How Salt Works
Advice on dealing with severe snow

How Salt Works

How Salt Works

The Salt Mines in Northern Ireland extract up to half a million tonnes of rock salt grit every year for use on the roads
all over Ireland and the UK and even as far as the USA. The Rock Salt Grit is more than 90% pure Sodium Chloride
(salt) with the remaining insolubles being mostly Marl (mudstone or siltstone). This Marl helps improve traction under
foot and between the wheels of vehicles and the highway. It is preferred by the Road Service for de-icing the public
highways - over 2 million tonnes are spread on UK roads every year.



How Salt Works

Salt works by lowering the melting point of ice. When salt mixes with water or moisture, it creates a saline solution
(salty water). In the same way as it needs to be really cold for seawater to freeze, this saline solution will freeze at
a lower point than fresh water. The temperature at which it freezes will depend on the salinity of the water (how
salty it is).



Does salt work on snow?

Salt will not directly melt snow. It needs to mix with water or moisture to create a saline solution which will in turn
melt snow. The Road Service often tells us that the roads have been gritted but it takes cars to drive through the
snow to mix up the salt and snow and moisture to help with the melting process.



Is it better to put salt down before or after snow?

Scattering salt on top of snow will have a limited effect. There needs to be a salt saline mix on the ground for the
snow to land on and in turn melt. The salt will reduce the chance of the snow freezing to the ground. If there are
heavy falls of snow, the snow will simply lie on top of the snow. The snow will need to be cleared away (ploughed or
pushed) and salt spread on the ground to reduce the build up of ice.



Can I keep my salt for next year?

Rock Salt has been forming in the ground for hundreds of millions of years. Of course it is best that it is kept
somewhere dry so it does not dissolve but if it is stored properly, in its sealed bags preferably, then it should
definitely keep for another year or more if it is not used this winter. There is an anti-caking agent added to the salt
which works by preventing it from clumping together even it does get wet.



Which salt works better - white salt or brown salt?

Both are relatively equally effective providing the salt content is the same. White is preffered by some as it cant be
seen and doesnt stain the snow. The Rock Salt Grit is preferred for providing better traction under foot.



Where does the salt come from?

Our brown Rock Salt Grit is mined under the Belfast Lough. Our white salt is usually European salt.
Advice in dealing with severe snow conditions
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How Salt Works

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