What Makes Ice Melt the Fastest, Salt or Sugar? Fun with Grandkids.

As we approach winter again, salt will soon go down on icy roads.

English: Ice cubes

What Makes Ice Melt the Fastest, Salt or Sugar?

Is salt really the best way to melt ice?

Would sugar melt snow?

Let’s find out by experimenting with some alternatives.


  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Pepper
  • Dirt
  • Ice cubes
  • 10 small bowls
  • Measuring spoon


  • Measure one teaspoon of salt into a small bowl.
  • Continue with sugar, pepper, and dirt – one teaspoon of each ingredient per bowl.
  • Put out 5 small bowls next to each of the bowls with ingredients
  • Add an ice cube to each of the empty bowls
  • Pour one ingredient over the top of one ice cube, until each bowl has an ice cube with salt, or sugar, or pepper or dirt on top of it.
  • Leave one ice cube in a small bowl with nothing on top of it, for a control
  • Wait for ten minutes.
  • Pour out the water from each bowl and measure it.

What Should Happen?

The bowl with the ice cube covered with salt should have the most water in it.

My measurements were:

  • Nothing: ¾ teaspoon of water
  • Salt: 7/8 teaspoon
  • Sugar: ½ teaspoon
  • Pepper: No measurable water
  • Dirt: 1/3 teaspoon

So, water will melt on its own, at room temperature, almost as fast as if you put salt on it.

Sugar melts ice, but not as fast as it melts at room temperature, and not as fast as salt.


Salt releases heat when it sits on the ice, melting it, then combines with the water to keep it from refreezing at the same temperature.

None of the other ingredients do this as efficiently as salt.

What would happen if you put each of the bowls in the freezer for ten minutes, instead of letting them melt at room temperature?

That should show a bigger difference between ice with nothing on it and ice with salt on it, with more water from the salted ice cube.

And, that is why we put salt on the roads when they are icy.

Thanks to baldwinschools.org for explaining whether salt or sugar would melt fastest.

To you and exploring how the world works with your grandchildren.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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