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I don’t use the “h” word often, but I hate road salt. It damages the watershed, breaks down our roads, and gets all over your boots. But I especially hate how it rusts out cars and trucks. We’d have a ton more classics in this country if we didn’t salt so many of our roads all winter. Salt is supposed to be the lesser of two evils, preventing the roads icing up. But there may be a better solution, a sort of molasses made from sugar beets.

Our road salting process is imperfect at best. We either scatter dry rock salt or we mix rock salt into a saltwater brine, then spray it on the roads. We can salt the roads before a storm is forecast, or scatter it in with the falling snow. But either way, most of it often blows away. If the salt works and the snow melts into water, the salt gets washed away. So you must re-spread often and you lose a lot of salt.

Road salt and snow gathered on the bottom of a car
Salty car | nnorozoff via iStockPhoto

Worst of all, once temperatures get much below -6 degrees Fahrenheit, road salt won’t even melt the snow. Cities in Michigan and Canada have been hunting for a lower temperature solution and stumbled on something incredible. If you mix a tiny bit of salt brine with molasses, the result sticks to your roads through the storm. It keeps the snow and freezing rain from ever icing up on the road’s surface. Precipitation will simply slide off the asphalt, even at temperatures of -30 degrees.

Sounds expensive? Not so much. First of all, you need 14% as much salt to cover the same amount of road. Then it sticks to the road for much longer. In addition, a sort of molasses is a byproduct of refining sugar beets into sugar. And because they grow better than sugar cane in northern climates, Michigan is already the leading sugar beet producer in the U.S. An official in Novi, Michigan estimates that even after buying the molasses and specialized equipment, taxpayers spend 35% less during every storm.

The underside of a car with rust holes
Rusty car | yanik88 via iStockPhoto

In addition to cost-savings, drivers may enjoy clearer, drier roads–even during the storm. A final upside may be less corrosion. We’ll have to wait and see just how well this sticky salt mixture bonds to roads. If it sticks to our cars instead, I suppose it could cause more corrosion. But it’s reportedly about as salty as soy sauce, so it may not corrode cars. In the short term, if your town uses beet juice on roads you may want to wash your vehicle especially well every spring. Here’s to hoping we see corrosion levels drop and all of our winter cars last much longer.

Next, find out why you should turn down your dealership’s anti-corrosion undercoat, or see how beet juice works on roads yourself in the video below:

Related Does road salt actually cause car rust?

Does road salt actually cause car rust?