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Rock-salt does not melt snow, here's what does

Rock-salt does not melt snow, here's what does

January 12, 2022

If I were to tell you that rock-salt does not melt snow or ice, would you believe me?  To be fair, you see trucks spreading rock-salt every time it snows, and the snow melts.  I can understand why you would think that the rock-salt melted the snow.

However, I can confidently make this claim leaning on my 40+ years of working in the snow and ice business.  The truth is that snow and ice are melted by salt brine.

Salt brine is the product of mixing salt and water.  This “saltwater” lowers the freeze-point of water so it cannot stay in its solid form below 32 degrees. It now will stay in a safer liquid form  until it gets down to about 16 degrees.  At 16 degrees it will turn to ice.  

The good news is that all of that rock-salt that is spread transforms to brine and melts snow and ice.  The challenge is that in order for it to transform to a brine it needs a moisture source.  This usually comes from vehicle traffic causing friction or melting from the sunlight. Once this initial moisture source “activates” the salt, the resulting moisture from the melting feeds the cycle.  This cycle continues until the salt is diluted enough that it no longer works and salt must be reapplied.  

We have the ability to skip this process by  manufacturing and applying salt brine.  Our current brine manufacturing plant at our Owings Mills facility can store 11,000 gallons of brine.  Brine is used for pre-treating parking lots prior to a storm.  This advanced method provides a layer of salt that prevents snow and ice from bonding to the pavement - making the clean up of snow and ice easier and gives us a better result.  It also helps eliminate snow-pack, which is a very difficult condition to resolve.  

These are just a few of the tools available to us in the battle against snow and ice.