time between costly repairs. 

Plant Nutrition with Magnesium Chloride

Additionally, Magnesium chloride is frequently used in fertilizer to correct and prevent mineral deficiencies in crops and soil before and during planting season. However, it can be utilized during the growing season to fix growth problems.

Magnesium contributes to the vital process of photosynthesis, which transforms the water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into oxygen and simple sugars that fuel plant growth. Additionally, it also promotes cell membrane stabilization, activates growth enzymes, and aids protein synthesis.


Is Magnesium Chloride Safe for Pets?

While magnesium chloride contains safer ingredients than its counterparts, it is not 100% safe. It seldom harms a pet’s paws but may lead to an upset stomach if ingested.

Is Magnesium Chloride Safe on Concrete?

Magnesium chloride is one of the safest, environmentally friendly de-icing products for concrete because it isn’t corrosive, nor does it affect surrounding plants and landscaping as much.

What Is the Freezing Point of Magnesium Chloride?

Magnesium chloride can work in temperatures of up to Fahrenheit (-5 °F). It freezes at a lower point than water, but just how low depends on the specific de-icing agent.

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