Calcium Chloride vs. Rock Salt

What's the Difference?

Calcium chloride and rock salt are both commonly used as de-icing agents during winter months. However, they differ in their chemical composition and effectiveness. Calcium chloride is a hygroscopic compound, meaning it attracts and retains moisture from the air, allowing it to work at lower temperatures and melt ice faster than rock salt. On the other hand, rock salt, also known as sodium chloride, is less expensive and more readily available. While it is effective at melting ice above 15°F (-9°C), its performance decreases as temperatures drop. Overall, calcium chloride is often preferred for its superior melting capabilities, especially in extremely cold conditions, while rock salt remains a popular choice for more moderate winter temperatures.


AttributeCalcium ChlorideRock Salt
Chemical FormulaCaCl2NaCl
AppearanceWhite, crystalline solidColorless, transparent crystals
Melting Point-50°C (-58°F)801°C (1474°F)
Solubility in WaterHighly solubleSoluble
UsageDe-icing agent, food additive, concrete acceleratorDe-icing agent, food seasoning
Effect on Freezing PointLoweringLowering
HygroscopicityHighly hygroscopicHygroscopic
CorrosivenessCorrosive to metalsNon-corrosive to metals

Further Detail


When it comes to de-icing roads and sidewalks during winter, two commonly used substances are calcium chloride and rock salt. Both have their own unique attributes and benefits that make them suitable for different situations. In this article, we will compare the attributes of calcium chloride and rock salt, exploring their effectiveness, environmental impact, cost, and other factors to help you make an informed decision.


One of the primary factors to consider when choosing a de-icing agent is its effectiveness in melting ice and snow. Calcium chloride is known for its exceptional performance in extreme cold temperatures. It has a lower freezing point than rock salt, which means it can effectively melt ice at temperatures as low as -25°F (-32°C). On the other hand, rock salt is less effective in extremely cold conditions and works best at temperatures above 15°F (-9°C). Therefore, if you live in an area with harsh winters, calcium chloride may be a more suitable choice.

Environmental Impact

Another crucial aspect to consider is the environmental impact of the de-icing agents. Calcium chloride is considered to have a lower environmental impact compared to rock salt. It is less harmful to vegetation, as it does not cause as much damage to plants and trees when used in moderation. Additionally, calcium chloride has a lower impact on concrete and metal structures, reducing the risk of corrosion. On the other hand, rock salt can be more damaging to vegetation and infrastructure, especially when used in excessive amounts or in areas with poor drainage. Therefore, if environmental concerns are a priority, calcium chloride may be a better option.


Cost is often a significant factor when deciding between calcium chloride and rock salt. In general, rock salt is more cost-effective compared to calcium chloride. Rock salt is widely available and relatively inexpensive, making it a popular choice for municipalities and homeowners on a budget. On the other hand, calcium chloride is more expensive due to its superior performance and lower application rates. While it may have a higher upfront cost, calcium chloride's effectiveness in extreme cold temperatures can result in lower overall usage, potentially offsetting the initial expense. Therefore, if cost is a primary concern, rock salt may be the more economical option.

Application and Handling

The ease of application and handling is another aspect to consider when comparing calcium chloride and rock salt. Rock salt is typically available in large granules, making it easy to spread manually or with mechanical spreaders. It requires minimal training or special equipment for application. On the other hand, calcium chloride is often available in liquid or pellet form. The liquid form can be sprayed directly onto surfaces, while the pellets can be spread manually or with specialized equipment. However, the handling of calcium chloride requires more caution, as it can be corrosive and may cause skin irritation. Therefore, if ease of application and handling is a priority, rock salt may be the more convenient choice.

Residual Effects

Residual effects refer to the ability of a de-icing agent to prevent ice from reforming after initial application. Calcium chloride has a higher residual effect compared to rock salt. It forms a brine solution that continues to melt ice and snow even after the initial application, providing longer-lasting de-icing effects. Rock salt, on the other hand, has a lower residual effect and may require more frequent reapplication to maintain ice-free surfaces. Therefore, if you are looking for a de-icing agent with longer-lasting effects, calcium chloride may be the better choice.


Choosing between calcium chloride and rock salt depends on various factors such as effectiveness, environmental impact, cost, application, and residual effects. Calcium chloride is highly effective in extreme cold temperatures, has a lower environmental impact, and provides longer-lasting de-icing effects. However, it comes at a higher cost and requires more caution during handling. On the other hand, rock salt is more cost-effective, easier to handle, and widely available. It may be less effective in extremely cold temperatures and has a higher environmental impact. Ultimately, the choice between calcium chloride and rock salt depends on your specific needs, budget, and environmental considerations.

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