Oct 6, 2021 9:27:31 PM / Brooke Loeffler / pre-wetting deicer

FAQ About Pre-wetting Deicer

Transportation agencies and snow fighting crews have adopted some innovative ways to keep us all safe during the winter. There are many practices that can maximize the physical and chemical reactions needed to melt ice and snow quickly to restore safe driving conditions. Here we will answer frequently asked questions specifically about the practice of pre-wetting deicing products before applying them.

FAQ About Pre-wetting Deicer

*Note: The following questions apply to pre-wetting solid deicers, not road aggregates like sand or gravel.

How Does Pre-wetting Work?

Pre-wetting involves treating solid deicer granules with a measured amount of liquid before it is applied to the roadway.

Dry deicing materials can be pre-treated with liquid in a couple locations:

  • In the stockpile
  • On-board the vehicle (can require specialized equipment like tanks and applicators)

*Our friends at Force America are experts at outfitting crews with the tools and equipment they need to make the switch to pre-wet deicer.

Typically most pre-wetting treatments can start as low as 4 gallons of liquid for every ton of dry material. The optimal mix will vary depending upon the products used, equipment, and local storm conditions.

For most roads, the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) recommends applying pre-wet deicer to the centerline of the road at 25 mph to ensure accurate and economical application rates.

What are the Benefits of Pre-wetting?

Reduces Bounce and Scatter

Pre-treating a solid deicer with liquid can help it grip the road surface more efficiently than dry solids. A deicing study conducted by the Michigan Department of Transportation found that dry deicer applications can lose about 30% of their material to roadside scatter. However, pre-wet deicer applications lose only about 4%. These results were again validated by a more recent Michigan DOT study. Pre-wet granules are also less likely to be swept off the road by vehicles that follow.

Deicers are only effective as long as they remain on the paved surfaces being treated. Simply put, reducing loss from bounce and scatter saves money, protects the roadside environment, reduces the number of snow plow passes, and clears roads faster.

Kickstarts Brining Reaction

All deicers work by interfering with water’s ability to freeze and lowering its freeze point. This chemical reaction melts ice and snow and forms a brine that continues spreading to clear road surfaces. Pre-wetting deicer granules jumpstarts this brine reaction before it even reaches the roadway. This can offer an advantage in especially cold, dry conditions of lower temperature storms. The Michigan study (mentioned above) found that under 27° F, pre-wet deicing salt melted ice and snow much more rapidly than untreated deicer.

Greater Deicing Performance

Not only can pre-wet deicer start melting faster, but it also can outperform dry deicing materials.

An Ontario study, referenced in this WTI report, found that: 

“Pre-wetted salt outperformed dry salt by a reduction in snow cover from approximately 18% to 40%”

Uses Less Product

With higher performance, crews can reduce the amount of deicer used and make fewer passes on icy roads. WTI reported that: 

“An evaluation of pre-wetting salt in Canada showed that fewer chemical applications were needed, resulting in up to 53% less material used”

“In Nebraska, pre-wetting salt reduced salt usage by 35%-40%”

Can I Pre-wet any Deicer Product?

Not all deicing products can give you pre-wet benefits. Some deicer manufacturers coat their granules with liquid chlorides to boost performance. Pre-wetting can leach these additives off and greatly reduce their performance.

Pre-wetting Deicer-01

Pre-wetting applications work best with homogeneously blended granules, like those found in Ice Slicer®. Ice Slicer® is ideally suited for pre-wet treatments, contains no liquid additives, and will not leach when pre-wet. If you are unsure about pre-wetting a deicer, try pre-wetting a smaller batch to test for leaching or clumping that can interfere with performance.

Is Pre-wet Deicer Better for the Environment?

Pre-wetting deicer can significantly reduce application rates, which is definitely better for the environment. It also reduces how much product bounces and scatters to the roadside. However some pre-wetting liquids containing beet juice or other agricultural byproducts can pollute waterways.

Does Pre-wetting Save Money?

Switching from dry to pre-treated applications can require an initial investment for equipment, training on new application methods/rates, and storage changes. However, most snow fighting teams report a high return on investment once they make the change. 

Additionally, your cost per ton for pre-treated material may look slightly higher than dry, however you will need a lot less product to get the job done.

According to WTI: 

“the City of Kamloops, British Columbia, switching to anti-icing and pre-wetting reduced the use of abrasives and resulted in an estimated cost savings of $11,933 per year just from costs associated with roadside cleanup of abrasives.” 

Ice Slicer®’s High Performance: Dry or Pre-Wet

Harvested from a Jurassic Era sea bed, Ice Slicer® granules contain a homogenous blend of complex chlorides and over 60 rare earth minerals...mother nature’s perfect recipe for melting ice and snow! Dry or pre-wet applications of Ice Slicer® consistently outperform white salt, are safer for the environment, and more economical for our hardworking snow fighting crews.

Ice Slicer high performance deicer dry or pre-wet