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Which is Better; Liquid Deicer or Rock Salt?

Which is Better; Liquid Deicer or Rock Salt?

Justin Rollin

In the quest for perfect snow and ice removal, the biggest question most of have is which is better, liquid deicer or rock salt? They are completely different chemicals and have completely different reactions to snow and ice as well as their own benefits and limitations.

Is Liquid Deicer Better than Rock Salt? If so, When?

Let’s get this out of the way first; rock salt and liquid deicer are both great products. The questions shouldn’t be “which is better” but instead “when is one better than the other”.

Rock Salt is a Simple Way to Melt Ice

For fast acting snow and ice removal, rock salt is your best bet. Once applied, it reacts quickly, changing the melting temperature of both snow and ice and thus melting them before your very eyes. Rock salt is the “set it and forget it approach” to snow removal. However, the biggest caveat with rock salt is the temperature needs to be above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than 20 and your rock salt will have no effect.

Liquid DeIcer is Great Under Certain Conditions

Liquid Deicer would be more appropriately named “liquid anti icer”. That is to say, most liquid deicer products work best as a preventative measure; apply them to the pavement on roadways, sidewalks, and driveways before an ice event occurs to allow them to work their magic. However, if you apply them directly to the surface of snow and ice they will melt it but the melting time is much longer than rock salt. Liquid de-icers can be applied even in below-freezing conditions, which makes them an excellent tool in the middle of winter.

What Are the Advantages of Each?

Both rock salt and liquid deicers have their advantages. In all honesty, we’d recommend you invest in both products so you can act accordingly no matter the weather. Let’s break down their strengths.

Rock Salt: Inexpensive & Versatile

Rock salt, on average, is a fraction of the price of liquid deicer when bought in bulk from a salt vendor. However, while it’s inexpensive it also requires a sustained, even application throughout a snow event. Yet, there’s something to be said about a product that can sit in a barrel, be spread onto the snow, and be forgotten almost as quickly. Rock salt can be applied as-is or be turned into a liquid brine solution, which can be applied from a sprayer.

All-in-all, rock salt can cause corrosion damage to your clients’ property, so it’s best to use it responsibly.

Liquid DeIcer: Potent & Proactive

Liquid deicers are incredibly potent. Since they are liquid they are bulky buy easy to store. Most of all, liquid deicing agents work at pretty much all winter temperatures. When used wisely, they can be applied before a blizzard, keeping your clients’ properties clear of ice up until you’re ready to come in, plow, and reapply your product.

Unlike rock salt, most liquid deicers do not cause corrosion damage, which means roadways, driveways, sidewalks, and even vehicles will be none the worse for wear after a hard winter.

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What Are the Most Common Types of Liquid Deicers?

“Liquid DeIcer” is an informal term for a slew of products on the shelves. However, a true deicer is typically one of two compounds, which are potent and aggressive ice and snow melters.

Propylene Glycol

Believe it or not, propylene glycol is the same substance crews spray on airplanes in the middle of winter to keep ice from forming on them. It works just as well on a road, sidewalk, and driveway! It’s much lower in toxicity than ethylene glycol but responds to snow and ice in much the same way.

Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene glycol is the second-most-common liquid deicer on the market. It has “antifreeze” qualities much in the same way as propylene glycol but has overall higher toxicity to animals. Ethylene glycol is actually used in laboratories to safely flash-freeze tissue and organs!

Which Deicer is Cheaper to Deploy?

Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and know what is 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.

Rock Salt is Cheaper Upfront

If your winters stay above 20 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.

Liquid DeIcer Can Save You Labor

Most of us are in the Midwest, which means our winters get pretty darn cold. With that said, you should invest in enough liquid deicer or ice melt to get you through those last few months of winter when the thermometer doesn’t go much above freezing. Furthermore, liquid deicer can be applied quickly and proactively, which could save you labor hours if you’re strategic about timing.

Can/Should You Make Your Own Liquid Deicer?

Making your own salt brine at home is pretty simple. All it takes is a 3-to-1 ratio of hot water and rock salt, mixed until the salt is incorporated into the solution. From there, you can stretch your salt out more by spraying it.