Salting Sensibly

Tis the season for snow and ice! These freezing temps call for salting our sidewalks and driveways. As a routine dog walker I understand and appreciate the use of salt, however it is more important than ever to make sure we use it appropriately. Even my dog, Marla, knows when a sidewalk is over-salted – she will purposely walk in the snow to avoid the sidewalks that are over-salted.

Here are some guidelines for safe salt application:

S – Stuff. Road salt (sodium chloride) only works above 15°F. For colder temperatures use a small amount of sand for added traction, or switch to an ice melting product designed to work at colder temperatures. No matter what you use, be sure to wash off your pet’s paws after a walk.

A – Amount. Spreading more salt does not improve deicing. One 12 ounce coffee cup full of salt is enough to cover about 10 sidewalk squares. There should be about 3 inches between salt granules. Be sure to sweep up any excess salt.

L – Location. Salt only belongs on your sidewalk and driveway and never on your lawn, flower beds, the base of a tree and definitely not in a stream! One teaspoon of salt permanently pollutes 5 gallons of water.

T - Time. Salt works best when it is applied before the snow falls or right after snow is removed from your driveway or sidewalk. Never apply salt when rain is in the forecast, as it will wash away into the storm drain and out to our waterways.

Over-salting not only wastes money and resources but has serious impacts on our environment. Here are some impacts that road salt can have on our environment:

  • At high concentrations, sodium chloride is toxic to fish and insects, and at low levels it reduces the reproduction and survival rates of their young.

  • Direct road salt splash can kill plants and grass.

  • Sodium in road salt can destroy soil stability, decreasing the ability of the soil to filter water, and increasing soil erosion. It can actually cause soil to release more nutrients into water.

Thank you for shoveling your sidewalk and using the appropriate amount of salt.

Take our Use the Right S.A.L.T. pledge and receive a mug that when filled with salt is enough for 10 sidewalk squares.

Stay warm out there!

Blog Author, Megan Smith, Stormwater Specialist

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