The Science Of Snow Removal: Salt vs. Sand

Maybe you’ve seen the roads being pre-treated just before a snowstorm hits, or perhaps you’re curious about the different methods of quick snow removal. Believe it or not, there’s a science behind getting rid of snow and ice, and it involves two simple substances: Salt and sand.

But what’s the difference? Is one more effective than the other? Are they both equally efficient at removing snow and ice? What is the purpose of using each? 


Salt is meant to remove snow and ice, or prevent it from forming. Rock salt lowers the freezing point of water, so it has traditionally been spread on roads to prevent them from getting icy, or to help melt away ice that has already formed.

It is effective in temperatures above 12 degrees F and is an inexpensive option for the task. But it can be very harsh on grass and shrubs and can eat away at concrete and steel. 

For homeowners using much smaller quantities on a less frequent basis, large bags of rock salt are readily available at hardware and grocery stores in the winter months.


Sand, unlike salt, does not melt ice. Because it is an abrasive material, is applied to icy roads to provide traction. It can create traction on ice at any temperature, whereas rock salt is not effective in the extreme cold. But sand is only effective if it is on the surface of the ice. If it gets buried under snow, it needs to be reapplied.

Excessive amounts of sand can collect into drains and drainage areas, so clean-up of sand after storms is essential. For homeowners who want to go with sand to help manage ice on their walks and drives, use sandbox sand as opposed to mason’s sand, which is too fine.

Other abrasive materials such as kitty litter, saw dust, or wood ashes can be used to create traction on icy walkways if sand is not available.

In need of dependable, friendly and fast snow removal services in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware or New Jersey? Look no further than Winter Hauling. Winter Hauling services the Mid-Atlantic with safe, knowledgeable drivers in state-of-the-art equipment that is both economically and environmentally friendly. If you’re in need of snow removal and winter maintenance, give Winter Hauling a call today at 443-875-7041.