Deicing: When Do You Use Salt? When Do You Use Sand?

Our snow removal clients often ask why we use salt sometimes but use sand at other times. It comes down to several different factors with the two materials. We’re going to do a mailbag with the most common questions asked. I’m making up the questions for this article but we have been asked many of these questions at different times.




Salt vs. Snow - Salt Rock CrystalsSand is really cheap. Why not just use it all the time?

We would love to use sand all the time to help save our clients money on their monthly charges. Unfortunately, sand isn’t effective at melting ice, it’s bad for the environment, and it’s really hard to clean up in spring. Back when everyone used to use sand all the time, the sand would accumulate in holding ponds and rivers. This effects the water levels and the water content. The sand also accumulates in parking lots and roads which requires a street sweeper or other involved work to clean up once the snow has melted.

You said sand doesn’t melt ice?

Good job! I did say that. Sand is strictly an abrasive material. It can melt ice through friction of car tires and things like that but that’s incidental. The primary function of sand is that, when applied liberally, it gives great traction on slick roads. In cold temperatures, sand can clump up and freezing but if you mix the sand with salt (like KG Landscape does), the sand does not clump up and continues to give traction. Sand can also get bushed off major traffic areas pretty easily so you might have to do multiple applications.

Well if sand doesn’t melt the ice, why not just use salt all the time?Deicing Materials Melting Point

Salt can only be used in certain temperatures ranges. You can check out the picture to the right to see what I’m talking about. The salt that most commercial companies use is good to about 15º F. Don’t mind the middle column, at those temperatures the salt will only melt the snow over a really, really, really long time. Salt on the other hand is good at all temperatures, so we use it when the temperatures are very cold and our clients need some traction in their parking lots.

Many people are conscious of their impact on the world nowadays, are either of these not great for the environment?

Wellllll, neither of them is all that great for the environment. Salt can burn the grass and shrubs near streets and parking lots. It also makes the rivers and lakes much more full of salt which has bad effects on the plant and animal life near them. Salt also corrodes steel and other metal structures. As discussed earlier, sand filters into rivers and lakes to make them fill up more. Also, sand is often mixed with salt so all the problems with salt apply to sand as well. Sooooo neither of them is really great for the environment.

That’s unfortunate. What’s the best method for getting rid of ice then?

Of course, the best method for keeping ice off the roads, parking lots, and sidewalks is using a professional, experienced snow removal company.

You mean like KG Landscape Management?

Thank you for finishing that.

Snow Removal Plowing Minneapolis MN