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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, the biggest question most people have is which is better, liquid deicer or rock salt? They are completely different types of products and have completely different reactions to snow and ice; in addition to the differences in benefits and limitations. Let's examine these de-icing products and which is the best for your particular situation.

What Are Liquid Deicers?

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

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 usually 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 the water's freezing point by forming a 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.

What Is Rock Salt

The Difference Between Liquid Deicer and Rock Salt

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


For the most traditional approach, rock salt is your best bet. Once applied, it reacts quickly and starts melting snow and ice before your 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 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than 15 and your rock salt will have reduced effectiveness.

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, parking lots, 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 traditional rock salt. Liquid deicers are effective even in below-freezing conditions, which makes them an excellent tool in the middle of winter.


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, 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, something must be said about a product that can sit in a pile, be spread onto the snow, and be forgotten almost as quickly. Rock salt can be applied as-is or can be turned into either a liquid brine solution or mixed with an additive to make treated bulk salt.

If your winters stay above 15 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.

Environmental Impact

Due to the tackifiers and anti-corrosion inhibitors in liquid deicers, they are usually more friendly to the environment.  They stick to the surface they are applied to and don’t bounce into landscape beds or 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 deicing products tend to be more powerful also means that less product needs to be sprayed, ultimately having a positive impact on the environment.

Equipment Required

When it comes to liquid deicers vs rock salt products, they both require equipment in order 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 truck mounted model). The salt should be evenly distributed.

Liquid deicing products are applied using a sprayer, again the type of spray can vary depending on size and coverage area.

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 of time for the hard pellets to turn into liquid before they become effective. Liquid products essentially eliminate this step as it is already in a liquid form, which means that once the snow starts falling the pre-applied liquid will start to melt the snow on contact.

Rock Salt: Pros and Cons

Let's explore some specific advantages and disadvantages of using road salt during the winter. This is a tried-and-true method that has been around for decades.

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 is the most affordable deicing product for melting snow and ice.
  • It is relatively easy to store: Rock salt does not have an expiration date, it doesn’t go bad as long as it is kept away from moisture. Storing your salt off of the ground and covered is the year to keep it from clumping.

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.
  • It has an unstable price that fluctuates significantly based on supply and demand. This is due to the fact that it's a natural resource. If you find that you're in need of this product, chances are that other businesses are in the same boat. Oftentimes, you might pay a premium.

liquid deicer vs rock salt what's the difference

Liquid Deicers: Pros and Cons

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

Liquid Deicers Advantages

  • When mixing a liquid deicer, adding more product does NOT make it more effective. Make sure to read the instructions of the specific product you are 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 deicing products work at pretty much all winter temperatures
  • 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.
  • Unlike rock salt, most liquid deicers have anti-corrosive inhibitors added to the product. This helps to reduce the damage to surfaces, vehicles, and buildings.

Liquid Deicers Disadvantages

  • The actual process of melting ice when using a liquid takes longer when compared to salt. This is why it's often used as more of an anti-icing solution.
  • Pre-made liquid deicer can cost more to transport than compared with rock salt.
  • It requires more expertise and knowledge to use; if it isn't used properly, it won't give you the results that you want.

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

Both rock salt and liquid deicers have their advantages. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution and each option has its pros and cons. If you are 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 are needing 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!

At Ninja De-icer, we are proud to offer some of the best deicing products at affordable costs. We have 15 years of experience and we can help find a solution that works the best for your business. We are happy to answer any questions that you may have and we encourage you to get a quote from our team to get started.

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Can You Make Your Own Liquid Deicer?

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

Do liquid deicers require special knowledge to use them?

If you're new to using liquid deicing 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 rock salt. It's important that you understand how to make it, when to apply it, and the application rates. Ninja De-Icer offers liquid deicing support if you are looking at starting to use liquid products. Contact us today for more details.

Does pavement temperature matter?

Yes, it is key that you have an understanding of the pavement temperature on which the material will be used 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.