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Liquid Deicer vs Rock Salt: What's the Difference?

Liquid Deicer vs Rock Salt: What's the Difference?

Justin Rollin

Let's face it: plowing snow is only so effective in the winter weather. You'll also need to know how to melt ice, reduce slippery surfaces, and prevent snow from sticking to your property. If you're on the quest for perfect snow and ice removal materials, the biggest question most people have is which is better, liquid de-icer or standard rock salt?

In reality, they're completely different types of products and have different reactions to snow and ice. Plus, there are differences in benefits and limitations. Join our pros at Ninja De-Icer as we examine these de-icing products and which is the best for your particular situation.

What Are Liquid De-Icers?

Liquid de-icers are becoming a more common solution to combat thick ice and snowpack. Liquid de-icers are usually a combination of salt brine and a liquid additive like calcium chloride or magnesium chloride, which are designed to lower the freezing point of water. It's used primarily to prevent the buildup of snow and ice on the surface ahead of a winter event. So, when and why use liquid de-icers? Liquid de-icers are the most effective when they are used as a pre-treatment on the surface. This means that generally, you'll need to use it before the winter weather event occurs for you to get the most benefit from it.

Advanced Liquid De-Icer Products

Advanced Liquid De-Icer Products
  • Salt Brine: This is an effective liquid product made from a mixture of rock salt and water. Crafted to prevent snow and ice from sticking to the pavement, this cost-effective option provides longer-lasting results. With its sodium chloride composition, salt brine remains effective in temperatures as low as 15°F;
  • Mineral Well Brine: Mineral Well Brine is an advanced calcium chloride-based liquid de-icer product that offers accelerated ice melt and improved road protection. Mineral Well Brine can be used before, during, or after a storm to prevent/reduce snow and ice buildup. It is a versatile product that can be used as a stand alone liquid product or added to salt brine to make an enhanced liquid de-icer. Treated roads become clear of ice and snow more quickly, making it an efficient solution for winter road safety. An added benefit of Mineral Well Brine is that it works even in the coldest temperatures, down to -25°F;
  • Headwaters® HOT Brine Liquid De-Icer: Headwaters HOT Brine is a cutting-edge liquid de-icer product made from sodium and magnesium chlorides that allows you to use 30% less product compared to traditional salt brine to achieve the same melting results. With its enhanced performance, it can melt up to 57% more ice than normal salt brine by itself. Headwaters HOT is effective in temperatures as low as 0°F, so it's a reliable solution for winter de-icing needs.

Liquid De-Icers: Pros and Cons

Liquid de-icing products are seen as a modern and eco-friendly solution to traditional rock salt. Let's look into some pros and cons to help you make your decision.

Liquid De-Icers Advantages

Liquid De-Icers Advantages
  • When used appropriately, they can be applied before a winter event to keep your customers' properties clear of ice and snowpack. This will allow you to either plow less often or delay the need for you to send your crews out to plow;
  • When mixing a liquid de-icer, adding more product does NOT make it more effective. Make sure to read the instructions of the specific product you're using, but most of the time you only need to add about 10-20% of the additive product to your salt brine;
  • Most importantly, liquid de-icing products work at the coldest of winter temperatures;
  • Unlike rock salt, most liquid de-icers have corrosion inhibitors added to the product. This helps to reduce the damage to surfaces, equipment, and buildings.

Liquid De-Icers Disadvantages

  • It requires more expertise and knowledge to use; if it isn't made and applied properly, it won't give you the results that you want;
  • Purchasing the equipment needed to make, store, and apply liquid de-icers can be an expensive investment upfront, but most see their return on value quickly with the reduced cost in product and labor for application;   
  • Pre-made liquid de-icers can cost more to transport than compared with rock salt.


Pros and Cons of Liquid De-Icers
Pros Cons
Liquid de-icers are known for their cost-effectiveness, as they can cover larger areas with less product. Purchasing the equipment needed to make, store, and apply liquid de-icers might be a more expensive investment upfront.
Liquid de-icers are effective across a wider range of temperatures, ensuring efficient melting even in extreme cold. Liquid de-icers can be more expensive to transport.
Most liquid de-icers contain anti-corrosive inhibitors, protecting metal surfaces from damage and corrosion. Proper application of liquid de-icers requires specialized knowledge and training.


