Does Water Softener Salt Melt Ice? (What You Need to Know)

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Water softener salt is, of course, predominantly used in a water softener. But how capable is water softener salt at melting ice? Can you use it on your driveway if you don’t have any other types of salt on hand?

Find out in this guide.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Water softener salt DOES melt ice and can be used as an alternative to rock salt or ice melt salt on your driveway and sidewalks.
  • However, softener salt is usually more expensive than rock salt, so if you can, stock up on rock salt in advance. This will save you money over the winter months.
  • Alternatives to water softener salt for melting snow and ice are homemade ice melts, calcium chloride pellets, beet juice, pool salt, and hot water and dish soap.

🧊 Does Water Softener Salt Melt Ice?

Yes, you can use water softener salt to melt ice on your driveway and sidewalks.

Water softener salt contains sodium chloride and traces of potassium chloride – the same ingredients as rock salt (which is traditionally used for ice melting purposes).

The only differences are that water softener salt comes in different forms to rock salt – for instance, you can buy processed or refined water softener salt pellets, while rock salt has more of a flaky crystal texture – and water softener salt is typically higher-purity (meaning it contains more sodium chloride and fewer impurities like dirt) than rock salt.

Water softener salt on driveway to melt ice and snow

πŸ€” How Does Water Softener Salt Melt Ice?

Water softener salt melts ice in the same way that rock salt or any other type of salt melts ice.

When salt is applied to an icy surface, the sodium ions and chloride ions dissolve and separate. This disrupts the bonds that hold together the water molecules that make the ice, causing them to lose hydrogen bonds.

As a result, the ice changes state, melting into water.

It usually takes 20 minutes for ice to completely melt after salt is applied.

πŸ“– How To Use Water Softener Salt To Melt Ice

Salt Scatter Method

To use water softener salt to melt ice with the scattering method, follow these steps:

  1. Scoop a bucket full of salt out of your water softener salt bag.
  2. Tip the bucket at an angle and move it in side-to-side motions to scatter the salt across your drive.

You don’t need to cover your entire driveway to melt the ice. Even if a bit of ice is left over, it should create enough traction for your car tires.

Avoid pouring a pile of salt onto the driveway to reduce the risk of damage to the concrete.

Homemade Ice Melt Method

Salt is less likely to damage your driveway if you use it in DIY ice melt mix, along with hot water and (if you want) beet juice.

Here’s how to use softener salt in a DIY ice melt:

  1. Dissolve a handful of salt in a bucket of hot water.
  2. For even better effects, mix the dissolved salt water solution with beet juice (80% saltwater and 20% beet juice is ideal). Or, skip this step if you don’t have this juice on hand.
  3. Pour the salt water onto your driveway. The liquid’s salt content should prevent it from refreezing.

πŸ†š Ice Melt Salt Vs Softening Salt Vs Rock Salt

Wondering exactly how softening salt differs from ice melt salt and rock salt?

Mainly, it’s the salt’s composition. Ice melt salt (which is usually made from rock salt) contains sodium (salt) with impurities like shale dolomite, gypsum, and quartz (depending on the type of rock), and dirt.

Ice melt salt has a slightly reduced ice melting power because of its impurities. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice much of a difference when using this type of salt vs softening salt for melting ice.

Softening salt has been processed and refined more thoroughly than standard rock salt, and may include additives and chemicals that help keep the water softener clean and reduce iron buildup. For that reason, it’s usually more expensive than ice melt salt.

And finally, just in case you were wondering, you can’t use regular rock salt or ice melt salt in your water softener. These salts are often high in impurities, which could clog or damage the water softener tank. Plus, they’re not intentionally designed to be safe for human consumption, even after they’re put through a water softener.

Ice melt salt vs softening salt vs rock salt

βœ… Benefits Of Using Water Softener Salt To Melt Ice

There are a few notable benefits of using softener salt as an ice melt solution:

Effective Ice Melting

All salt products, including water softener salt, are highly effective at melting ice. If you want a quick ice melting solution that doesn’t involve the hassle of clearing pathways with a shovel, water softener salt will work as intended. It takes about 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the ice and the outside temperature, for ice to completely melt after applying water softener salt.

