The advent of winters brings with it the all too familiar sight of roads and houses covered in snow. Ice cold wind blowing while trees stand naked of their usual green leaves. Everything looks tranquil and peaceful and sombre.
One obvious inconvenience that comes along with the cold season is the frozen roads and pathways. Ice makes roads slippery and prone to accidents which cost several lives each year. Without the usual roughness that the roads’ surfaces possess, there is a lack of friction which can cause cars to skid out of control and people to slip and fall.
To avoid ice-related accidents and make travel safer, one option is to spread salt over roads, pathways, sidewalks and anywhere there are vehicles and people traveling. The way it works is simple. Basic understanding of science tells us that different materials and chemicals have different freezing and boiling points. Which means plain water will freeze at a different temperature than water which has salt in it. Adding salt to water lowers the freezing point, which means the sheet of ice that makes roads slippery and accident prone is less likely to form.
Salt can work as a de-icing agent only when there is at least some water present since it reacts with water. Under very cold conditions when all the water has already turned into ice salt is of little use.
Also, it greatly helps to prepare the roads and sidewalks beforehand. A solution of water and salt spread prior to the falling of snow and icing over of ground can be extremely beneficial. It will also make the use of salt later on much more effective.
Salt happens to be the most commonly used de-icing agent, but it is by far the only one. Salt just happens to be the most easily accessible and most cost-effective de-icing agent out there.
Sand is also used widely, however it is not a de-icer. Sand only provides friction necessary over slippery surfaces due to its large, rough granules. So it works as long as it is placed on the surface, though expecting it to melt the ice is not realistic.
Chemically produced salts, like sodium chloride and calcium chloride, are also good. These work in a similar way as rock salt, by lowering the freezing point of water and melting away the ice.
Salt and similar chemicals are effective yet do arise a few concerns. They can prove corrosive and an excessive amount of salt can enter the groundwater and the soil. Too much salt in the ground and in water is never a good thing, so appropriate amounts of salt must be used to prevent large-scale, adverse environmental conditions.
A final word about removing ice:
Use of salt to de-ice and make roads, sidewalks, parking lots can be extremely useful. Salt is available widely so individuals can sprinkle it outside their houses to help with shoveling the snow or just to make traveling safer. But it must be used with caution and with the negative environmental effects in mind.