The Most Common Use For Salt May Surprise You

If you had to guess what the most common use for salt is, you might assume it was for salty snacks, or creating cured or preserved foods, right? According to Food Republic, archaeologists have found evidence that this mineral has been produced for as many as 8,000 years, making it one of the oldest seasonings. 

Salt is pretty much everywhere. Baked goods, snacks, cereals, sandwiches, meat, noodles ... you name it, it's probably got salt in it. There are tons of varieties of salt, from the basic staples of table salt and kosher salt to more exotic and expensive varieties like fleur de sel, Himalayan salt, and even Antarctic sea salt. Wherever salt water is found, so is salt. So while we use this mineral in practically every dish we create, it's surprising that the most common use for salt isn't actually in food or food production, but for something else altogether.

The most common use for salt is highway de-icing

Anyone who lives where it snows has most likely experienced salt trucks or even had to use salt to de-ice their own driveway or sidewalks. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Minerals Information, highway de-icing is the number-one use of salt, accounting for 43% of total salt consumed in 2018.

Food production and agricultural uses only accounted for 3% of total use — each — which really puts into perspective just how much salt is used to de-ice highways annually. Salt is an effective de-icer because it actually lowers the freezing point of water, according to How Stuff Works. While water normally freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius, adding salt means it has to get colder for ice to form. For example, a 10% salt solution lowers the freezing temp to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and a 20% salt solution lowers it to 2 degrees Fahrenheit (via How Stuff Works). 

The uses for this valuable mineral are endless, so it's easy to see why it's been so popular for so long.