Snow & Ice Removal – Rock Salt vs Calcium Chloride

In terms of snow and ice removal, it is often debated which snow melting compound (rock salt vs calcium chloride) is best for a particular application.  To answer this question, one must weigh a number of factors including, temperature, surface type, potential harm to vegetation or animals, and overall cost.  To help you choose which compound is best for your particular application, we’ve outlined a number of important specifications for each option.

Rock Salt (Sodium Chloride)

  • Effective to 15°F (-9°C).
  • Melts ice more slowly than calcium chloride.
  • Does not attract moisture, keeps surfaces dry.
  • Corrosive – Can harm certain metals including rebar contained in concrete.
  • Harmful to vegetation.
  • May be harmful to pets and other animals.
  • Inexpensive alternative to calcium chloride.

Calcium Chloride

  • Effective to -20°F (-29°C).
  • Melts ice more quickly than rock salt (sodium chloride).
  • May attract moisture thus resulting in slippery surfaces.
  • Noncorrosive – Will not harm concrete or other surfaces.
  • Will not harm vegetation.
  • May be harmful to pets and other animals.
  • Significantly more expensive than rock salt (sodium chloride).
Snow & Ice Removal – Rock Salt vs Calcium Chloride

An example of calcium chloride in flake form.

As can be seen in the specifications above, calcium chloride shows a number of benefits over rock salt but is in turn much more expensive.  To counteract this cost, many facilities opt for a sodium chloride/calcium chloride blend.  Blending the two together helps offset some of the inefficiencies of each individual product (rock salt’s cost and corrosiveness, and calcium chloride’s propensity to attract moisture).  Other blends also exist such at magnesium chloride/calcium chloride blends which take advantage of magnesium chloride’s even less corrosive properties.

It is important to also consider that both rock salt (sodium chloride) and calcium chloride can be harmful to pets and other animals in that both are prone to burning exposed skin.  Both compounds can also be harmful to animals if consumed in larger quantities.  For applications with heavy pet traffic the best options are salt-free ice melt products which usually contain an Amide/Glycol Admixture or other biodegradable substance.

With regards to preventing potential vegetation damage, the best bet is to go with a calcium chloride or even a salt-free product.  If you must use rock salt (sodium chloride) check out Purdue University’s white paper on Salt Damage in Landscape Plants for tips on how best to protect vegetation from damage.

For additional assistance matching the correct snow and ice removal products to your application, contact F&F Industrial at 1-800-724-ASAP.

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