Melting The Ice: Rock Salt vs Ice Melt

Rock Salt vs Ice Melt, What’s the difference?  They both do the same thing, right?  Well the answer is not that cut and dry.  Yes, they will both melt ice, but the product you choose to protect your property depends on your specific needs.  You need to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have children or pets?
  • Do you have plants materials, such as grass, trees and shrubs in the area to be treated?

In order to choose the right product, you need to know how they work.  Read on to get the information you need to make your decision.

How Rock Salt & Ice Melt Works

Rock Salt or Halite is the mineral form of sodium chloride.  “Ice Melt” products are usually a blend of one or more of these: calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, sodium chloride and potassium chloride.  Both Rock Salt and “Ice Melt” products work by penetrating the surface of the ice to form a solution called brine.  The brine from Rock Salt has a freezing point of 25 degrees.  It melts the ice and keeps it from refreezing dow to that point, as long as there is Rock Salt present.  Many “Ice Melt” products, especially those with  calcium chloride can lower the freezing temperature of water to as low as -25 degrees Farenheit.  Some of these not only form brine, but are engineered to generate heat.  This not only makes the product more effective, but faster acting as well.

Rock Salt usually contains grit and other bits of gravel that help with traction on stairs, sidewalks, driveways and roads.  Some “Ice Melt” products add sand or gravel to their mix to produce the same effect.

Cost of Rock Salt vs Ice Melt

Rock Salt is inexpensive and widely available (except in times of extreme shortages due to weather).  “Ice Melt” products are generally more expensive and usually only available in retail stores during the Winter season.


There are several safety considerations to take into account when deciding whether to use Rock Salt vs Ice Melt.  Rock Salt can harm plants such as grass, shrubs and trees that it comes in contact with.  Rock Salt can also be dangerous to animals.  It can get stuck in the pads of a dog or cats paw and cause burning and irritation.  If your pet ingests Rock Salt, it could lead to gastrointestinal issues.

“Ice Melt” products are generally safer for plant life than Rock Salt.  Some “Ice Melt” products are coated with Calcium Magnesium Acetate or CMA which makes them pet friendly and safer overall for the environment.  These are also safer to use around children.  Rock Salt is corrosive to concrete, asphalt and metal, whereas “Ice Melt” products are generally less or non corrosive.

So there it is!  Depending on your specific circumstances, you can make an informed decision on whether to use Rock Salt vs Ice Melt this Winter.

Call us here at Willow Ridge 865-481-3825 to see which Ice Melt products we have in stock.  We usually carry Blue Ice Melt and Qik Joe Safe Pet Ice Melter.

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