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Snow Day 101: Salt

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After short-sleeve weather on Wednesday, our area experienced an unusual drop in temperatures, followed by a fast-moving blizzard. Although snow can be a source of joy, adults must battle with slippery roads and bad driving conditions. Obviously, we need a cheap and efficient way to get rid of the snow, so what comes into mind?

Salt… but this is not the regular table or sea salt we are familiar with.

First of all, how does salt even melt snow?

When salt is mixed with snow, it decreases the freezing point. This causes the snow to melt. According to KISSNER, a salt supplying company: “With 10% salt solution, water freezes at 20°F (-6°C) With 20% salt solution, water freezes at 2°F (-16°C)”.

Just by looking at this, it seems that a 100% salt solution would do the trick, but that is not the case. The problem is that salt possesses corrosive qualities that can damage streets and soil. In addition, salt dissolves into the melted snow and flows into storm drains, finding its way into some rivers. Salt can damage freshwater marine ecosystems since such animals are not used to a higher concentration of salt. So, there has to be a balance of salt and other chemicals.

It turns out the best choice for salting the roads is magnesium chloride. According to The New York Landmarks Conservancy, “It [Magnesium Chloride] continues to melt snow and ice until the temperature reaches -13 F. The salt releases 40% less chloride into the environment that either rock salt or calcium chloride.” This new type of salt decreases snow’s melting point by 45°F, and it is environmentally safe. It is, in the opinion of NYLC, “the best choice”.

When salting snow, make sure to first remove as much snow as possible with a shovel, then start salting. Do not salt areas of vegetation since that can potentially harm the plants.

Make sure to use magnesium chloride in order to ensure the sidewalks and driveways are safe during this unexpected blizzard.

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Snow Day 101: Salt