Salt mini-course video transcripts

You can read transcripts of the text in the salt mini-course educational videos.

Video transcripts

Watershed by The Hypoxic Punks

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[Music playing and people dancing]

We're all living in a watershed, all sharing the same road bed, and we're all drinking from the same fountain of life.

[Message appears] Chloride concentrations are increasing in many of our lakes, streams, wetlands and groundwater.

Trying not to slip and slide, we sow seeds of sodium chloride, and the shovel leans against the wall inside.

Can you feel the water slipping through your hands?

[Message appears] High chloride concentrations harm plants, animals, aquatic habitats and soils.

From the streets and sidewalks, off the shrubs and grass stalks
The rock salt washes down the drain and finds rich soil, fresh streams and lakes
where the salt dissolves and makes the birds and the fish and the water fully brined.

[Message appears] Much of that chloride comes from salts spread on roads, driveways and sidewalks. Just one teaspoon of salt contaminates five gallons of water...and chemical de-icers usually contain harmful additives.

Can you feel the water slipping through your hands? Feel the precious water slipping through your hands.



[Message appears] Take the salt smart pledge. Shovel, select, scatter, sweep! 
If you need traction in very cold weather, select sand. Salt doesn't melt ice below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you need to use salt, scatter it with at least 3 inches between granules and sweep to remove all of the leftover sand, salt, and de-icer to re-use later.

We're all living in a watershed — all sharing the same road bed, and we're all drinking
from the same fountain of life.

[Message appears] For more information, visit the Mississippi Watershed Management organization website at


[Woman's voice] Good shot!

[Credits for the video, music and song appear on screen]

Using an ice chisel to remove compacted snow

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[Scraping sounds as a person shovels sidewalk]

I tried to use my plastic shovel to clear my snow and ice from the sidewalk, but it wasn't tough enough to get the ice.

We're going to show you a new tool to use to chip the ice away.

At this point, some people might choose to use salt, which is actually not very effective on this much compacted snow and ice.

Instead, I'm going to use this ice chipper. You can get it at any local hardware store or home store, and it will help me avoid using salt.

[Scraping sounds as person uses the ice scraper to clear the snow and ice]

Check out our website,, for more winter tips.

Visit the MWMO website

When it's too cold to use salt

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Hi Everybody! I'm Nick. I'm Michaela. We're with the MWMO. And we got a good amount of snow in the Twin Cities last night, but the temperatures are really low, so it's too cold for salt to work. 

So we wanted to give you some winter maintenance tips that you can use to keep your sidewalks and your driveways clear of snow and ice, without salt.

  • Make sure you shovel first to clear your sidewalk. You can sweep away any excess snow.
  • And if you still have a slippery spot, we suggest using sand for traction.
  • When you don't need the sand any longer, you can easily sweep it up and reuse it later.

If you want to learn some more eco-friendly winter maintenance tips, just go to our website,

That's it! Stay safe out there.

Yeah. [Laughing]

Monitoring chloride and our water

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We're out here today monitoring for chloride because the state has some water quality standards that we've set to help us determine what the right level of chloride can be in the water bodies. 

That's two hundred thirty milligrams per liter which is about one teaspoon in five gallons of water.

So you can imagine it doesn't take very much chloride to contaminate our lakes and streams. And in the metro area our primary source of chloride to our lakes and streams is road salt.

There are other sources, from wastewater treatment plants, water softeners. But, in the metro, road salt is the primary source of chloride.

We have several water bodies that are actually exceeding the state standard, which is why we're concerned and we have this project under way to get a better understanding of really how many of our lakes and streams are exceeding the state standard, that are threatening the aquatic life.

[sounds of machine breaking the ice]

We have a project going on right now that we're monitoring seventy-four lakes across the seven county metro.

We have a real challenge before us because, obviously, road safety is very important and critical. But water quality is also an important value.

So trying to find that balance between providing safe roads for the public but, protecting our water resources from being contaminated from road salt is a very unique and challenging project for us to undertake. 

So for homeowners that means putting less salt down. Getting out and shoveling right as the storm comes so that you don't have the build-up of ice. 

For cities, counties and the state, that means maybe switching to a wet solution of chloride that sticks to the road doesn't bounce off into the sides. Which you can use less salt and you can use it more effectively.

It stays on the road, prevents the ice from bonding. For the cities and counties they really saves them a lot of money because they're not having to put as much product down.

So there are a lot of ways that we, altogether, can reduce the impacts.

If our groundwater begins to get contaminated with chloride that becomes an issue as well. Where it would be costly to have to treat all of our drinking water to remove the road salt. 

[Machine going down into the water]

By working with MnDOT and other state agencies, the cities, the counties, and other local partners to come up with a plan and what can we all go together to reduce our impacts to make sure that we're able to still provide safe roads, but also maintain healthy conditions for the fish and bugs living in our lakes and streams.


