Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Rock Salt

Salt damaged, cracked concrete.

It’s that time of year when snow and ice coat driveways and roadways, creating a slippery, dangerous mess. Rock salt (sodium chloride), the traditional means of providing traction and melting ice, is a common ally this time of year, but have you considered the more environmentally friendly options available? If you’re concerned about the damage rock salt is doing to your yard, and the environment as a whole, keep reading for safer alternatives.

The Problems with Rock Salt

So, what’s the problem with rock salt, and other road salts (such as, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and ferrocyanide salts)? While they may be cheap and effective, they are also damaging to vegetation and waterways (including threatening to drinking water security), toxic to animals, and corrode concrete and asphalt.

When salt is absorbed by plants through contaminated water, the phosphorous and potassium essential to the plant’s survival are neutralized. Furthermore, salt can damage the external parts of plants, like leaves, and can cause dehydration of the roots. Road salt chemicals inevitably work their way into the water system, and can damage the ecosystem of freshwater plants, fish, and other organisms that are not used to living in saline-rich waters.

Your pets could also face the wrath of rock salt; sensitive areas, like their paws and noses, are susceptible to burns and sores after coming in contact with salt. They can also be poisoned after licking salt residue off their feet, or off the ground itself.

If the picture above is any indication, concrete and asphalt are not immune to being damaged by rock salt, either. While rock salt doesn’t chemically attack concrete, it does lower the freezing point of water. Each time the water in concrete freezes, it expands by around 9%. Because of the lower freezing point, there are often more freezing and thawing cycles; with each cycle, there is an increased likelihood of damage, such as scaling and pitting.

Safer Alternatives

As you can see, the negatives of rock salt far exceed the positives. Luckily, there is an array of safe and environmentally friendly alternatives to try. Sand is often used in conjunction with salt, but is quite affective on its own. It provides traction, and has a low albedo, meaning that instead of reflecting sunlight, it will absorb it, which will help melt ice and snow. Brick sand is a coarser variety, which will provide even more traction.

Similar products include, chicken grit, such as Cherry Stone Traction Grit, a quartzite based product, or EcoTraction, a hydrothermal volcanic mineral. Both are environmentally safe, animal-friendly, and won’t corrode concrete.

Other materials you might already have around the house, which are also safe to use, include cat litter, sawdust, shredded corncobs, peanut hulls, gravel, straw, wood chips, or ashes.

Finally, there are a variety of organic de-icers, which are made with the environment and pets in mind. Milazzo Industries’ Safe Pet Ice Melter, North American Salt Company’s Safe Step Sure Paws, and Gaia Enterprises’ Safe Paw Ice Melter, are all safer alternatives to rock salt.

Now that you know more about the harmful nature of rock salt, I hope you’ll check out these earth-friendly alternatives, make the switch, and keep your yard, pets, and environment safe!

Copyright 2016
Yardmasters Landscapes, Inc.