Melting Ice: How do Common Household Items – such as Coffee grinds and Sand Compare to Rock Salt and Calcium Chloride as Melting Agents?


  • Gurleen Mann


Snowfall and ice accumulation have been associated with an increased number of
roadside accidents. In turn, it is important to find substances that can increase ice melting to
combat the dangers of driving in icy conditions. To melt ice, rock salt is most commonly applied,
however, it also introduces negative impacts on the environment – including toxicity to fish,
plants, and groundwater contamination when excessive amounts dissolve in local water reserves.
This study compared four substances: rock salt, sand, coffee grinds and calcium chloride against
a negative control to test for the effectiveness of other treatments at melting ice to see whether
rock salt is the most effective melting agent. Each ice cube was first measured using a weighing
scale, and an initial weight was recorded in grams (g). Succeeding this, the ice cube was placed
on a ceramic plate containing the treatment melting agent and allowed to melt for two minutes.
The final weight of the ice cube was then recorded on the scale. The difference in the final and
initial weight of the ice cube served as a proxy for the amount of ice melted; the values of which
were then collected and compared across the five groups (including four treatments and one
control) over the span of four trials. It was hypothesized that if rock salt is more effective than
the other melting agents at melting ice, then the difference in grams of ice melted for ice cubes
treated with rock salt should be higher than ice cubes exposed to other treatments. Results
indicated that this response was not the case. Instead, calcium chloride was the most effective at
melting ice, with rock salt following second, and finally sand and coffee grinds tying for the last
position. Relative to the control, however, all groups led to increased melting. A one-way
ANOVA test indicated that the difference in means among these groups was significant.
Although less effective than commercial agents (rock salt and calcium chloride), common
household items such as sand or coffee grinds may still be a sufficient tool to prevent ice
accumulation in one’s household and may provide a safer, environmentally friendly alternative
to sodium chloride and calcium chloride salts.