[Text appears] The mission of the MPCA is to work with Minnesotans to protect, conserve and improve our environment and enhance our quality of life.

Winter maintenance: good choices for clean water

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After watching this program, you will understand:

  • Why sidewalk salt harms the environment
  • How salt gets into our rivers and lakes 
  • How to choose and use the best tools to remove snow and ice
  • When to use and how to apply the proper amount of salt and sand 

During this program, we use the term de-icers when we speak of their variety of chemicals used to melt snow and ice.

Hello and welcome to our video on outdoor winter maintenance. The purpose of this video is to help you make good choices in winter maintenance tools, techniques, and products. With good choices, winter maintenance will become easier for you and will help protect our water resources.

If you're involved in shoveling snow or applying the de-icers, this video is for you. You are an important person. The actions you take to make our sidewalks safe when slippery, but even more important than that, what we all do affects what lives in our favorite lakes and rivers.

Minnesota's lakes and streams are getting saltier each year. Much of it is related to winter salt use. Would you pour a bag of sidewalk salt into your favorite fishing lake? Of course not, but that's exactly what we're doing.

Salt is a long-term pollutant. It doesn't go away. It accumulates in our water. Shoveling our driveways and sprinkling salt on our steps is very common. How can that affect our lakes? It may sound a bit far-fetched until we investigate how salt moves from our sidewalk into the water. Well everything that we do on land, whether it be in a parking lot or another hard surface, definitely impacts water quality in those water bodies.

You can see here, we've got sand that's been applied that is collected here and it's going to end up in the storm drain. And it will go to the Mississippi River. The storm drain is connected to a series of underground pipes, and these pipes funnel the water to the nearest water body, which could be a river or a lake or a pond.

There is no water treatment plant at the end of this storm drain. it goes strictly to a water button, therefore we don't want salt entering our storm drains.

Most sidewalk salts contain:

  • Chlorides
  • Sodium chloride
  • Magnesium chloride or
  • Calcium chloride

The chlorides can be very dangerous to aquatic life.

To protect our lakes, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recommends chloride concentrations. Less than 230 milligrams per liter. 230 milligrams per liter is about the same concentration as one teaspoon of salt mixed into five gallons of water.

How much water would be polluted by your container of salt?  You have all the power to protect our lakes and rivers by using less.

At your home, take a look by your front steps.

  • Any dead grass or brown shrubs?
  • How about pitted concrete, ruined rugs or indoor flooring?
  • Any rust on your tools or cars?

These are all common symptoms of over applying salt.

Let's talk about small changes we can make to keep our surfaces safe and reduce problems. As we go through this section, keep an open mind. See what tips can help you.

Our number one strategy is early snow removal. Shovel, plow, scrape, blow or sweep. It doesn't matter. They all work. A cleared surface allows us to use less salt.

  1. Always remove the snow first.
  2. Then, if necessary, use the salt to melt away the few remaining crumbs.
  3. Never apply salt to the untroubled snow. It is an irresponsible and ineffective practice.
  4. Remove as much snow as possible before applying de-icers.

What should we use to remove the snow? Choosing the correct tool will make the job much easier. For dry, light snow, try using a broom to keep the snow cleared off your surfaces. For a heavier snow, use the shovel.

Shovels come in many varieties, but the basic two are the push shovel and the scoop shovel.

The scoop shovel has small sides to help keep the snow on the shovel. They're good for lifting and moving the snow elsewhere. They're good for working in small tight quarters.

The push shovel has no sides. They're good for guiding or sliding the snow on the ground. Generally you can move more snow faster with a push shovel. Choose the proper shovel and your job will be easier.

Early snow removal reduces your chance of icy, compacted surfaces. If we're late at snow removal, and we've walked or driven over the snow, it will likely turn to ice. This means more work. If you're always battling compacted snow and ice, reassess your maintenance strategy. Start snow removal early; don't wait.

Remember, early snow removal helps avoid slippery compacted surfaces. Removing compacted snow is much more work than shoveling fluffy snow.

To remove compaction, your best tools are the ice chisel and the ice scraper.

The ice scraper has a wider flexible blade. It cannot fall through the ice but it slides and wiggles, like a putty knife, under the ice. The ice chisel is more rigid. It can be used to break through this ice or scrape the ice. Be careful when using chisels to not chip the concrete.

What should you apply to the sidewalk after you've finished removing the snow?

There are so many choices. Rows and rows of de-icers at the store it's confusing and very few of us know what to look for. Are you wondering what to buy to treat the ice and snow on your driveway? It's kind of confusing. There's a lot of products available. For most days, average winter days, these will all work. But when it gets super cold, then you need to find a product that contains a magnesium or a calcium chloride or something like a glycol. Or you can switch to sand, which isn't gonna melt anything, but it will provide traction for you.

