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Since many people are attempting to use less salt and frequently substitute sand, it is crucial to understand the benefits and drawbacks of both materials for winter road safety. The original ingredient for winter upkeep was sand; it can be applied to icy and snowy road surfaces in the winter to increase friction.  Sand has, however, mostly been supplanted in recent decades by chemical deicers like magnesium chloride and sodium chloride.  After a snowstorm, chemical deicers have been proven to be far more successful than sand in getting roads back to safe driving conditions. Sand still makes sense in some situations, though, and it is still utilized for winter maintenance.

Considering Sand in Snowy Climates

The fact that sand and other abrasives cannot melt ice should be considered first.  In the traditional sense, sand won’t work as a deicer or anti-icer.  In other words, they won’t clear the road of snow or ice. On icy pavements, sand can provide a brief boost in road friction. Similar to clearing the ice and snow off the roads, sand can assist in preventing slippery conditions and, eventually, accidents. Sand can help us reach the goal of increasing friction, but the question remains: is it the best material for the job?

Problems with Sand:

1. The first is the ineffectiveness of dry sand. Its inefficiency stems from how easily dry sand may be blown off the road by modest traffic volume. It is best to use wet sand if you plan to use it. Sand needs to be pre-wet with either water or a deicing solution. Wetting the sand will lessen the likelihood that traffic will knock it off. 

2. Sand will affect the quality of the air.  Sand that has been crushed by transportation may generate very tiny particles. These are minuscule particles with sizes less than 10 microns.  They can have a negative impact on air quality since they are small enough to stay suspended in the atmosphere.  Additionally, using sand will worsen aquatic habitats by increasing stream turbidity and sedimentation.  

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use sand at all. It implies that when the weather is right, we should use sand if the ice is too hard to melt with ordinary deicing agents. Sand can act as a temporary source of friction until the temperature rises to a point where the deicers become effective.  Sand can also be useful when there is a solidly packed layer of snow or ice on the road that plows are unable to remove.  Sanding is a smart choice in that situation until the plows can pass through and clear the accumulated ice and snow. 

Considering Salt in Snowy Conditions

Since sodium chloride can effectively melt snow and ice on roads and keep them from freezing again, it is highly favored by snow removal specialists who maintain roads. Ice melts into a liquid quickly when salt is added because it lowers the freezing point of ice. Since salt dissolves in water and is carried away by melted ice and snow, it is simpler to clean up than sand. But one drawback of rock salt is that it only works at temperatures below fifteen degrees Fahrenheit.

Problems with Salt:

1. Due to its highly corrosive qualities, salt damages not just the land but also the underside of your car. 

2. Damage can occur when salt from the roads washes into nearby rivers or streams. In terms of treating road surfaces, salt has more detrimental effects on the environment than sand. Many scientists are raising concerns about sodium chloride’s impact on aquatic life due to decades of the chemical building up in waterways.

Salt vs Sand For Snow Removal: Using a Mixture for Greatest Success

In conclusion, sand gives roads traction and prevents refreezing, whereas salt dissolves snow and ice. However, they are frequently mixed for dump trucks to apply them to highways. Mixtures of sand and salt are widely used in most of the United States. However, the most successful approach has been for DOTs and contractors to generate brine—which has the same melting properties as solid salt—by mixing rock salt with water and other chemicals, such as potassium acetate or calcium chloride. Salt brine is a liquid that thaws roads quickly and is especially useful in colder climates.

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