Interesting Alternatives For Keeping Roads Ice Free

There are approximately 105 snowstorms in the United States in a typical year. This, along with regular snowfall, can contribute more than 39 million tons of snow across the country. As beautiful as snow can be, when it falls and leaves even as little as 4 inches, it also leaves the logistical nightmare of clearing it from the roofs, driveways, roadways and sidewalks. In most areas, before the snow falls and after clearing roadways and sidewalks, rock salt is added to the roads to lower the freezing point of water (to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit), preventing the formation of ice on the roads.

There are problems associated with the use of salt, though, including its effect on plants (it dries them out), among other things. For these reasons, it may be more practical to consider alternatives for keeping the roads ice-free following snow removal.

Briny eats

A more environmentally friendly way of addressing the concern of icy roads may be using briny foods and briny food processing by-products. Foods such as beet juice, pickles, salty cheese by-products and even salty potato juice are being used to enhance the action of the rock salt. Many states are experimenting with these by mixing them with the sodium chloride compound and using them to de-ice the roads. The idea is that they help the salt be even more effective at lower temperatures, and since they are also salty, less sodium chloride would have to be used.

All of these substances are biodegradable and would be less harmful to the environment. Added to this is the fact that they can reduce the cost of salting the roads by cutting the amount of rock salt that would be needed for use. The cost of rock salt was approximately $58 per ton in 2014, which put most cities out millions of dollars in preparation for winter.

Sticky stuff

Another method that might be feasible for keeping the roads clear of ice is using a mixture containing molasses. This sticky mixture has been found to be effective against icy conditions, as it helps to keep the rock salt on the roads for much longer periods and maintains the rock salt at colder temperatures. Another benefit of using this mixture is that it helps to reduce the bounce factor of rock salt, thereby limiting the potential damage to vehicles. 

It is also estimated that using the molasses mixture has the potential to cut costs of salting and sanding roads by as much as 20 percent. These cost savings are likely to be seen both in the reduction of costs when purchasing these materials as well as in the reduced clean-up process in the spring.