What Is Rock Salt?

Rock salt has been used for years because it works fast to improve the safety of your property. Similar to table salt, it is made from sodium chloride but it has not been purified for human consumption. Bulk rock salt remains in its natural form with impurities and it works to lower temperatures of water's freezing point by forming a liquid brine that's made from salt and water. You can apply rock salt to surfaces after the snow and ice have already accumulated which is a huge benefit.

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Ready to Choose the Best Winter Solution?

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Rock Salt: Pros and Cons

Let's explore some specific advantages and disadvantages of using rock salt during the winter. 

Rock Salt Advantages

Generally speaking, here are some advantages of using rock salt:

  • Effective at melting ice and snow: Once a storm has started, applying rock salt will melt the snow and ice;
  • It's affordable: Traditional rock salt tends to be one of the most affordable de-icing product for melting snow and ice;
  • It's relatively easy to store: Rock salt doesn't have an expiration date, so it won't go bad as long as it's kept away from moisture. Storing your salt off of the ground and covering it can keep it from clumping.

Rock Salt Disadvantages

Rock Salt Disadvantages

  • Rock salt can cause damage to your customer's property such as to the concrete, vegetation, and building so it's best to use it responsibly;
  • It can easily bounce or be scattered by traffic which results in more product waste. Because of this, it cannot be applied to the roads in advance as the vehicles driving on it could cause it to move around too much before the winter weather hits;
  • Since rock salt is a commodity, it has an unstable price that fluctuates from year to year based on supply and demand. This is because it's a natural resource that is mined from the earth. Only so much product can be mined in a given amount of time so if there is an increased need, you will oftentimes pay a premium for it.

Pros and Cons of Rock Salt
Pros Cons
Has high effectiveness in melting ice and snow, providing a quick and reliable solution for winter maintenance. Can cause damage to plants, concrete, and metal surfaces due to its corrosive nature.
A cost-effective de-icing option, making it accessible to municipalities and businesses alike. May result in more product waste due to scattering or inefficient application.
No expiration date as long as it is stored properly. The price of rock salt can fluctuate depending on supply and demand factors, potentially impacting budget planning for winter maintenance.


The Difference Between Liquid De-Icer and Rock Salt

Let's get this out of the way first; rock salt and liquid de-icer are both great products. The question shouldn't be “which is better” but instead “when is one better than the other.” The answer varies depending on many different factors such as timing of application, temperature, the preferred form of product, etc.

1. Application

For a traditional approach, rock salt is a good bet. Once applied, it reacts quickly and starts melting snow and ice before your eyes. It's a tried and true approach. However, the biggest caveat with rock salt is the temperature needs to be above 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than 5 degrees and rock salt will be less effective.

Liquid de-icers work even faster than rock salt, as they are already in an active state when applied to the surface. They’ll start melting ice very quickly, and liquid allows for a more controlled application. Liquid de-icers can be applied before the snowstorm hits without worrying about scatter. Liquid de-icers that have enhancers are effective in below-freezing temperatures, even down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes them an excellent tool for the worst winter conditions.

Easier to apply: Liquid De-Icer

2. Price

2. Price

Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and know what's cheaper for your snow and ice removal business. Unfortunately, the answer isn't straightforward; it has a lot to do with what your average winter looks like, your manpower, and the equipment you use.

While on the surface rock salt might appear cheaper than liquid de-icer; however, while it's inexpensive it also requires a sustained, even application throughout a snow event. While the product itself might be cheaper, how much product you are applying and how often you need to apply (labor costs) impact the total price of each product.  

If your winters stay above 5 degrees, on average, then rock salt might be the cheapest product for you. As we said earlier; its straightforward application makes it simple to use and it has a fast-acting response on surfaces.

More affordable: Depends

3. Environmental Impact

Due to the tackifiers and anti-corrosion inhibitors in liquid de-icers, along with the need to use less product, liquid de-icers are usually more friendly to the environment. They stick to the surface they are applied to and don't bounce into landscape beds or get tracked into buildings. This means that you're causing less damage to the environment since you're more precise in your application and you're contaminating less ground. The fact that liquid de-icing products tend to be more powerful also means that less product needs to be sprayed, ultimately positively impacting the environment.

