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The 5 Types of Dangerous Ice Melting Salts

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With the onset of each winter, municipalities across the United States and Canada send out a fleet of snowplows to clear roads and apply salt to roadways. Keeping roadways open and clear is not only vital to economic operations, but can also mean the difference between keeping the public safe and exposing them to life threatening conditions.

Each winter, road salt is applied primarily across the Snow Belt in the United States and throughout Canada. The amount varies by winter, but on average 17 million tons of salt is applied to American roadways with an additional 6 million tons applied to Canadian streets. If you live in a cold weather locale you’ve no doubt seen plows and salt trucks doing their job, but do you ever wonder what kind of salt they are dumping on the streets?

There are actually a wide variety of salts used to help combat snow, slush, and ice on roadways during the winter months. The following are five of the more common types used in deicing operations:

Sodium Chloride: Although not as finely ground, this type of salt is the same as you’ll find on the table at home or in the local restaurant. Also known as halite, sodium chloride is dark gray in color and is often presoaked to prevent it from scattering off the roadway when applied.

Magnesium Chloride: This type of salt is often applied to roads in a liquid form in advance of winter weather. Magnesium chloride is inexpensive to use and releases heat slowly as it dissolves, allowing it to combat snow and ice.

Calcium Chloride: Calcium chloride, like magnesium chloride, can be made or found naturally occurring. It is applied in liquid form to icy roads and is particularly effective at extreme low temperatures. It is more effective than sodium chloride with less negative impact on the environment, but is also more expensive.

Potassium Chloride: This road salt is not particularly effective at low temperatures, and therefore is not a popular choice in the depths of winter. However, it is often combined with other salts to lessen the negative impacts on the environment. Because potassium chloride occurs naturally in plants, it is viewed as safer than sodium chloride.

Salt Mixtures: There are an increasing number of salt mixtures in use across the country, many of which have come into existence in an effort to combat the negative environmental impacts of salt. Potassium and Sodium Chloride is one such mixture.

All of the items above can be replaced with an environmentally friendly product that does not contain salt, such as SafePaw. A product that does not include salt will not harm the environment. Here is how SafePaw, the salt free ice melter works.

It takes a variety of salting approaches to keep roadways clear and open during the winter months and it does cause hazards to the environment. Here are some of the hazards of using salt. The salts listed above are the most common salts you see dumped on roads in your town, but don’t be surprised to see alternatives rolling out in the coming years.