Road Salt Best Practices

Smart Salting

The Wisconsin Salt Wise Partnership developed a Winter Maintenance Application Rates and Guidance for Parking Lots, Sidewalks and Trails website that provides salt application guidelines and strategies as well as a calculator to determine application rates based on the temperature and product being applied.


The Smart Salting Assessment Tool (formerly the Winter Maintenance Assessment tool) was developed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency based on known salt-saving best management practices. It's a free, web-based tool that can be used to assist public and private winter maintenance organizations in determining where opportunities exist to improve practices, make reductions in salt use, and track progress. You can find additional resources on the agency website.

The Lake George Association in New York developed Winter Road Maintenance Best Practices for Water Quality Protection to reduce salt use. Best practices include using brine where practical, calibrated spreaders on trucks, and wider use of road temperature sensors.

Certification for Salt Applicators

The city of Madison, Wisconsin, offers a voluntary Winter Salt Certification Program for snowplow drivers and contractors who maintain private/public walkways and/or parking lots and service roads to ensure they follow the most recent best management practices. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency not only provides certification for salt applicators, both for highway applications and public/private applicators, it also offers homeowners a list of certified salt applicators for hire to encourage homeowners to use vendors that follow best practices. 

Understanding the Corrosion Connection

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) staff conducted a webinar with us on Long-term Look at Trends Chloride and Indicators of Potential Corrosivity of our Nation’s Rivers that explains the damage salts can do to drinking water systems. (Does not specifically discuss how to cut salt usage.)

Michigan Radio offers a helpful overview of what drinking water pipes look like with and without corrosion control and the use of phosphate as a corrosion inhibitor for metal pipes. 

A few facts....

Salt does not “disappear” after a storm event. When snow and ice melt, road salt washes into local streams – some of which feed into drinking water supplies – or is absorbed into the ground road-side, where the salt can end up in groundwater supplies or be washed into streams with every rain storm.

Alternatives still require salt. Alternatives to road salt, like beet juice or cheese waste, are not salt-free – they simply offer alternative ways to get salt to stick to the road so less salt is needed.

You do not have to feel “the crunch” for salt to do its job. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water so snow and ice can be more easily removed. Putting more salt on a surface does not make snow and ice melt faster or eliminate the need for plowing or shoveling.

The best way to reduce salt use is to talk to your municipality or state DOT. You can’t fix this problem on your own. Government agencies apply the road salt. The best way for them to reduce salt use – while still keeping drivers safe – is to work with truck drivers and make sure too much salt isn’t going on roads. These resources can help with best management practices.