Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt

Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt

Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt

Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt

It’s important to appreciate the difference between rock salt and ice melt before finding salt manufacturers near you to supply you with de-icing or ice-melting products. 

When it comes to melting snow/ice during winter, it boils down to two options, namely rock salt or ice melt. While people may use the terms to mean the same thing, they are inherently different in many ways, from their chemical composition to how they work, cost, and many other ways. 

Differences Between Rock Salt and Ice Melt

I. Chemical Composition

Salt manufacturers sell rock salt that is 96 – 99% sodium chloride. The rest of the salt is composed of impurities such as zinc, chromium, iron, calcium, and sulfate. 

On the other hand, ice melt is a blend of sodium chloride and other salts i.e., magnesium chloride and calcium chloride.

II. How They Work: De-icing vs. Anti-icing agent

Rock salt works as a de-icing agent (i.e., melts/removes already formed ice), while ice melt is more of an anti-icing agent i.e., it prevents new ice from forming given its chemical composition (contains mostly calcium chloride and magnesium chloride).

Rock salt forms a brine solution composed of water and salt that breaks bonds between surfaces and ice. The salt also lowers water’s freezing point making it impossible for water to freeze even at very low temperatures. Generally, rock salt works by absorbing heat, while ice melt works by releasing heat. 

III. Speed: Which one works faster?

Rock salt works faster than ice melt. Rock salt will melt already formed ice faster than ice melt would prevent ice from forming. However, it’s worth noting that ice melt works at lower temperatures –15 to –25 degrees Fahrenheit, but rock salt will only work when the temperatures are 5 degrees Fahrenheit and above. For this reason, ice melt will work faster than rock salt at lower temperatures. 

IV. Cost

Rock salt is cheaper than ice melt. Most salt manufacturers in the US charge approximately $10-$15 per 50 lbs. bag. The cost usually varies based on location. However, you can buy rock salt below $10 per 50 lbs. bag if you buy in bulk. 

Ice melt starts at approximately $13 per 50 lbs. bag. The cost can go as high as $25 or more. Some salt manufacturers charge more because they have superior ice melt products that work better. If you purchase high-quality ice melt, you will need very little to get the job done. Generally, the cheaper the ice melt, the more you need to use. Also, you need to buy in bulk to get the best price.

V. Safety

Which is safer, ice melt or rock salt?

Rock salt, which is largely sodium chloride, is known to damage concrete, asphalt, and vehicles (cause rusting) over time. While ice melt can also damage concrete, it doesn’t damage asphalt. It also has limited effects on cars.

Rock salt can also be harmful to plants making it a potentially harmful product for individuals with plants, yards, and lawns. Ice melt is predominantly calcium chloride, among other ingredients like magnesium chloride making it better for plants. If you plan to get rid of ice in an area near vegetation, rock salt isn’t recommendable. Ice melt is a better alternative. There are green ice melt products in the market to consider.

Rock salt can also harm pets. Research suggests that prolonged exposure to salt can irritate a dog’s paws. It can also cause gastrointestinal irritation if ingested in small amounts. When ingested in large amounts, rock salt will elevate a dog’s sodium levels resulting in neurologic dysfunction and severe gastrointestinal issues. Ice melt is more pet-friendly than rock salt. However, it isn’t completely safe. Generally, rock salt and ice melt should be used cautiously by individuals with pets. However, the best salt manufacturers have pet-friendly options.

Which is better? Rock salt or ice melt?

The choice between rock salt and ice melt depends on many factors. For instance, if it’s not too cold, rock salt may be a better option, otherwise, ice melt works better and faster in extremely low temperatures. 

Rock salt is also cheaper; however, you can get great deals when you buy ice melt in bulk. In terms of safety, ice melt is more pet-friendly and safer for vegetation and vehicles. Rock salt is known to damage driveways. However, if your driveway isn’t made of a corrodible material or near vegetation, rock salt can work. 

Generally, the choice between rock salt and ice melt will depend on factors like unique needs, budget, and local temperature. It also helps to select a leading salt manufacturer to ensure you get the best product possible. 

Rock Salt vs. Ice Melt