Salt brines are an effective way to clear away snow and ice. In many cases, they’re more effective than conventional rock salt. However, salt brines can be made in a variety of ways, all of which change how they interact with ice and snow.
Getting your salt brine right can be as rewarding as it is challenging. With a little experimentation and some insight, you’ll be on your way to a proprietary mix that you can call your own.
Why Use Brine Over Rock Salt?
Brines have many advantages over regular road salt. We’ll break down the highlights for you.
- Brines adhere more readily to pavement and sticks to it longer
- Salt needs liquid to activate its snow and ice melting properties; the water in a way means your salt is ready to roll as soon as it’s sprayed
- Brines can be used to pre-treat surfaces before a winter storm
- The operating temperature of a salt brine can be as much as 14F colder than a standard rock salt product
Making a Salt Brine
While you can buy a salt brine off the shelf, many commercial snow removal businesses will do it themselves. Depending on its application, a homemade brine could be better tailored to your needs than a “one size fits all” brine.
Basics of Brines
The most basic principle of salt brine is this; you need salt and water. When mixed at the right proportions, you boost the snow and ice melting properties of salt and make it easier to apply to surfaces.
While simple on the surface, you can get pretty complicated with a brine by controlling the proportions of water to salt and introducing chemical additives to give your brine new properties.
Using a Brine Maker
While some of us enjoy the rustic life and prefer to mix a brine by hand, others simply don’t have the time or don’t want to get too involved in the chemistry. Brine makers remove all of the guesswork from your brine creation. Typically, a brine maker features two reservoirs; a holding tank for rock salt and a finished tank for your brine.
After hooking up a source of water, a brine maker will use a powerful jet pump to dissolve your rock salt and give you an instant reading of your brine strength. Brine makers are the best way to make a lot of brine while ensuring a consistent result.
Salt Brine Dilution Calculator
The most common brine proportions are 23.3% salt to 76.7% water. However, you can forgo conventional sodium chloride and use either magnesium chloride or calcium chloride instead. Keep in mind that the concentrations of those chemicals are drastically different.
A calcium or magnesium chloride brine will increase the melting effect of your brine solution and while many use it as an additive, you can also create a diluted brine with it using a simple salt brine dilution calculator formula. The ratio for this concoction is 90% water and 10% calcium or magnesium chloride.
Additives can be a great way to boost your brine. The most common additives are small amounts of either calcium chloride or magnesium chloride to enhance the brine’s melting effect. Of these two chemicals, just 2-3% should be introduced. Reduce the amount of salt you use by that same proportion and keep the same amount of water.
Biodegradable dyes can be a great addition to your brine as well. A dye will give your brine better visibility, which allows you to track your application giving you more control and increasing your efficiency.
Lastly, organics like cheese whey byproducts and sugar beet juice can be added to a salt brine solution. You might even be surprised to know that these two rather strange materials are often referred to as “proprietary organics” in off-the-shelf brines. Believe it or not, both chemicals will increase the adhesion and longevity of brine as it sits on pavement. They are typically added at a 10% concentration, cutting into the percentage of salt and/or magnesium and calcium chloride.
Be Proud of Your Brine
Whether you’re adding beet juice to your brine or sneaking in some calcium chloride to boost its melting ability, be proud of the proprietary brine you’ve created for your snow removal business. Let your clients know that they’ll find nothing at all like it. You could even let them know the extent you went to formulate it. Above all, the more you know about what you’re putting on your client’s pavement, the more effective you’ll be.