Rock Salt: What Would We Do Without It Right Now?

rock saltIf you’re like many people living in New Jersey, New York or throughout the Northeast, you likely don’t give much thought on an everyday basis to rock salt. That is, until the snow starts to fall, or like today, the roads become covered with slick and impassable ice.

Rock salt is the key to keeping roads free from ice and snow – a must have for this time of year. When the white stuff starts to fall, or we experience any type of icy precipitation, we don’t have the luxury of simply staying put to ride out the storm until it is not only over, but the roads are once again safe enough for travel. Rather, it us up to government agencies, municipalities, property owners, building managers and business owners to make sure that any surfaces that people must drive or walk on are free from ice and are safe for transport.

Major public roads aren’t the only surfaces that require treatment so that snow and ice can melt and cars can gain traction without skidding or sliding. Some complexes, such as industrial areas or multi-family housing developments, have private roads that require their own management of snow and ice removal. Stores, schools, hospitals and other commercial properties have parking lots that must not only be plowed to remove any build-up of snow, but also require the spreading of salt so that any underlying ice melts quickly to make passage safe, whether by wheel or by foot.

Another factor to consider is that sidewalks, steps, front stoops and entrance areas must remain clear and ice-free so that pedestrians don’t slip or fall as they continue to go about their daily activities, unstopped by the wintry weather that is common at this time of the year. In fact, we rely on rock salt to do its job of melting ice so much that it’s amazing that we don’t think about this substance more often!

Why is it that we rely so much on this substance to keep our roads safe and passable? It all comes down to chemistry. When you add salt to water, it lowers the freezing point of the water. As some of the ice starts to melt, the salt inhibits re-freezing of the melted ice, even though the temperature may be low enough for the water to freeze.

To understand how this works, you have to understand how water freezes in the first place. Water is made up of tiny molecules that are constantly in motion. The warmer the water, the faster they move and the colder the water, the slower they move. When the water gets down to 32o F the molecules move so slow that they bond together, creating ice. Even once ice forms, however, there is some bit of water that is always melting as molecules break free of the bonds, but depending on whether more molecules break free or are bonded will determine if the ice melts or freezes more.

When rock salt is spread over ice, the molecules that break free from the ice allow the rock salt to dissolve into the water. Since the ions in salt lower the freezing point of water to about 15o F, those molecules are then inhibited from re-freezing. The more this happens, the more the salt can dissolve and the more melting that occurs since bonds continue to break free but they are not matched by any re-freezing of the “freed” molecules.

So, while most of us don’t consciously think about rock salt on an everyday basis, it is one of those substances we rely on all winter long since it allows us to go about our everyday activities in the safest way possible, no matter what type of weather Mother Nature delivers.

If you are interested in bulk delivery of rock salt in NJ or NY, contact ATAK Trucking at 917-912-2900.


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