As we've just heard, most users work on average winter days. Some like magnesium chloride or calcium chloride, work on very cold days. All de-icers work in the same way. They melt better at warmer temperatures. Avoid applying them when it's extremely cold. Although it's not required by law, all the icer packages should list their ingredients. Without this information, you can't make an informed decision. Don't buy it if the ingredients aren't listed.

From the retail standpoint we haven't found or we haven't been given the product that I could just I could say is great for the environment. all of them can have their negative side and all of them do work to a degree, but there is a negative part to them. And so I would just say that they should all be used carefully and not overused.

How much de-icer should you use?

If you remove most of the snow and ice, then you should need about four pounds or even less for 1000 square feet. What does one pound of salt look like? Let's find out .

So how much is one pound of salt? Approximately one full coffee mug weighs one pound. It's important to remember that we only want to use between 1 and 4 pounds of salt per 1,000 square foot area. 

[People talking to each other] Hey, Brogan. Let's measure the sidewalk. Can you hold this end? ..101.

You should know the size of the area you are planning to treat, so you can use the proper amount of salt.  For example, the space taken up by a parked car is about a 150 square feet, needing about a half a pound of salt. When you do this estimating exercise, don't be surprised at the small amount of de-icer you really need.

If you don't know your square feet and you don't know how much your de-icer weighs, concentrate on recreating this spread pattern.

[Salt that is spread out three inches apart]

Notice no overlapping crystals or mini piles of de-icer. The crystals are no more than three inches apart but they're not dense. There's a space between all of them. You would rarely need de-icer spread more densely than this. Remember what the spread pattern looks like, then you'll be able to recreate this on your surfaces. If you're not sure, err on using less. You can always reapply, if necessary.

If you try to use a spreader in a narrow area, you will salt your lawn and bushes. That's no good. Instead of a spreader, use a shaker or spread the salt by hand . No matter what you use, try to recreate the same spread pattern. Remember: never more than four cups per 1,000 square feet. No salt or very little salt is needed if you've done a good job on snow removal.

If you have a slippery spot like the bottom step, or the edge of the sidewalk, you should know the size of the area that needs treatment and use the proper amount of salt. Once the sand or
salt is on bare pavement, it's time to sweep it up. It will only add to a slippery walking situation and track into your house. Sweep it up.

You can put it:

  • In the trash
  • In a bucket for use later on
  • Or reapply it to an area of compaction 

To keep the de-icer spreadable, store them in a tightly covered container. Many of our salts attract moisture to themselves and turn into a solid lump, if you leave them uncovered. Keep an eye out for problem areas at your home. For example, the dip in the sidewalk that collects water and freezes every night. Water from drips from the roof and refreezes on your steps. These are hazard areas. Salt is not the long-term solution. During this summer, make it a point to fix drainage issues so there'll be no problems next winter.

If you don't want to do your own snow removal, consider hiring a knowledgeable contractor.

[Person greeting a contractor to shovel their sidewalk]

[Person being interviewed]

The winter is Minnesota is the same as in Russia. I like the winter, but I don't like to shovel, so  usually I hire a company listed on the MPCA website. This company has been trained and understands how to keep my sidewalk clean without using so much salt.

[Interview over]

We recommend the certified snow removal companies listed on the Minnesota pollution control agencies website. if you choose other companies, make sure you tell them to use the minimum salt necessary. No more than four cups for 1,000 square feet.

[People greeting and meeting each other outdoors during winter]

When walking outdoors don't expect surfaces to be perfectly clear. Wear sturdy boots or shoes to make walking safer.

How about your pets? How does the salt we use affect them?

Here's some advice. You wondering what's safe for your pets? Many products will say on the label that they're safe for pets, but what you really want to do is look at the ingredients. Many are irritating for pets paws and some, like a calcium in magnesium chloride, can even burn your pets.

So you want to look for something that contains either a glycol or better yet, use nothing or sand. Now you know what to do to help your hound dog, but you don't have control over how much is applied on the public roads and paths.

If you walk your dog in the winter, you may want to cover their feet or wash them off when you return from your walk.

Teach your children

Tell them what you're doing. If you use one less teaspoon of salt, you will protect five gallons of water from being polluted. This means that if you use five pound less, you will save over 1,000 gallons of water from being polluted. I am sure that your children and your grandchildren will be very impressed.

In review

We hope that you take to heart that winter salt harms our lakes, rivers and groundwater. 

  • Remove the snow
  • Use the proper tool for the situation
  • Apply salt only to cleared surfaces
  • Apply salt in the proper spread pattern, with no overlapping crystals
  • Use no more than four cups per 1,000 square feet
  • if it's too cold, where salt won't work, use sand.
  • if it's a warm melting day, use no salt. If there's salt or sand on the [bare] cement, clean it up.
  • if you don't want to do winter maintenance, hire a certified snow contractor.

You are a very important person. By changing your winter maintenance habits, you can protect our lakes and river.  Most important of all, we will leave a better world for our children.

[Credits play on the screen]