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Calcium chloride (CaCl2) is one of nature’s uncommon wonders. It’s a specialty salt with unique properties that improve driving and pedestrian safety, remove unhealthy dust from the air we breathe, and enhance the performance of products and processes that contribute to the supply of energy, food, and other essentials of life.
While similar chemically to sodium chloride (NaCl), better known as rock salt, calcium chloride contributes three unique and highly valuable performance properties unavailable from rock salt:
1. It is hygroscopic, strongly attracting moisture from its surroundings.
2. Solid calcium chloride is deliquescent, meaning it can absorb enough moisture to convert to liquid brine.
3. When dissolved in water, solid calcium chloride releases heat in an exothermic reaction.
The value of these properties is very apparent in key applications. The ability of CaCl2 to attract water makes it a highly effective dust suppressant when applied to the surface of gravel roads. It is also an effective stabilizing agent in gravel road bases and in mixtures of road base gravel and pulverized asphalt created during the full-depth reclamation process. In these applications, calcium chloride attracts moisture from the air (and retains moisture applied during construction and maintenance operations) to bind fine and coarse gravel particles together, preventing road degradation.
The hygroscopic, deliquescent and exothermic properties of calcium chloride are highly beneficial in quickly melting ice on sidewalks and steps. Ice melter speed of action is determined by how easily it dissolves when exposed to snow or ice to form a brine solution. This brine lowers the freezing point of water to melt additional snow and ice on contact. By attracting moisture from its surroundings, CaCl2 speeds up the creation of brine compared to rock salt and other ice melt materials.
The performance of calcium chloride is further increased because the reaction that creates CaCl2 brine actually releases heat, making calcium chloride a more effective ice melter than rock salt and most other ice melt materials that must draw heat from a cold environment to begin the melting process.
How clear are the advantages of calcium chloride’s hygroscopic, deliquescent and exothermic properties? No need to take our word for it. Suppliers of rock salt blends claim that even the small amount of CaCl2 they add to their products makes a significant performance difference on icy sidewalks and steps. As flattering as those claims are, a fraction of calcium chloride won’t significantly change the performance of a bag of rock salt. It takes pure calcium chloride to melt ice faster and more thoroughly in a full winter’s range of weather conditions.