For decades, rock salt has been a popular solution for snow and ice control on roads, sidewalks, and parking lots. But as the snowfighter industry has evolved, so has our understanding of the negative impacts that rock salt has on our business and the environment. By primarily using rock salt in your snow and ice control business, you’re keeping yourself from a safe, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective snowfighting operation. In this article, we’ll tell you how to fix that.
USING ONLY ROCK SALT ISN’T SAFE
The first time I ever went out and salted was in the 80s. I was sent with a six-yard salt spreader to clear a one-acre parking lot. I salted it, and by the time I was done, I couldn’t tell that I had done anything, so I kept salting it until I saw the results I wanted to see. I didn’t see genuinely effective results until the 6th salting, 45 minutes later. I later realized this happened because no one told me that temperature affects rock salt's ability to work quickly.
When you put down rock salt, depending on the temperature, it can take anywhere between ten minutes and an hour before it starts melting anything. That’s because rock salt has to turn into brine before it works. Rock salt doesn’t melt anything until it turns to brine. If I had used straight salt brine, the snow, and ice would’ve begun melting immediately. The parking lot would’ve been cleared in 5 minutes rather than 45 minutes. That's because salt brine is a more versatile and sustainable anti-icing method that takes effect immediately.
Any time there is snow and ice that hasn’t melted, there’s the potential for someone to get hurt. Nothing harms our business more than slip-and-fall claims damaging our credibility and keeping us from expanding our client list. As snowfighters, we need something that will get us effective results quickly. Only using rock salt can keep you from that. After all, DOTs didn’t start using salt brine because it was more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. They started using brine because it ensured instant safety.
USING ONLY ROCK SALT LEAVES YOU VULNERABLE TO ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS
Conservatively speaking, in a regular snowstorm, a snowfighter will probably put down 750lb-1000lbs of salt per acre of land. Some will say that they use significantly less, say 250lbs per acre, what they don’t say is that they may be putting down over three applications of that salt per storm.
Now say that you’re using brine. Depending on where you are in the country, a snowfighter will use 50 gallons of brine per application in a storm. At 2lbs of salt per gallon of water for brine, we only use 110lbs of salt for the entire storm.
Snowfighters generally use between 1/2 to 1/10 as much salt in brine as others use in granular rock salt. Unfortunately, all of that excess rock salt from snowfighters who don’t use brine is going into our water supply. As snowfighters, we want to put down as much as we need to ensure the safety of our communities, but nothing extra. That’s because “extra” damages our water supply and natural ecosystems. Once salt makes its way into water, it never comes out. Once it’s there, it’s there forever.
Only using rock salt is bad for your business because environmental agencies like the EPA are starting to take note of rock salt’s environmental impact. When the United States federal government steps in and regulates rock salt, and you are primarily using rock salt for your business, your whole snowfighting operation is at stake. Using only rock salt is playing chicken with your business.
USING ONLY ROCK SALT IS WASTING YOUR MONEY
While rock salt may seem cheaper up-front than other snow and ice control methods, due to the sheer amount of product that you have to use to see results, you’re actually wasting money in the long run.
Here’s an example. Let's say you’re putting down rock salt. At a conservative range, you’d be paying about $70 per ton. If you only use a quarter of a ton for an acre, let’s say 500lbs, which is pretty light, you’d be spending $17.15. Let’s compare that to self-made salt brine now. You’d normally pay around $0.08 per gallon for brine. If you put down brine at 50 gallons an acre, which is more than enough to get the job done, you only spend $4.50 in the long run. While the real-world numbers will vary widely, there is still a big difference in costs from rock salt to brine.
By only using rock salt in your snowfighting arsenal, you are almost quadrupling your material costs than if you were using brine. Never mind the labor-intensive work of reapplying salt or the wear and tear on your salting rig. At the end of the day, most snowfighters prefer to pay $4 instead of $17.
As a snowfighter, you have a responsibility to both your clients and the environment. Using rock salt may seem like the easiest solution, but it comes with significant drawbacks. The danger it poses to your client’s safety and the environment, coupled with the need for more frequent applications, can put a significant dent in your bottom line.
A better alternative is using salt brine, which is not only more effective at lower temperatures but also has a lower environmental impact. Making the switch to salt brine will not only save you money but also help you run a more sustainable snow and ice control operation.