Rock salt, otherwise known as halite, is a naturally occurring crystalline sodium chloride which today is one of the most important natural materials that we use during the cold winter months.
The rock salt that you know and love today is commonly found on your dinner table but we’re talking about the chunky, coarse salt that’s used to de-ice our roads, footpaths and motorways.
How does it work?
Rock salt quite simply works by lowering the freezing point of moisture on the roads surface helping to speed up the melting process at which snow turns to water, but before it can take effect it needs to be crushed & dissolved by oncoming traffic otherwise it’s less effective.
Road gritters have to time it just right too! If they grit too early, the rock salt lands on a dry road and is usually blown away by the wind or traffic, if they grit too late, the road’s surface has already started to freeze making it dangerous for people to drive. If they time it just right, the salt is crushed on to the roads surface and it begins its melting process.
Brown rock salt and white de-icing salt – what’s the difference?
Today there are two types of salt that councils use for our roads and public rights of way, brown rock salt and white de-icing salt. Pure brown rock salt is mined from the hills in Cheshire and tends to be a coarse, chunky crystal that effectively melts snow and ice as well as providing grip on icy surfaces, which is why this type is favoured amongst many local authorities and councils. White de-icing salt is also commonly used and is especially popular with schools, hospitals and places of work who use this on footpaths and entrances as it tends to be a cleaner alternative to the coarser brown salt.
Top Tip: If you’re thinking of buying any de-icing products this winter remember to store it in a grit bin or sealed bag. Also, all salt will freeze solid at about minus 7 degrees so keep this in mind when choosing where you store your goods.
Why does it keep us safe?
Ice and snow in the UK causes many problems to cities, towns and villages every year. Not only do our roads become icy making it dangerous for people to drive, icy walkways have contributed to a number of slips and falls every year. Walkways become one of the most treacherous places to be during heavy snowfall, especially for the young and elderly but with the help of white de-icing salt snow and ice is melted away from our pavements making it safer for us to get around. The browner version is highly effective at melting ice from the surface of our roads making it safer for drivers to complete day-to-day journeys, without risking a serious car accident.
How to stay safe this winter
We all know that it’s important to wrap up warm during the cold winter months – follow our top winter tips:
• Always have a bag of rock salt stored away in your garage. This way you’ll avoid slips and falls on your driveway!
• Plan your journey around main routes, this way you’re more likely to drive on roads that have been gritted
• Carry a winter car kit in your vehicle – car phone charger, first aid kit, blankets, food, water, wind-up torch, tow-rope, ice scraper and spade
• Inform a family member that you’re intending to travel and when you’re expected to arrive
• Always have a hat, scarf, pair of gloves and extra cosy layers packed away in your car
• Above all, be aware of other drivers and pedestrians and remember to stay safe
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