More eco-friendly: Liquid de-icer

4. Equipment Required

4. Equipment Required

When it comes to liquid de-icers vs rock salt products, they both require equipment to be applied. The difference in how they're applied is that rock salt can be spread using a spreader (either a walk-behind model or a truck-mounted model). The spreader should be calibrated in order to evenly distribute the correct amount of salt.

Liquid de-icing products are applied using a sprayer, again the type of spray can vary depending on size and coverage area. The sprayer should also be calibrated so the correct amount of liquid product is being applied.  

It should be noted that liquid de-icers do require additional equipment if you want to make your own product instead of buying the liquid de-icer ready to use.  

Equipment needed: Rock Salt

5. Melting Time

The winter weather and temperatures vary throughout the country, but most people can agree that the process of removing ice and snow should be as efficient as possible. Keep in mind that solid rock salt doesn't become effective until it converts into a liquid brine. This means that if you're using a solid product, you'll need to wait a period for the salt granules to dissolve in water before they become effective. Liquid products essentially eliminate this step as they are already in a liquid form, which means that once the snow starts falling the pre-applied liquid product will start to melt the snow on contact.

Melt ice faster: Liquid de-icer


Liquid De-Icer vs Rock Salt
Criteria Liquid De-Icer Rock Salt
Application Liquid de-icer has the advantage of being able to be applied to surfaces before a snow event. Rock salt needs to be applied once the snow storm has started.
Melting Time Liquid de-icer works the quickest as it is already in a liquid state so it can start melting ice and snow on contact. Rock salt needs time to dissolve the granule salt into water before it can be effective at melting ice and snow.
Cost Liquid de-icer typically has a higher cost for the product alone, but can be more cost effective due to reduced use of product, applications, and labor costs. Rock salt is generally more affordable upfront, making it a popular choice for snow and ice removal. However, it can have hidden costs in the amount of product used, number of applications needed, and labor costs associated.
Equipment Required Liquid de-icer is applied with sprayers. Additional equipment is needed if you want to make your own liquid de-icer instead of purchasing it pre-maid. Rock salt can be applied with spreaders.
Environmental Impact Liquid de-icer tends to be more environmentally friendly as there are tackifiers and anti-corrosion inhibitors added to the liquid product. Rock salt can have negative environmental impacts, as it may contaminate water sources and harm plants and wildlife if not used responsibly.

Liquid De-Icer vs Rock Salt: What Is Your Best Option?

Both rock salt and liquid de-icers have their advantages. There's not a one-size-fits-all solution and each option has its pros and cons. If you're experienced in this field and you're looking for a product that can help with pre-treatment to minimize your work, you can opt for a liquid deicing product. On the other hand, if you need something that will work in a pinch and that's easier to apply, rock salt might be the better option. In all honesty, we'd recommend you invest in both products so you can act accordingly no matter the weather.

Find the Best Ice Melt Products at Ninja De-Icer!

Find the Best Ice Melt Products at Ninja De-Icer!

The choice between liquid de-icers and rock salt depends on various factors such as effectiveness, cost, temperature, and environmental impact. Liquid de-icers offer advantages like quicker melting even at lower temperatures and anti-corrosive properties, while rock salt is known for its upfront affordability and ease of use.

By considering these factors and the specific needs of your winter maintenance, you can make an informed decision. We're happy to answer any questions that you may have, so always feel free to reach out to Ninja De-Icer for more information and get a quote to ensure a safer and more efficient winter season.


Can you make your own liquid de-icer?

Making your own salt brine at home is pretty simple. It involves mixing rock salt and water at a 23.3% solidity. You can also combine a liquid additive like calcium or magnesium chloride with your salt brine to make it more effective at lower temperatures.

Do liquid de-icers require special knowledge to use them?

If you're new to using liquid de-icing products, it's best practice to talk to a professional before you use them. This will allow you to better understand the process and how it differs from using a solid product. You must understand how to make it, when to apply it, and the application rates. Ninja De-Icer offers liquid de-icing support if you're looking at starting to use liquid products. Contact us today for more details.

Does pavement temperature matter?

Yes! It's key that you have an understanding of the pavement temperature on which the material will be applied before deciding what product to use. This is different from the air temperature. In many cases, truck-mounted infrared thermometers or hand-held thermometers are used to measure the ground temperature.