The Damage of Salt Spilled on the Road for Ice/Snow Removal in Winter Months to the Environment and Living Beings

defroster spray

With the onset of snowfall in winter, icing on the roads can cause fatal accidents. Various materials are thrown on the road in order to prevent icing on the roads. Salt (NaCl) and sometimes CaCl are used to prevent icing. This method is the most common, easy and inexpensive method. Salt, which can be poured on the roads by various vehicles, can melt the ice and delay the freezing of the road if the weather is not very cold. However, salt damages roads, bridges and vehicles due to corrosion and shortens the useful life of these structures.

In addition to these, it has great harm to the environment and living things. These salts increase the salt concentration of waters (creek, stream, etc.). With the increase in salt concentration, it greatly affects drinking water, irrigation water and aquatic living things.

The salt spilled on the road has the same composition as the salt used in the kitchen, only it has a coarser grain structure. Salt spilled on the road easily dissolves and reaches the nearest water source. Chlorine at low concentrations is partially harmless, but at high concentrations it can be toxic to microscopic organisms and fish living in lakes.

Chlorine has effects that are not lethal to zooplankton but attenuate and increase egg mortality at low concentrations, but can be lethal at high concentrations. Fish are more resistant to increased salt concentration. But it can also be toxic to them, and if the fish feed on zooplankton and the zooplanktons are destroyed, they will not be able to find food. For this, I would like to talk about a few alternative methods that I have compiled below.

Alternative Methods for Ice/Snow Removal

In order not to harm the environment and living things, different alternatives can be produced by using today's technology. There are several methods that have been tried and studied for snow/ice thawing.

1. Method: Road Meteorology Information Systems (RWIS)

Road Meteorology Information Systems (RWIS) have been developed in order to warn vehicle users and take necessary precautions in critical situations such as precipitation, fog, icing and excessive wind. The goal of Road Meteorology Information Systems is to collect and interpret accurate, reliable and up-to-date information about the condition of roads. Thanks to the sensors and cameras in this system, information is collected and transmitted to the center, and by interpreting this information at the center, warning systems (bright road signator, digital message system (DMS)) are activated, response teams are directed or necessary systems are activated.

Especially in metropolitan areas where transportation is a problem in severe weather conditions or on intercity connection roads, it is only possible to have timely and accurate information and to make the necessary interventions in order to minimize the negative effects of rapidly changing weather conditions, only by using RWIS. An example of the operation of automatic warning systems is shown in the figure below.

icing on the road

Method 2: Anti-Icing Spray Method

The de-icing spray can be sprinkled on the road surface in liquid form even without snowfall. It is a chemical liquid that prevents the formation of ice on the road and the adhesion of snow to the road surface. Its application before snow and ice formation provides high efficiency. It can also be applied after snow and ice formation. It prevents the formation of ice by acting as an antifreeze. Thanks to the film layer it creates, it prevents the falling snow from sticking to the road by melting it.
With the developing technologies, instead of fighting icing with salt, liquid chemicals that do not cause corrosion and wear on the roads should be included. These chemicals; They are prepared using magnesium chloride as an additive. These environmentally friendly and non-toxic chemicals are biodegradable. Their corrosion is minimized.

Properties of De-icing Solution

defroster spray

  • It is a water-based, saturated, balanced mineral mixture.
  • Ecological, environmentally friendly.
  • Its freezing point is -50°C.
  • It does not contain glycol and its derivatives, its active substances are not volatile.
  • It is not flammable.
  • It is not harmful to human, animal and plant health.
  • It is antibacterial.
  • It is moisture-retaining, stays on the surface even in heavy traffic conditions.
  • It is environmentally friendly and has a fertilizer effect on plants.
  • It is effective for a long time.
  • It is applied very quickly.
  • It saves labor and time.
  • Since it is not abrasive (corrosive), it does not damage asphalt, concrete and metal parts.
  • It also gives good results at very low temperatures (Freezing point can be adjusted between -30°C and -70°C optionally)
  • It is effective down to -48°C and remains effective between 24 and 48 hours after application.

Comparing Methods

Unfortunately, alternative methods are not used very often in our country. We continue to defrost snow/ice with salt and heavy equipment method. The RWIs method is a new system in our country, but we can obtain the anti-icing spray from many places. When we encounter the anti-ice spray method with the salt method, we can say that the salt method is now obsolete and the anti-icing spray is ahead of the salt method. The salt loses its de-icing effectiveness after -8°C. The de-icing spray, on the other hand, continues its effectiveness down to -48°C.

Salt is sprinkled on the road by a disc or by at least 2 workers over the vehicle. A salting vehicle sprinkles all the salt in the vehicle within a maximum of 3-5 km. For this reason, the vehicle returns to the salt stock area every 3 or 5 km, takes its load and continues from where it left off in the application area. It has been calculated that the salting vehicle has covered a distance of approximately 80 km on the basis of 5 km in the fight against snow and ice on the 1170 km road. With a 25-30 ton solution vehicle, the application is made at a distance of 75 to 90 km. In classical methods, hundreds of personnel, ladles and salting tools must be kept ready.

Application can be made at a distance of 30-40 km without the need for workers by loading a tanker of approximately 75-90 tons once. Considering the post-winter road maintenance and repair costs and fuel consumption, it is seen that the solution is a much more economical product than salt.

To summarize, by using anti-icing spray, we both reduce the cost and the most important part. the damage we do to the environment we minimize.


  • Ağar, E., Kutluhan, S., Winter maintenance on highways – snow and ice control, Bulletin of the Istanbul Chamber of Civil Engineers, issue 76, 6 p.
  • More Effective and Economical New Methods to Combat Snow and Ice Perviz Ahmedzade, Mesude Yılmaz, Mehmet Yılmaz Fırat University, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, ELAZIĞ
  • Road Weather Information Systems: Enabling Proactive Maintenance Practices in Washington State, March 2002

About the Author

Burçin İnciel

Environmental Engineer, nature lover.
'Love green, love life.'

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