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Will salt always melt ice off of a sidewalk?

Salt has often been the cure for icy sidewalks. While you can only shovel away so much snow, that thin layer of ice may remain. Salt melts the ice and clears it away back down to the pavement.

You're going for a walk in New York, and you slip on a neighbor's sidewalk. You fall and break your hip. When you confront your neighbor about it, asking why he or she did not clear away the ice properly, your neighbor insists that salt was used.

So what happened?

It may simply have been too cold. Salt does usually work, but not always.

The way it works is by making a solution of salt and water. This does not freeze at 32 degrees, with a lower freezing point. As it melts and spreads out, the solution melts all of the ice it comes in contact with. Essentially, it's a simple chemical reaction that makes it impossible for the water to stay frozen if it is, say, 20 degrees outside.

However, the freezing point only drops by so much. That salt and water solution absolutely can freeze, and it will at around zero degrees Fahrenheit.

So, your neighbor may have put salt on the ice and gotten no results, but only if it was at or below zero from the time the ice was applied to the time that you slipped and fell. A look at the recent weather reports could shed some light on your case.

Slip-and-fall accidents can be very serious and they can lead to high medical bills, lost wages and other damages. Be sure you know your rights, especially when another property owner was negligent.

Source: Scientific American, "Why do we put salt on icy sidewalks in the winter?," Arthur Pelton, accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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