What Is Rock Salt and Why Is It So Important?

How does it form?

Usually white or colourless rock salt forms naturally as isometric crystals when the saline water of the sea or a large lake evaporates, sometimes hundreds of metres deep. Once this process is complete, it’s mined from underground deposits in areas such as inland marginal seas, dry lakes as well as estuaries and bays. The crystals are then treated with an anti-caking agent and put into storage to await transportation.

Where does it come from?

Today, most of the UK’s salt comes from underground mines in Cleveland, Winsford and County Antrim. In the west of the UK in Cheshire, Middlewich, Leftwich, Nantwich and Northwich are historically related to salt production and as you may have noticed all end in ‘wich’ which is often associated with brine springs and wells – interesting fact of the day!

Different types of rock salt

There are many different types, but the two that are most commonly used are white de-icing salt and brown rock salt. The latter is traditionally used to de-ice roads, driveways and footpaths as it’s traditionally coarser whereas the white de-icing product is used to de-ice our schools, hospitals, places of work, footpaths and entrance ways as it’s a cleaner alternative to brown salt.

Useful tip: If you’re looking for a slip-free walk down your driveway this winter, opt for a bag of white de-icing salt. Unlike brown rock salt, this cleaner alternative leaves no mess or muddy sludge so it’s perfect for paths, doorsteps & driveways.

Conforming to British Standards Institute

Whilst some are mixed with other materials the cleanest, most effective rock salt is without any sand or substitute and conforms to the BS3247 regulations – a certificate that is given to rock salt that has been tried, tested and recognised by the British Standards Institute. The industry wide standard ensures that the salt supplied is suitable and thick enough for gritting and has less than 4% moisture content.

How does it work?

Many often ask why we use salt to de-ice our roads and footpaths but the simple fact is that it works by lowering both the freezing point and melting points of water, speeding up the rate at which snow turns to water. The friction from the salt rock also helps tyres stick to the road making it less likely for cars & lorries to skid on the icy roads when things get a little bit chilly.

Useful tip: If you’re a frequent traveller or commute long distances it may be wise to keep a set of winter essentials in your car. These can include a blanket, extra winter clothes, ice-scraper, dried foods, shovel, tow rope and wind up torch.

Why is it so important?

Gritting our roads and spreading our public rights of way not only allows us to get from A-B safely, it also prevents thousands of accidents on our roads, motorways and footpaths every year. According to a study conducted by Sainsbury’s, 1.3 million winter road accidents over the last five years have been caused by icy conditions but with the help of our spreaders and salt suppliers these numbers hope to be reduced significantly.

As the cold spells loom, remember to wrap up warm, keep winter essentials in your car and invest in a bag of rock salt for your driveway and door!