Tag Archives: salt brine

Homemade salt brine is a challenge


The in basket: Hugh McAleavy from way back in New Jersey, who read on the kitsapsun.com blog for Road Warrior about Kitsap County’s use of a salt brine to control ice said, “I would like to make a brine to use on my driveway and sidewalks. Can anyone advise the best type of salt to use to make the brine?”

The out basket: It’s not a matter of stirring some salt into water, according to Tony Carroll, an engineering

technician with the county, and getting a usable batch is beyond the capabilities or at least the patience of most people.

You’d need rock salt to begin, and Tony says it would be a lot easier just to put the salt on the sidewalk and driveway.

To make brine, “you have to build a dual-tank system that allows water to

percolate through the salt to get the right amount of sodium chloride in

the water,” he said. “During this process you periodically test the solution with a

hydrometer to ensure the optimum 23 percent solution needed to make brine


“Higher or lower concentrations decrease its effectiveness.

Because salt products differ there is no standard ratio of salt to water

that allows you to just throw some salt in water and stir. Much like

cooking, too much salt ruins the batch. If there is not enough salt, you

can always add more, but you still need a way to ‘taste’ the batch

so you don’t ruin it,” he said.

Then there’s the question of how to apply it. 

“You could use your garden sprayer,” Tony said, “but you better plan some maintenance because the product is corrosive and can ruin your equipment without regular cleaning and maintenance. Salt brine is effective and works well in

large-scale operation using professional application and maintenance

techniques, but can take a lot of time and money to use at the homeowner


How’s Kitsap’s new salt brine working this week?


The in basket: Mile Hill Drive near Woods Road in the area in which I live was treacherously icy Sunday morning, even though I had seen one of the Kitsap County’s tanker trucks there Saturday morning spraying the salt brine solution the county had introduced to its arsenal of ice and snow fighters. By Monday morning, the road was bare and dry.

I asked if the solution was living up to expectations.

The out basket: Doug Bear, spokesman for the county’s public works, said he ” had quite the opposite experience,” finding the roads near the Old Clifton Road church where he is directing a play to be bare and dry most of the weekend. “Overall it was very successful in most areas,” he said. “The key is having a period of dry road to apply the brine before the freeze. Based on my conversation with the road supervisors this morning salt-brine is an effective tool to add to our snow and ice arsenal.

He took exception to a suggestion I had heard that reducing cracked windshield claims against the county from the small rocks in sand spread on the roads was a motivating factor in going to brine. 

“It seems a bit cynical to me to assume we would place damage claims above road safety,” Doug said. . “We still use sand and always will. There are many applications where sand is the best tool to use. Salt brine is not a cure-all, and has its limits. It does allow us to use less sand under certain circumstances, which should, ultimately lead to less claims. “But it certainly isn’t even a benefit we considered when we made the decision to use salt brine. “We want to make roads as safe as possible in inclement weather, and whether it is salt or sand, we will use whatever it takes to reach that goal.

The brine solution did cut the amount of sand that would otherwise have been needed on the county roads last weekend nearly in half, he said.

Thursday’s heavy snow was another matter.

“The primary benefit the brine mixture offers is the ability to keep snow and ice from adhering to road surfaces, rather than melting snow. This helps keep roads clear in light snow, and helps make plowing easier in heavier snow. Once you get past a couple of inches of snow, cars compact whatever there is and that can inhibit the ability of the salt brine to prevent adhesion to the road surface. This results in the compact snow and ice on the roads today.

” It does make plowing more efficient because the bond between the compact snow and ice and the road is not as strong.”

The county expects it to remain effective with temperatures into the teens and maybe single digits.

“We use salt brine the same way we use sand,” Doug said. “It’s used first on hills, at intersections, around corners, in areas that remain shaded most of the day, bridge decks, and known areas that are prone to icing. It is also used, like sand, in other areas as conditions warrant. We have three trucks equipped to distribute salt brine, one for each road district. They follow the same priorities described in the county’s snow plowing plan in choosing where to spray.

You can see that plan online at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/snowplow.htm.


Will salt brine hurt wire in highway structures?


The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston noted the Road Warrior about Kitsap County plans to add salt brine to its ice-control measures on county roads this winter (you can find in on the Road Warrior blog if you missed it) and e-mailed to say, “Been watching with interest the new style of retainer wall, both  

the county and the state have been using a lot. 

“A considerable amount of the new (Highway) 305 expansion in Poulsbo is done this way, galvanized metal grid, then filled with compacted rock,” Jerry said. 

“Seemed effective and efficient … until I read that Kitsap is going to start using salt compounds on roads this winter,” he wrote. “While this stuff  

is obviously galvanized, I suspect the overall life of the metal  

component of those retainer walls just dropped by a third.

“While the salt compound may be cheaper up front, I wonder what the longer term costs will be,” Jerry wrote. “Any estimates?”

The out basket: Those are called gabion baskets and have been around for decades, usually inside retaining walls. They have a line of them for what appear to be decorative purposes on the downhill side of the new Kitsap County administrative building in Port Orchard. I haven’t gotten anybody to tell me why they were chosen, so my best guess so far is that they provide a wall that skateboarders can’t skate on.

The brine solution is to be used only on county roads this winter, so unless vehicles drag it with them, state highway impacts wouldn’t be great. 

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works said the impacts on county roads aren’t expected to be any greater. “We checked with Pierce County, Washington State Department of

Transportation, and the California Department of Transportation to see

if they have had problems with salt-brine and gabion mesh corrosion,” Doug said. “None of the agencies noticed any significant deterioration. An extensive

study was conducted by CALTRANS and is available here:

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/hydrology/gabion.htm,” he said.