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How Does Sidewalk Salt Work? (Plus 4 Great Alternatives)

How Does Sidewalk Salt Work? (Plus 4 Great Alternatives)

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If you live in a city with abundant snow, you know how dangerous the sidewalks can get over the winter. Ice and snow accumulating over the sidewalk can cause accidents and block the way.

Fortunately, there are several effective solutions for this problem, mainly including sidewalk salt. So, how does sidewalk salt work?

Read on for more information about how sidewalk salt works. This article also gives you details about the effectiveness of different types of salt, such as Epsom salt, sea salt, kosher salt, and water softener salt.

How Does Sidewalk Salt Melt Ice?

All types of sidewalk salt work by lowering the freezing point of ice or snow. That way, the ice or snow on the sidewalk melts.

The main difference between the various types of salt is the duration it takes to get the job done. For instance, table salt and sea salt can be relatively faster than Epsom salt in melting ice.

Will Epsom Salt Melt Ice on a Sidewalk?

Scientifically known as Magnesium Sulphate Heptahydrate, Epsom salt can melt ice on sidewalks. However, it happens incredibly slowly.

To make it a little faster, mix Epsom salt with sugar. Interestingly, sugar can accelerate the process of ice melting.

The good thing about this type of salt is that it isn’t harmful in any way. It won’t pose any threat to plants or animals.

Will Sea Salt Melt Ice on a Sidewalk?

Yes, it will.

In fact, sea salt can be very efficient in melting ice on sidewalks. It, typically, contains several minerals, such as:

  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium

These minerals will all react with the ice molecules, causing them to melt. However, the speed of the process depends primarily on the size of the sea salt granules.

For instance, finely-grained sea salt can melt sidewalk ice faster than coarse sea salt. That’s because it has a relatively larger surface area that interacts with the ice formations on your sidewalk.

Can You Use Kosher Salt on a Sidewalk?

The main distinction between kosher salt and table salt lies in their shape and size. They both have the same formula and almost the same taste. However, a grain of kosher salt is lighter, larger, and more crystal-like.

Although kosher salt does melt the ice on your sidewalk, it’s not very effective. In fact, it shows no significant difference from table salt in that respect.

Despite the belief that kosher salt gives you a better grip on ice, it doesn’t last long. It’s only a matter of minutes before the salt dissolves into the ice, causing it to melt.

Can You Use Water Softener Salt for Sidewalks?

Otherwise known as solar salt, water softener salt is a pure form of salt, specially designed for water-softening equipment.

Water softener salt can help you get rid of the ice on your sidewalk. Both crushed salt pellets and salt crystals can melt sidewalk ice effectively.

Simply, spread the water softener salt on the ice formations, and watch the ice melt. The speed of the process depends on the thickness and size of the ice. Smaller portions of ice can take as little as a few minutes to disappear.

Does Sidewalk Salt Damage Concrete?

Despite its ability to rid you of ice on the sidewalks, salt has some negative impacts. Unfortunately, it can cause damage to your sidewalk or driveway.

So yes, sidewalk salt damages concrete.

Here’s how:

By performing a freeze-and-thaw cycle, sidewalk salt weakens the concrete. That, in turn, makes it prone to crumbling and cracking.

4 Alternative Ways to Remove Ice on Your Sidewalk

So, what if you want to skip the harmful effects of sidewalk salt?

Fortunately, there are several alternatives to using salt to remove sidewalk ice. For instance, you can use:

1 – Wood Ash

Wood ash is an amazing solution for sidewalk ice. Simply, sprinkle the remaining ash in your fireplace on the ice.

It works in two ways:

  • Wood ash is typically hot as it absorbs the heat of the sun. This heat helps melt the ice significantly fast.
  • The ash from your fireplace contains potassium salts, which help melt sidewalk ice.

2 – Urea

Urea, or carbonyl diamide, is a major natural fertilizer. In addition, it can be an effective solution to melt ice to about 15℉. That way, it’s both safe and efficient.

Interestingly, it can also benefit the plants in your yard. You might notice that your grass looks lusher and greener after applying this natural ice remover.

3 – Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be one of the fastest and most effective ways to clear sidewalk ice. With a relatively low freezing point, rubbing alcohol helps thaw the ice really fast.

Follow these steps to remove sidewalk ice using rubbing alcohol:

  • Mix half a gallon of water with a quarter cup of rubbing alcohol and six drops of dish soap.
  • Splash the mixture on the ice formations on your sidewalk or driveway, and enjoy the view of ice thawing away almost instantly.

4 – Beet Juice

Beet juice is a safe alternative to salt, especially when added to saltwater brine. It’s a safe choice that won’t harm your pets, concrete, or vegetation.

On the flip side, beet juice can leave stains. Therefore, we recommend that you clean the area with soap and water once the ice melts. Don’t do it so fast, though, as you may risk working in very low temperatures.

Final Thoughts

There are different ways to get rid of the ice on your sidewalk. Salt is by far the most popular, but how does sidewalk salt work?

It works primarily by reacting with the ice molecules to reduce its freezing point, causing it to melt. However, the speed and efficiency of the process depend on the type and size of salt you use.

You may use table salt, Epsom salt, sea salt, kosher salt, and water softener salt. On the flip side, salts can damage your concrete.

Luckily, there are safer alternatives to opt for, such as urea, beet juice, and wood ash.

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