Ice-control sand

Are you ready for winter?  Why ice control sand is the best de-icer

Every winter, deicing roads helps reduce road accidents by 87%. [1] This makes deicing one of the country’s most important road safety measures since World War II. While there is no debate on the effects of de-icing, selecting suitable materials may be more challenging. There are four major categories of deicing materials – Sand, Salt, Chemical, and Hybrid.

Each deicing material has its advantages and disadvantages. The suitable material also depends on the application area, ambient conditions, and the cost benefits of the material. Sand is the oldest deicing mineral that has been in use since the 1930s, while rock salt is a preferred material in some states. Chemical deicers can come in handy in an extreme cold. Let us discuss the pros and cons of all these materials in detail.

The Age-old Question – Sand or Salt

While the topic says sand or salt, we will also study the pros and cons of a few other materials in this article.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sand

Deicing with sand works through friction. Grains of sand also congeal loose snow to make it less slippery. Sand has been the cheapest and oldest deicing material except for a few years in the 1990s when the price of salt nosedived. Another advantage of sand is that it is durable and lasts until removed by surface runoff after a storm or during snow removal. Sand is chemically inert and does not cause corrosion in rebar and structural steel used in highway infrastructure. It does not stop there. Sand can also be used in various temperatures and conditions with alternating sunshine.

If there is any downside when using sand in ice control, it is that washed-out sand clogs storm drainage networks. This is the only Achilles heel for an otherwise perfect deicing material.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Salt

Salt is the most common deicing material in the US. More than 20 million tons of salt worth about $1.5 billion is used yearly in de-icing applications across many states. [2] Depending on the local conditions, different states use rock salt in different dispersion ratios. Hence the consumption is non-uniform and sometimes disproportionate to the size of the state or length of roads.

The advantage of using rock salt is two-fold. The physics is that rock salt is made of relatively larger crystals than table salt and hence has better friction. The thermodynamics is that salt reduces ice’s melting point and turns all ice into water at temperatures above 16 degrees Fahrenheit (or -9 degrees Celsius). Salt is not cheaper than sand, but it is an economical option. Salt also dissolves in the water from ice or storms and washes away in a few days without clogging storm drains.

There are a few downsides too. Salt alters the soil quality, making vegetation decay. This makes salt a less preferred option for walkways, driveways, and other areas near decorative plants or lawns. Salt also alters the water table’s pH value and reduces water sources’ quality in the long run. But the single most significant disadvantage of using rock salt in deicing is the corrosion it causes. Transportation infrastructure like bridges and culverts have either structural steel or rebar in RCC. Salt is corrosive and degrades the steel in these structures, making them lose their structural integrity over time. The annual cost of corrosion from deicing salt is estimated to be about $5 billion – almost three times the cost of the salt required. [3, 5]

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sand + Salt Mix

The third type of deicing material is a mix of sand and salt in an 80:20 ratio. This brings the best of both worlds while minimizing the worst. The advantages and disadvantages are the same as discussed earlier for the respective materials. This mix is becoming the solution of choice for ice control on highways. The additional cost of mixing might make it a little more expensive than sand or rock. Arguably, the benefits can outweigh this increase in cost.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Chemical Deicers

Different state departments have experimented with deicers made from chemicals as an alternative to sand and rock. They avoid hurting the flora while keeping the storm drains free from clogging. One example is CMA (Calcium and Magnesium Acetate). This study discusses the merits and demerits of such material and how different states have conducted research that concluded that CMA is a good substitute for sand and rock salt for ice control in specific conditions. [4]

Why you should use Sand

There is, in fact, no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to deicing. This much is evident from the above arguments in favor of and against the different materials. However, sand scores a lead ahead of other alternatives when it comes to ice control.

  • It is cheap and easily available.
  • It is efficient.
  • It is environmentally safe to use.
  • It lasts longer than salt and chemicals that run off easily.
  • It works irrespective of the atmospheric temperature

Yes, it can cause clogging of storm drain networks, but timely removal can quickly help avoid this. This makes sand an ideal choice in the following conditions:

  • When you cannot predict the temperature range
  • When the rainwater and surface runoff does not directly flow into storm drains
  • When you need to respond quickly to sudden icing or when the road runs through populated areas like cities, towns, and the countryside

What to Consider While Buying Deicing Sand

Sand is sand everywhere, right? Hmm, guess again. Ice control sand has to meet DoT specifications like sieve size, plasticity index, and shale content, among other parameters. Each state defines its specification, like this one from Colorado. [6]

But the quality of the sand is not all that matters. Finding the right supplier is equally, if not more, important. A reliable supplier ensures continuous supply throughout the season while maintaining the quality criteria. Suppliers like Legacy Materials can help you reduce the cost of your ice control project. We are a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). This allows our customers to enjoy tax incentives provided by the government to our customers for supporting women entrepreneurs.

