Trouble finding salt for your driveways and sidewalks? Here are 8 alternatives.

You might need to raid your spice cabinet...

February 13, 2019

© Gillis Benedict/Livingston Daily

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If you've been looking for salt to take care of your driveways, walkways, sidewalks, and roads, you aren't alone.  With the recent DUMPING of snow, there seems to be a shortage of salt at some local stores.  Salt is famously known for melting ice.  The chemicals in the salt lower the freezing point, and make the ice go bye bye.   However - its not salt alone that can make the ice and snow melt - it needs water to start the process...thankfully ice and snow are just frozen water, so there isn't usually a problem with that.  The problem happens when there is a chemical additive (Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, and Potassium Chloride are all types of salt, but harsher versions than the regular run of the mill salt.)

© Thomas P. Costello

If you really want a scientific explanation about this, I'm not a scientist.  You won't get that from me.  I'm just a guy who talks on the radio and makes witty comments.  Have you ever wondered if there are other methods used to melt all this frozen ish?  

The thing is - all that salt can be harmful to the roads in the long run, harmful to your VEHICLE, and harmful to to the environment...there has to be a better way!  

All that salt left on you car can corrode the metal...noooo!!!!

Thanks to the internet, here are 8 alternatives to help melt the ice and snow, and make your walking less slippery.  

CHEESE BRINE

In Wisconsin, the streets are paved with cheese.

Salt baths used to make some of your favorite cheeses like mozzarella and provolone produces a bunch of leftover liquid residue.  The cheese companies then give this to some companies that use it to treat roads.  It's an efficient use of waste instead of just disposing of the water down the drains, and helps pre-treat roads ahead of ice storms.  Why cheese brine?  Because rock salt less effective below 16 degrees, road salt is mixed with additives like cheese brine, to keep it working in temperatures as low as minus 25. 

BEET MOLASSES / BRINE

Slick beets as opposed to SICK beats. See what I did there?

Yes.  Beet Juice.  Sometimes called "Beet Heet" - a form of "beet brine" that is combined with salt brine, and lowers the freezing temperatures even MORE than just plain old salt brine.  This means ice can be melted at subzero temperatures.  Suck on THAT, Polar Vortex!

SPECIAL CONCRETE

Pouring out a 40oz of crete.

Some people (probably vastly smarter than you or me) at Purdue University, Drexel University, and Oregon State found out that adding things like "paraffin oil" to concrete when it is poured can actually aid in the whole process of melting ice and snow and therefore reduce the amount of salt needed.  This is still in the early stages, but what an idea!  If the concrete itself helps the melting process...BRILLIANT!  

 

GARLIC SALT

Also good for keeping vampires off the street.

Some dude in Iowa took a bunch of garlic salt from a local spice company and combined it with road salt to treat their roads.  It apparently worked wonders, accelerated the melting process, and I can only presume made the entire city smell amazing....or terrifying, depending on how you feel about the presence of garlic.  

 

POTATO JUICE 

You say potato, I say potato. Let's call the whole thing off.

Potato juice, now you're just being silly!  Nope.  It was used in Tennessee to keep roads clear - and it sounds like fun, too.  The bring was a byproduct of the distillation process to make VODKA!  (insert air horn sound effect) Mixed with the salt brine, it worked wonders...and if you show up to the road treatment party with some seltzer or cranberry juice, maybe you can catch a buzz!

 

PICKLE BRINE

I'll give you a nickel for a pickle...or a tickle.

When New Jersey has their big snowstorm back in 2014, they experimented with pickle brine - yes, pickle juice to help treat their roads.  They found that the pickle brine could lower the freezing point of the liquid on the road to 6 below Fahrenheit.   Who doesn't love pickles, anyways? 

 

COFFEE GROUNDS

Talk about iced coffee...amirite!?? #DadJokes

If you're in a pinch and need to make a slippery surface a little more walkable, you can always use old coffee grounds.  The granules will provide traction and absorb the heat to help melt snow and ice - and the acid in the coffee grounds will help to melt the acid.  For me, though, I'd have to break open a bunch of K-Cups, and those things are EXPENSIVE.  

 

SMART PLOWS

This plow is smart. Like REALLY smart. She does math problems with her tires.

From the "people who are probably smarter than us" files, some researchers in Washington are working on making the actual SNOW PLOW smarter.  They can do things like sense road conditions, temperatures, and the amount of friction on the road - which can help with using more or less salt when needed.  I'm sure there are many times when salt isn't really NEEDED, it's just used as a precaution...imagine if the trucks were smart enough to know when and where to disperse the salt.  The future is crazy!!  

 

There you go.  

Wait.  Dammit.  You know what I just thought about?  You personally using those things on your own may not be a legit viable option.  I mean, what are you going to do hit up the West Allis Cheese shop and ask them for a bucket of cheese brine?  Probs not.  

Well hopefully you at least found this article interesting and maybe you learned a thing or eight.   Happy salting.  Or beeting. Or potatoing.  Or whatever you use to keep your driveway clear of all this SNOW.  

I'll talk to you in the morning!

-Riggs

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