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Uses of Rock Salt

Chandramita Bora Oct 12, 2018
Halite or rock salt is nothing but the mineral form of the table salt, though it does not look like the common table salt. In this ScienceStruck post, you can find out some interesting facts about this salt and its uses.
Halite, also known as rock salt, is the naturally occurring crystalline salt. It is the mineral form of sodium chloride or the table salt we use. However, halite forms naturally in large isometric crystals, and it does not look like the regular table salt.
It can be white like table salt, or red, orange, yellow, or blue in color. The color basically depends on the amount, as well as the kind of impurities present in it. Along with sodium, it contains many other minerals, including calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and several other trace minerals.

How Does It Form?

It forms naturally, when the saline water of sea evaporates. It is mined from underground deposits, which formed when the inland seas evaporated millions of years ago. Such salt deposits can be found in inland marginal seas, dry lake beds, as well as in enclosed bays and estuaries found in certain arid regions.
The regular table salt is extracted from mines or from shallow basins, brine wells, and salt lakes, where sea water evaporates to leave behind large salt crystals.

What is Rock Salt Used for?

This salt is usually not consumed or used for cooking, mainly due to the fact that its crystals are much larger, and hence require more time to dissolve. Moreover, halite can contain many impurities. But this salt has found some other uses, right from road maintenance to making ice-creams.
This salt is mainly used to manage the roads during winter. Salt is known to lower the freezing point of water. So, when salt is put on ice, it causes the ice to melt. Therefore, it is a common practice to sprinkle salt in roads, walkways, or driveways after a snow storm, in order to melt or loosen the ice so that it can be removed easily.
It is also used in making ice-creams. However, it is not a part of the ice-cream mixture. Instead, it is used to melt the ice that surrounds the can. In an ice-cream maker, it can lower the temperature and thus help freeze the ice-cream.
Like regular salt, the food-grade rock salt can be used for food preservation. It is employed for pickling, as well as for curing fish and meat.
It is used to make lamps. These lamps produce negative ions, which in turn, attach to pollens and other environmental allergens, and thus help purify the air.

Its licks are being used by the farmers to supply essential nutrients to farm animals. They put salt licks in the corrals, so that the animals can lick them to get the important nutrients.
Halite is also employed for softening hard water. The sodium present in it exchanges ions with calcium and magnesium present in hard water, and thus helps eliminate these minerals. This in turn softens hard water.

It acts as a fixing agent while dyeing clothes, which is an important industrial use of this salt.
It can be used for cosmetic reasons as well. It can effectively exfoliate the dead skin cells, and cleanse the skin pores. It is widely used in bath salts.
Apart from these, it can be used to treat several skin disorders, pain, inflammation, cold and cough, and the pain caused by rheumatism.
However, while using this salt, one needs to maintain a little bit of care and precaution. The type of rock salt that is used for melting ice on roads, as well as for other industrial purposes, is not considered fit for human consumption. Therefore, one should always use the food-grade rock salt for food preservation.
Secondly, salt can damage plants, which should be kept in mind while watering them with softened water. Lastly, when halite is used for melting ice on roads, it can alter the chemical composition of the runoff water. This can damage vegetation, and wreak havoc on the aquatic life of the nearby water bodies. So, it is better to use this salt in moderation.