Snow plows use a variety of products to clear roads

By: Nick Rothschild Email
By: Nick Rothschild Email

COLORADO We've all seen snow plows dump various solids or liquids onto roads, but what exactly are they using to clear our streets?

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the type of product used depends on the situation.

Anti-icing products attempt to prevent the roads from accumulating ice in the first place. These products work by lowering the freezing point of water. Generally anti-icing products are used in the beginning hours of a snowstorm, not to pre-treat the roads.

De-icing products break the chemical bond of already existing snow and ice. These products dissolve downward and penetrate until they reach the pavement. De-icers melt the ice and snow so that it can be easily removed by plows or other mechanical means. They are not intended to clear every bit of ice and snow, the goal is to keep roads wet.

There are two types of De-icing products: liquid de-icers and solid de-icers.

Liquid de-icers include magnesium chloride and APEX. Magnesium chloride is used when the pavement temperature is about 16 degrees Fahrenheit and then is added to a corn bi-product once the pavement temperature drops below 16 degrees. APEX also contains magnesium chloride but it has the lowest freezing point of the liquid-icers and is generally used as a substitute.

Solid de-icers include ice slicers and a sand/salt mixture. Ice slicers contain magnesium chloride cut with salt. These solid de-icers are used more in higher elevations and the eastern plains where more extreme cold temperatures exist and more traction is needed.

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