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Which works faster, salt or calcium chloride?

You walk down the sidewalk in front of a local fast food joint. As you turn the corner to head up toward the door, you slip and fall on the ice. There's been a cold spell in Illinois, and it seems like everything is frozen.

Unfortunately, you hit your head on the sidewalk as you go down. When you come to, employees from the restaurant are surrounding you, and you can hear an ambulance coming down the road. One of the employees says that they thought the ice would have melted by now. Clearly, that wasn't the case.

Why was it still so dangerous? It depends on how they tried to get it to melt. Not using any sort of treatment and allowing the sun to do it is often not enough. When the temperature drops far enough, even in direct sunlight, that ice isn't going anywhere. Plus, when it warms up and melts for just an hour or two before freezing again, it creates a smooth sheen of ice that is actually one of the most dangerous winter conditions.

Even if they did treat the area, the type of treatment they used makes a big difference. The two main options are rock salt and calcium chloride -- or a similar chemical compound -- which is often branded as "ice melt." Which one is faster?

Salt tends to be cheaper, but ice melt works faster. Some types of ice melt actually react with the ice to create heat, speeding up the process. Some of them also work at well below freezing, dropping as low as -25 degrees. Salt typically only works down to 25 degrees -- a full 50 degrees warmer -- and it doesn't heat the ice. Instead, it changes the freezing point.

At the end of the day, the choices those employees made directly influenced how safe it was for you to walk into the restaurant. If you are facing high medical bills and other costs because they did a poor job or neglected to remove the ice and snow entirely, you may want to seek financial compensation.

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