Snow may be beautiful, light and fluffy, but it can also pose a serious threat to your employees and customers and wreak havoc on your parking lots or driveways, especially when combined with ice.
In the snowy winter months, it's absolutely crucial that you stock up on products to get rid of snow and ice. But, with so many de-icing products on the market, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options.
By far, the most popular de-icing products are rock salt and ice melt. Both are used to melt ice, but they're two very different products with distinct chemical compositions that work differently.
Here at Egyptian Workspace Partners, our goal is to provide our clients with a safe and stress-free winter, which we can accomplish by helping you find the best de-icing solutions and winter safety supplies for your business.
In this article, we'll help you understand how rock salt and ice melt are different, as well as how they compare in certain categories, so you can stock up on the de-icing supplies you need before winter arrives.
Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt: How Are They Different?
What is Rock Salt?
Otherwise known as halite, rock salt is the chemical composition of sodium chloride. It's essentially the same thing as table salt, but it's not purified for human consumption.
Rock salt works by lowering the freezing point of water, forming a salt and water solution known as brine. This solution flows under the ice and breaks the bond between the ice and the surface, such as concrete or pavement.
Since brine has a lower freezing point than water, the ice will start to melt and won't be able to form again in the future, as long as enough rock salt is present.
What is Ice Melt?
Ice melt also contains sodium chloride, but its chemical composition often includes magnesium chloride pellets and calcium chloride pellets. It has the appearance of fine-grain sand or tiny flakes.
Typically, ice melt is applied to the surface before ice or snow forms. It lowers the freezing point of water, preventing the future buildup of ice or breaking pre-formed ice into liquid slush.
Different ice melt compounds have varying levels of effectiveness. Each has its own effective melting temperatures, de-icing capabilities and potential environmental effects:
- Calcium chloride is best for facilities that experience extremely low temperatures
- Magnesium chloride is better for facilities concerned with the environment
- Blended ice melts are formulated to use the best attributes of each chemical compound
Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt: How Do They Compare?
Rock salt is one of the cheapest methods for melting ice. On average, rock salt costs anywhere from $10 to $15 for a 50-pound bag, depending on the area of the country you live in.
There are even generic brands that cost less than $10. That being said, buying in bulk lowers the average cost of a 50-pound bag to as low as $5, making it the most affordable option for purchasing rock salt.
The price of ice melt starts around $13 for a 50-pound bag and can cost as much as $25 per bag. Some companies offer 40-pound bags to help offset the cost, even though it's less product for the same price.
Ice melt is also available in bulk. Still, buying in bulk isn't always the most cost-effective option, as it only lowers the cost of a 50-pound bag by a few dollars.
Winner: Rock salt
In general, rock salt is more affordable than ice melt. A 50-pound bag of rock salt ranges from $10 to $15 in price, while a 50-pound bag of ice melt costs anywhere from $13 to $25.
2. PARKING LOT OR VEHICLE Damage
Rock salt provides traction on ice, even as it works to melt it. Chunks of rock can also grind against the surface and damage concrete or pavement in a parking lot or drive over time.
Unfortunately, rock salt is extremely corrosive and can cause extensive damage to vehicles, roads and concrete. If you live in a region of the country with frequent snowfall or ice, this may be an issue.
Because of its chemical composition, some people believe ice melt is bad for asphalt. Ice melt can have a long-term effect on concrete and asphalt and be sensitive to different forms of chemicals.
Additionally, ice melt has less of a corrosive effect on vehicles. It can damage a car over a few years, but the effects aren't very extreme, and they happen slowly.
Winner: Ice melt
Rock salt can cause extreme damage to concrete, asphalt and cars. By contrast, ice melt can also seriously damage concrete and asphalt, although its effects on vehicles are more limited.
3. plant and animal Safety
Cheaper rock salt tends to be the most harmful product on a yard or lawn. Rock salt with a calcium dichloride chemical mixture is better for your landscape but can negatively affect concrete or asphalt.
In addition, rock salt can be harmful to plant life. If the surface you're planning to coat with rock salt is located near a highly vegetated area, you may want to consider an eco-friendly and plant-safe alternative.
Rock salt is similarly dangerous to pets. It can cause gastrointestinal disorders when ingested or burning and irritation if it's stuck between the pads of a dog or cat's paws.
It may cost more money, but ice melt with magnesium chloride has been proven not to damage lawns. There are also all-natural, salt-free options that are eco-friendly and ideal for use around plants or animals.
That being said, you should always make sure to read the labels before making a purchase. In order to be truly pet-friendly, ice melt must be coated with magnesium chloride.
Winner: Ice melt
Cheap rock salt can seriously damage concrete and asphalt, as well as your landscape and animals. If plant and pet safety is a top priority, you may want to consider ice melt with magnesium chloride, even though it costs more.
4. melting Speed
Rock salt can effectively melt ice in temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, seven degrees lower than the freezing point. For this reason, it can be used to prevent the accumulation of salt on surfaces.
Plus, rock salt provides instant traction on snow and ice, as well as on walkways, driveways, and stairs, but it is not effective on surfaces below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ice melt, especially varieties including calcium chloride, can lower the freezing temperature of ice in extremely cold temperatures. Some ice melts are engineered to form a brine and generate heat.
In fact, there are ice melting products that work all the way down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. This not only makes the ice melt more effective but also faster acting.
Winner: Ice melt
Universally, ice melt works faster than rock salt. Ice melt has a melting point of -25 degrees Fahrenheit, while rock salt melts at 25 degrees Fahrenheit and isn't effective on surfaces below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
That being said, ice melt doesn't provide instant traction on ice or snow. As it melts, it can create a slush that has to be plowed away within an hour to avoid re-freezing or re-application of product.
Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt: What Should You Choose?
The last thing anyone wants to think about is snow and ice. As winter weather draws closer, it's officially time to stock up on de-icing products that protect not only your business but also your employees and guests.
Ultimately, the choice between ice melt and rock salt should depend on your specific set of needs. You'll also want to take your local climate into consideration.
Rock salt is best if you're looking to save money or want a product that provides instant traction on snow and ice. However, it can corrode concrete and metal and can be extremely toxic to plants and animals.
Ice melt is fast-acting and works to melt ice faster than rock salt. It may not increase traction on snow or ice, but it's eco-friendly and most are safe for use around children, plants and animals.
When it's time to choose between rock salt and ice melt, your final decision will depend on how you answer each of these questions:
- How much money do you want to spend?
- Are you in need of a product that increases traction on ice and snow or a product that melts ice and snow as quickly as possible?
- Do you have special considerations for plants, animals and children?
- Do you live in an area that drops below 25 degrees Fahrenheit or -25 degrees Fahrenheit?
By choosing the best de-icing product for your business, you can keep your facility in great shape and ensure your employees and visitors are safe in the winter months to come.
Not sure which de-icing product is right for your property? Schedule a time to chat with one of our Workspace Partners to learn more about our selection of de-icing supplies and our fast and reliable delivery!