Final Thoughts

By now, you are well aware that sand is a good choice for deicing in most circumstances. Other materials have their merit, too, depending on the ambient conditions. But the versatility of the applications, cost, and availability make sand an excellent choice for ice control. At Legacy Materials, we help you procure the right kind of sand that meets stringent specifications while staying under budget in the process. In addition, our sand is Iowa DOT Certified sand.  Give us a call at 515-432-7333 or visit our website to meet your needs for ice control materials.

Are You Prepared for Winter? Stock Up On Ice Control Sand For winter Road Safety

Winter is that time of the year to get outside, hike, ski, snowshoe, or enjoy beautiful snow-covered scenery. But the season also brings challenges, especially for those taking to the road. Reduced visibility and slippery conditions are some of the biggest threats drivers face. The risk of hydroplaning is also much higher during the wet season, especially when there is ice on the road. 

Stocking up on ice-control sand could be one way to be safe behind the wheel this winter. This special sand makes icy conditions safer to drive on – especially if you live in an area prone to black ice in the winter months.

What Is Ice Control Sand?

Ice control sand is a coarsely-grained sand that is often dyed bright orange to be easily spotted on the road and in parking spaces. It is considered a solution to prevent ice from forming on roadways, bridges, and sidewalks. It works by reducing the freezing temperature of the surface water, which in turn reduces the likelihood of ice formation. 

Ice-control sand is known by many different names: traction sand, anti-icing sand, and winter sand, to name a few. Ice control sand is typically made from silica, the same material found in sandpaper. Like sandpaper, the fine particles of silica found in this sand can remove water from the road’s surface. As it is applied, the sand also creates more space between the ice and the road, giving motorists more traction.

Some types of ice control sand come with a salt mixture, but this requires caution. These sand types can melt the ice but might also damage your car if it gets into moving parts. We also advise you to avoid beach sand, as it is too smooth and will not help properly.

Why use Ice Control sand? 

Keeps surfaces safer for travel: Ice control sand is a proven agent that can prevent ice formation on sidewalks, parking lots, driveways, and roadways. 

Reduces the risk of hydroplaning: When the road surface is slippery, there is a risk that your car will hydroplane. Hydroplaning can occur whenever your car travels at high speed, so it is not something that happens only in certain weather conditions. It happens when the water on a road is pushed into the car’s path, creating a seal that separates your car’s tires from the road. Ice control sand can prevent such an event. 

General safety: Ice control sands can make roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users. Besides making it safer for motorists, ice control sand also helps reduce the risk of cars sliding into other each other. Pedestrians and cyclists are at higher risk of by a car, as inclement weather can make automobiles more difficult to control do to poor road conditions.

How does Ice Control sand work?

When ice control sand is applied on the road and other surfaces the weight of the sand penetrates the ice and presses it down into a warmer, softer layer of ice or water so that it is not as slippery. The coarse texture of the sand also provides more grip to the surface so that your tires will have more traction and will be less likely to slide. 

The sand is designed to be used in areas with ice or snow but not much water, like along the sides of the road. If there is water on the road, use the sand to create a barrier between the water and your tires. Water collects in the spaces between the sand particles, which creates a barrier between the water on the surface and the road. The sand also absorbs water, which further helps break the jet stream formed by the water flowing at high speeds on the surface. Using sand as a barrier can also help in areas that experience black ice – a thin layer of ice that forms on the road when temperatures are cooler than freezing.

How To Properly Use Ice Control Sand

Follow these tips to get the best out of ice-control sand:

Check the weather: Before applying the sand, ensure that weather conditions are conducive for its usage. It should be applied when outdoor temperatures range from 15 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

Apply in a layer of about 1/8 of an inch thick: The sand should be applied in a layer approximately 1/8 of an inch thick. Applying it in such a manner allows the water to drain while providing enough friction to keep vehicles and bicycles firmly grounded. 

Use it with care: Use only as little amount of sand as necessary because it may be difficult to remove it from the road. Place the sand only in areas where you need it and not along the whole length of the road.

Storing it – Keep the sand in a sturdy, sealable container so that it doesn’t spill while loading or unloading from your vehicle. 

Is Ice Control Sand safe to use?

Yes, ice control sand is safe to use. The sand is only slightly acidic (around pH 5.5) and is not likely to dissolve any metals or harm the environment. The orange dye in the sand may stain asphalt, so caution is advised while placing it. 

Ice control sand is not only known for its effectiveness in controlling ice, but it’s also environment-friendly and safe for human contact. It is a better alternative to salt, traditionally used to control ice. 
In Central Iowa, Legacy Materials is your local source for Ice Control Sand, DOT Certified Concrete Sand and Washable Fill Sand. We are located in Booneville, Iowa and provide flexible financing options to our customers. Legacy Materials is proud to be certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Stop by and give us a visit today or call (515) 432-7333 to learn more.

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