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What’s the Difference Between Brown Rock Salt and White De-icing Salt?

01 March 2023

Jennie Hollingsworth

Cold weather snaps seem to descend on the UK with little warning. And while seeing the landscape frosted with ice and snow can be beautiful, it also brings with it risky and hazardous conditions.

Overnight, the safe and sturdy surfaces of our roads and pavements suddenly transform into treacherous ice rinks which are slippery and dangerous. To be able to mitigate these icy conditions and make surfaces safe to navigate both on foot and by vehicle, de-icing is essential. But in order to respond quickly, organisations must be prepared by procuring de-icing products in advance, or risk being caught out.

Salt is renowned for its de-icing properties, but you’ll need to stock up your stores and buy it in bulk –in advance – to make sure you have adequate supplies to be effective and ensure you are ready to act as soon as any unexpected freezing weather spells are forecast.

When it comes to salt, there is more than one option available – and we’re not talking about the white stuff you’d normally find on your table. For the most efficient and effective de-icing, you’ll require specialist salt and there are two main types; white de-icing salt and brown rock salt.

White de-icing salt

White de-icing salt is the purest form of salt. For instance, the range of white de-icing salt stocked by phs Direct consists of 99.9% pure salt. As a fine salt, it melts snow and ice quickly by reducing the melting point of water, which also helps stop ice from forming subsequently.

One of the major benefits of white de-icing salt is that it’s clean, leaving no residue on the ground and it doesn’t discolour snow. This property means that it is well suited to organisations where cleanliness is important. This may include outside schools, retailers, hospitals, airports and homes. However, not being able to see where the de-icing salt has been applied can be a drawback.

White de-icing salt is marine salt, imported around the world from warmer climates. It is produced by flooding large salt beds with seawater. As the water is evaporated by the sun, it leaves behind crystallised salt deposits which are harvested and imported around the world before the process is repeated. Due to the nature of the process, and the fact the product needs to be imported into the UK, white de-icing salt is more expensive than the alternative brown rock salt.  

Brown rock salt

Brown rock salt is not as pure as white de-icing salt as it has been mixed with another mineral. It still has a high proportion of salt within it – for instance, the brown rock salt range from phs Direct consists of 94% pure salt – but the rest is made up of a coloured mineral called ‘marl’. This gives rock salt its characteristic reddish-brown colour and it is also insoluble which means this part of the product will stay visible rather than dissolving into the ice and snow.

The purpose of this is to provide additional traction on the ground when it is laid over ice and snow, reducing slipperiness even further. It also allows you to see where brown rock salt has been laid as it visibly stands out from the white ice and snow as well as on dark pavements, roads and surfaces.

Compared to white de-icing salt, which is a lot finer, brown rock salt consists of large granules. It’s also commonly referred to as ‘grit’ and is what is usually spread on roads by gritting vehicles during the winter. You’ll also see it in grit bins on roadsides and carparks.

Brown rock salt is extracted from underground mines, including in the UK. This means it is more readily available than white de-icing salt and therefore cheaper so if you have to cover larger areas, using brown rock salt is more economical.

Where to buy brown rock salt and white de-icing salt

Whether you’re looking to stock up on salt for the first time or to top-up existing supplies so you’re well prepared no matter when the next cold spell hits, look no further than phs Direct.

We sell brown rock salt and white de-icing salt in our online portal, available now. Both salts can be bought as smaller, single 23kg bags or in larger pallets of 40 bags depending on your requirements. The below links will take you directly to the right product:

Buy your de-icing salt supplies now and ensure your surfaces are kept safe and ice free throughout winter. And for all your other washroom, janitorial, ancillary and cleaning consumables including hand dryers, chemicals and healthcare supplies delivered direct to you, visit the phs Direct site today.