How Does Ice Salt Make Your Driveway Safer?

How Does Ice Salt Make Your Driveway Safer? rock salt ice salt winter drivewaySteven White/Getty Images

Ice salt makes our driveaways and roads much safer during the winter. Here's why.

Ice salt can work wonders when it comes to making surfaces safer for driving and walking. Ever wondered why that is? Here's exactly what ice salt is and how it works.

What is ice salt?

Also known as rock salt, ice salt is essentially table salt (sodium chloride) in its more natural form. Unlike table salt, ice salt does not go through a purification process. That's why it sometimes appears brown or gray. You can buy a 25 lb. bag of ice salt at The Home Depot, and most grocery stores, for $6 to $8.

How does ice salt work?

Spreading Salt on a Icy Winter SidewalkBanksPhotos/Getty Images

Ice salt works by making it more difficult for solid ice crystals to form from water. By doing this, ice salt effectively lowers the freezing point of water, which is 32° F.

By using ice salt, the air temperature must be lower than 32 degrees F in order for the water to freeze into ice. A 10-percent salt solution freezes at 20° F (about -7° C) while a 20-percent solution freezes at 2° F (about -17° C).

There's only one caveat: Salt must be in a water solution for this to work. That's why you'll see road workers spray a mixture of water and salt on roads if there isn't any ice formation. Once ice is formed, the sun or friction from tires or shoes ensures that there's enough water mixed with the salt. These 13 winter driving mistakes to avoid will help keep you safe when you're on the road.

How should I use ice salt?

Before using ice salt on driveways and walkways, shovel away as much snow and ice as possible.

Next, spread the ice salt. Take care to avoid the lawn and anything metal, since ice salt can kill grass and corrode metal. Keep in mind that less is more and that a heavy-handed application will not speed up the process. Instead of using a large scoop, try using a specialized tool like this ice melt salt dispenser for a more controlled application. The ice salt should melt the ice relatively quickly, though larger, thicker pieces of ice may need more time.

As a final step, shovel away any ice that is not completely melted.

Avoid using ice salt on concrete that is not yet completely cured. And make sure to use ice salt and not ice melter on concrete. Ice melters contain additional minerals that can corrode your driveway.

Finally, take care to protect your floors from ice salt by placing mats inside and outside of exterior doors, using boot trays and cleaning floors regularly.

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