Which Works Better on Ice? Salt or Sand?

Boulder, Colorado Lawn Maintenance Jobs

It’s an age-old question, and can even get mixed up with arguments of state pride: Which is better for handling the ice on my property and roads, salt or sand? As we experience heavy snow fall and prepare ourselves for even more this winter season, the debate has returned in full force. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Here we’ve listed everything you need to know about how these two products work to handle slick and slippery, icy roads:


Salt works by lowering the freezing point of the ice so that it melts into liquid. It’s made of equal parts of sodium and chloride (NaCl – high school chemistry, anyone?), and it can make roads safer to drive on by melting the ice and preventing it from freezing again.


  • One great benefit of salt is that it works quickly and immediately to melt ice. It works well on roads, and is also useful for melting the ice of stairways, sidewalks,  and porches to prevent slipping.
  • Unlike sand, salt is easy to clean up. Because it is dissolved by water, it is carried away by the melted ice and snow.


  • In extremely low temperatures, salt doesn’t tend to work very well since it only lowers the freezing temperature to a certain point.
  • Salt is corrosive and, long-term, can result in damage and rust to cars.
  • When dealing with thick ice and very cold temperatures, salt doesn’t provide traction.


Sand helps drivers and pedestrians journey through the ice and snow by providing traction, which prevents slipping and accidents. The friction created by the sand helps to remove some of the ice and provide a good grip for commuters. Colorado is one of the only states that uses sand exclusively because of its many benefits.


  • Sand works great at improving road conditions by reducing slippery conditions, no matter how thick the snow or ice.
  • It provides great traction.
  • Unlike salt, sand doesn’t rust or really damage cars in any way. If you looked at two used cars from Colorado and say, Michigan, you’d see the difference!


  • Sand doesn’t actually work to melt the ice.
  • It only works when it is on top of the snow or ice, so it must be reapplied continually if it is covered up.
  • Sand can collect in drains if not cleaned properly from roads (Colorado properly maintains and cleans roads that are treated with sand, so it’s not a problem here).

In the end, both sand and salt are great options for maintaining the ice and snow on the roads, the decision will likely come down to the conditions. Whether you’re a landlord, business owner, or homeowner, General Services Corporation can help your property with any snow removal needs you may have this winter season.