Earth Gauge Tip of the Week: Smart About Salt

| 1/17/2012 9:52:50 AM

Tags: salt, pollution, water quality, environment, Earth Gauge,

During the winter months, salt and sand applied to our roads, driveways and sidewalks contribute to lake and stream pollution.  Fifty pounds of salt - one large bag - can pollute 10,000 gallons of water.  That's equivalent to one teaspoon of salt in a five-gallon bucket of water.

Viewer Tip:  Many cities and states are working to reduce salt use while still keeping streets and sidewalks safe.  Using less salt at home will help protect water quality in your neighborhood - and it will save money, too!

  • Shovel first.  Clear away as much snow and ice as possible before you use a deicer.  Only use deicer on ice, not snow.
  • Save your salt.  Read the label and use salt sparingly.  Use about 30 percent less salt by wetting it with some water before applying it to icy patches.
  • Protect your plants.  Keep salt away from salt-sensitive plants.  Learn more about salt damage to plants at
  • Know your stuff.  There are many types of deicers and they perform differently at different temperature ranges.  The most common deicer, sodium chloride ("rock salt"), only melts ice to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  Magnesium chloride and calcium chloride cost more, but work in colder temperatures.

Salt Smarts 

(Sources: Madison Area Municipal Stormwater Partnership.; Tom Scheuler. Snow, Road Salt, and the Chesapeake Bay. The Center for Watershed Protection.; Iowa State University, Centre for Transportation and Research Education. “Prewetting with Salt Brine.”)

1/17/2012 11:50:01 PM

It's true that splashing salty water from your sidewalk onto your plants can hurt their growth, but check your arithmetic: 50 lb of salt in 10,000 gal of water is about 1/1000th the salinity of sea water (ie- not significant), and a teaspoon of salt in 1 qt is about the same as sea water, so 1 tsp in 5 gal is only 1/20th of that. The problem comes when repeated splashes deposit the salt in the garden and it's concentrated as the water evaporates. Whether or not your salt use contaminates your local water supply depends on how your local water is supplied. A storm sewer system that puts run-off into the water supply needs to be corrected. Personally, i use solar power to get rid of ice on my sidewalks-- it's usually all gone by July without the use of any salt at all.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!