Winter Salt Reduction

Did you know that salt granules should be spread about three inches apart for most effective ice melting?  More is not always better when it comes to salting and more salt will not melt ice faster. Over application of salt during winter weather is wasteful and contaminates local waterways and drinking water. Excess salt runs off of driveways and sidewalks and into streams. These streams feed into drinking water reservoirs and groundwater wells in our region. Unfortunately, salt is not removed at water treatment plants and increased sodium levels in drinking water can be a health concern for many.

Keep in mind: Just one teaspoon of salt contaminates five gallons of fresh water!

***Sign our pledge to reduce your winter salt use and be a good steward of your local environment.***

What you can do:

  • Use alternatives that provide traction such as sand, native bird seed, chicken grit, kitty litter, crushed dried plant material, etc. (and be sure to sweep up after the ice melts so these don't wash away into the stream).
  • Only put salt on ice, not on bare pavement. Salt will not be very effective below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not salt before the storm to prevent runoff in case of rain only or avoiding waste if there is no storm at all.
  • Sweep or shovel first to reduce the amount of salt needed and determine if the afternoon sun can melt the rest naturally.
  • If salt is necessary, apply only enough for salt granules to be three inches apart. More is not better! Use a 12 oz mug of salt to cover 10 sidewalk squares or a 20 foot length of a single car driveway. Extra salt will not melt ice faster.
  • Avoid going out during winter weather events whenever possible.
  • Sweep up remaining salt on driveways, sidewalks, or roads (if safe) after the weather event and store it for reuse.

Howard County Bureau of Highways is responsible for snow removal from approximately 3,600 roads in the County. We utilize all available resources and innovation to reduce our salt application as much as possible while still maintaining roads to a safe condition.  

A few requests from our busy Highways workers during the winter. These help keep everyone safer:

  • SLOW DOWN.  Please drive slower than normal and leave early.    
  • GIVE SPACE between you and the plow or salt spreader.  
  • BRAKE SOONER.  You may or may not see the ice, so do not tailgate and be ready to brake earlier.  
  • STAY HOME.  If you are able, stay off the roads. This allows our crews to remove the snow efficiently and effectively.  
  • MOVE your parked car off the street when possible, especially in cul de sacs, so plows can get by easier.  
  • CLEAR CAR SNOW. Be sure to remove all snow from your windows, windshields, and roof prior to driving. Remaining snow can fly off and can be a threat to other motorists on the roadways.


More helpful tips and info:

Salt Savvy Feature Article (share with your community newsletter and educate your neighbors)

Salting for Businesses Tip Card

Be a Salt Savvy Neighbor_English Tip Card

Be a Salt Savvy Neighbor_Spanish Tip Card

Check out the snow plow tracker here.

MDE's Salt Website