Ice Melt vs. Rock Salt – Which Should You Choose?

Sbow covered car and tree

On Facebook, on TV and at work, everyone’s saying the same thing: There’s a blizzard coming.

And then you realize: We don’t have any rock salt at home. You ran out after last year’s big storm, and never got to replenish your supply.

So you head to your local hardware store to stock up and find yourself looking at a vast collection of different products, some of it labeled “ice melt,” some of it labeled “rock salt.”

And as you browse the selection, you begin to wonder: What’s the difference between rock salt and ice melt? We’re glad you asked. Read more about ice melt vs. rock salt and which one you should choose.

What is rock salt?

Halite rock salt

Also known as Halite, rock salt is sodium chloride, the same chemical compound found in table salt. The difference is that it has larger crystals and is not as refined as table salt. These larger crystals allow it to dissolve at a much slower rate.

Rock salt does its job by permeating frozen surfaces and creating a salt/water solution called brine. Brine doesn’t freeze at the same temperature as water, which causes ice to melt. As long as the rock salt is present on that surface, the ice won’t be able to reform.

Why should I use rock salt?

Road Rock Salt on Wooden Stair StepRock salt is usually very affordable and also very effective, keeping your surfaces ice free as long as temperatures stay above 25 degrees.

However, salt shortages are not unheard of. Earlier this year, a three-month strike at a salt mine in Canada – coupled with decreased production at another mine – had landscapers across North America scrambling to find salt.

Just keep in mind that rock salt can harm plant life. If the surface you need to de-ice is near vegetation you’re hoping to protect, you might want to switch to a plant-safe product. Rock salt can also be harmful to pets. It causes irritation and burning if it gets in between the pads of a dog or cat’s paws and can make them sick if they eat it.

Finally, rock salt won’t be much help during a “polar vortex” style weather event. If you know temperatures are going to drop below 25 degrees, you may want to opt for ice melt.

What is ice melt?

Calcium Chloride“Ice melt” is a catch-all term that refers to a few different products, including calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. Ice melt tends to be more pet and plant-friendly, and calcium chloride ice melt – the most popular variety – will work at sub-zero temperatures.

That’s because ice melt not only forms a brine, it also generates heat and absorbs moisture after it’s spread. It can be a faster-acting and more effective solution than rock salt.

Note that some ice melt is coated with CMA (calcium magnesium acetate) to make it even safer for users with pets.

Do you need ice melt or rock salt? Turn to Yardville Supply

For decades, homeowners, business owners and contractors throughout central New Jersey have relied on Yardville Supply to help clear the sidewalks and streets.

Our de-icing choices include not only rock salt, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride, but also a relatively new product called ProSlicer.

This is a rock salt treated with liquid calcium and a corn byproduct that eliminates the bounce you typically see in dry rock salt.

Whether you need a jug of ice melt for your home or a truckload of rock salt, we’re ready to meet your needs. And remember: no matter what winter throws at us this year, we’re always open. We hope to see you soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *