Alternative Anti-Icer May Ease Road-Salt Shortage

Story by Mike Larson, Editor | September 28, 2010

Randy Kuik of Service Motor Co., Fond du Lac, WI, displays two handfuls of an alternative ice-melter that may help answer shortages of traditional road salt.

A relatively new ice-melter may be one answer to the salt shortage plaguing people responsible for keeping highways, roads, and parking-lots free of ice and snow this winter.

The product, called Ice Slicer, relies on a key ingredient that is mined in Utah and has a different kind of salt than the sodium chloride "road salt" commonly used for keeping pavements clear.

Randy Kuik of Service Motor Co. in Fond du Lac, WI, is among the first vendors to bring the new road-clearing alternative to Wisconsin.

Says Kuik, "With so many companies facing salt shortages the last couple of years, we looked for a way to meet their needs. This product seems as though it does the job, and is in many ways better than the standard road salt everyone has relied on for years."

Kuik says the main ingredient in Ice Slicer is the same as that used in Safe-Walk, an environmentally friendly deicer that has been used to keep sidewalks and entry ways clear for about six years.

"Safe-Walk," says Kuik, "combines a more refined version of the Ice Slicer salt with a corn derivative and magnesium chloride to make it even more environmentally friendly and smoother flowing. Service Motor Co. has sold Safe-Walk for a few years, and customers really like it."

Looking for a way to help customers who faced a shortage of road salt, Kuik asked his Safe-Walk supplier, Lee Kiewiet of Kiewiet Enterprises in Iowa, about using Safe-Walk for roads.

Kiewiet told Kuik that Safe-Walk would be expensive to use for roadway applications, but that its key ice-melting ingredient, Ice Slicer, would do the job and be more cost-effective.

So Kuik connected with road maintenance personnel, landscapers, and others who need to keep pavements clear of ice and snow.

One of the first purchasers was Dodge County, WI, which was having a difficult time locating standard road salt in September and October. The county purchased 1,000 tons of Ice Slicer to try as an alternative.

Dodge County Highway Commissioner Brian Field says that the county is applying a mix of Ice Slicer and sand on its 140 miles of highways and is finding that it works well, even in colder temperatures.

Kuik says that melting at lower temperatures is one of Ice Slicer's advantages. "It works down to about 0 degrees Fahrenheit," he says, "while standard road salt stops working at about 17 degrees."

Kuik also says that the mineral in Ice Slicer is harder than standard road salt, so it has grittiness that helps enhance traction.

"Sometimes, a shortage of a well-established product leads people to look for alternatives that are equally as good, or better. This may be one of those cases," says Kuik.