May Require Less Salt

Water softener salt is usually higher-purity than the salt traditionally used to melt ice. That means more sodium ions and fewer impurities are present, which should mean that you can get the same ice melting results by using a smaller amount of salt compared to rock salt or sidewalk salt.

Scooping salt from a bucket with hands

Convenient Solution

You probably already have bags of water softener salt pellets in your basement or garage. That makes it super convenient to make an ice melt out of this salt, rather than having to buy separate supplies for the sole purpose of melting ice. If you’re stuck at home due to poor weather, water softener salt is a quick and easy solution.

⛔️ Setbacks Of Using Water Softener Salt To Melt Ice

There are a few setbacks that you should also know of before using water softener salt for melting ice around your home:

More Expensive Than Rock Salt

Water softener salt is typically costlier than rock salt – especially if you buy high-quality, high-purity salt for your water softener, such as evaporated salt and solar salt.

It doesn’t make economical sense to use bags and bags of expensive water softener salt to melt ice when you could use a much more affordable salt product, like rock salt or table salt. For that reason, we only recommend using water softener salt as a last resort or a short-term solution.

May Damage Your Driveway

Just like any type of salt, water softener salt may damage your driveway if it’s used frequently for melting ice. Why? Because the sodium ions break down asphalt and concrete, causing the driveway to become cracked and forming small holes.

It’s best to use any salt – whether water softener salt or rock salt – sparingly on concrete surfaces. Use a snowblower or a snow shovel to remove as much ice or snow as you can before resorting to salt. You can also buy products that reduce the likelihood of salt damage to driveways and sidewalks, such as paving sealers.

Damaged asphalt

πŸ“‘ Alternatives To Water Softener Salt For Ice Melt

Don’t want to waste your water softening salt? There are a few other salt types and various non-salt products you can use to melt ice effectively:

  • Regular rock salt
  • Table salt
  • Ice melt salt
  • Epsom salt
  • Pool salts
  • Hot water and dish soap
  • Calcium chloride pellets
  • Homemade ice melt mix
  • Coffee grounds
  • Baking soda
  • Rubbing alcohol

🚿 Should You Use Water Softener Salt To Melt Ice?

Water softener salt effectively melts ice, like any other salt type. But this salt is more expensive than other salt types, and, like all salt products, it may damage your driveway.

If you don’t have rock salt, table salt, or any other ingredients to make a homemade ice melt on hand, you can use water softener salt pellets to melt ice. However, we recommend only using softening salt as a short-term solution until you buy a more suitable material for melting ice around your home.

❔ Does Water Softener Salt Melt Ice? FAQ

Does water softening salt melt ice driveway?

Yes, water softener salt melts ice on a driveway. Its main ingredients are sodium chloride and potassium chloride, which are found in salts used for just that purpose. To melt ice on your drive, simply spread salt from a scoop or bucket or combine the salt with hot water to make a DIY ice melt.

Is water softener salt safe for driveways?

Yes, water softener salt is safe for using on driveways. However, salt minerals in any salt type (whether regular salt, road salt, or softening salt) are known to damage concrete, causing cracks and holes. Salt also corrodes metals in cars, so it’s best only used sparingly and in small amounts on your driveway.

Is water softener salt safe for concrete?

Water softening salt is no more or less safe than any other type of salt when applied to concrete. The chemical reaction that heats and melts the ice may also cause cracks and holes to form in concrete, especially in regions that are prone to regular freeze-thaw cycles (when the temperature reaches freezing point, then becomes slightly warmer, then freezes again).

Can you use water softener salt for sidewalks?

Yes, you can use water softener salt to get rid of ice on slippery sidewalks. Like any salt type, softening salt offers a quick and easy ice melting solution. Just keep in mind that overuse of salt on your sidewalks could damage them.

Can you use Morton water softener salt to melt ice?

Yes, you can use Morton salt for water softeners – and any other brand of salt – to melt ice. However, it’s usually cheaper to use other ice-melting methods, like baking soda, hot water and dish soap, and specialy formulated ice melt salt.

  • Laura Shallcross
    Senior Editor

    Laura is a passionate residential water treatment journalist who holds an undergraduate degree in Print Journalism and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. Over a span of 5 years she's written on a range of topics including water softening, well water treatment, and purification processes.

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