An unpaved road is often a more cost-efficient solution than a paved road. It is cheaper to construct and maintain and is suited for areas that won't see a lot of traffic. While having an unpaved road may be cheaper, if not maintained properly, it can lead to dangerous driving conditions. These conditions include potholes, defined as a depression in a road surface created by traffic and weather, and rutting, a depression in the road left by tire tracks. Excessive amounts of dust coming off the road is another problem that unpaved roads face.
To combat road dust, many people look for a soil stabilizer or dust suppressant to help maintain their unpaved roads, a popular option being Magnesium Chloride.
Magnesium Chloride (Mag Chloride) is a salt compound known under its chemical composition MgCl₂. Mag Chloride is used as a dust suppressant, road stabilizer, and deicer. Mag Chloride is available in liquid and solid forms, including pellets and flakes. The treatment works with virtually any soil type.
Mag Chloride is hygroscopic, meaning it pulls moisture from the air. Since Mag Chloride pulls moisture from the air, it will keep roads damp, lowering the amount of dust that comes off the road. Mag Chloride creates a moisture barrier in the soil that bonds the soil particles together, preventing them from coming off the ground. Mag Chloride resists evaporation, meaning a single application can last for an extended time. However, it will need to be reapplied over time. Since it needs to be reapplied, Mag Chloride is only a temporary solution for dust control.
Mag Chloride bonds dirt particles together as a soil stabilizer, creating a hard surface that gives the road stability. The particles are bonded together because of Mag Chloride's hygroscopic nature, taking the moisture out of the air and binding the particles together. The unpaved road will become harder as the Mag Chloride penetrates the surface. Since Mag Chloride relies on moisture in the air to create the hard surface, Mag Chloride is not an ideal product for hot and dry climates because the moisture in the climate is low.
Mag Chloride is also a popular road deicer. It melts ice quickly because of its hygroscopic nature. It does this by taking the moisture from the ice around it. It works in negative Fahrenheit temperatures and works twice as fast as rock salt would.
To apply Mag Chloride, the first thing one should do is grade the roads that will be treated. Grading the road ensures the road is smooth and ready to absorb water. Second, use a water truck to get the road wet, this allows the Mag Chloride to deeply penetrate the soil instead of staying on top of the surface. Finally, spray the Mag Chloride on the damp road. The Mag Chloride will start working immediately and begin to produce results.
While Mag Chloride is an effective dust control and soil stabilization method, there are also significant drawbacks. As mentioned before, Mag Chloride will have to be continuously reapplied as it wears down. Another drawback is Mag Chloride's corrosive nature. It is extremely corrosive to metal, meaning it will be corrosive to cars driving on the treated road. If left unwashed, the Mag Chloride will begin corroding the metal on the vehicle, specifically the undercarriage. It is very important to make sure a vehicle driving on a Mag Chloride road is washed efficiently, or the car will begin to corrode, and there is no fixing that. Mag Chloride corrosion damage can only be prevented, not repaired.
While Mag Chloride treatments do not have soil requirements, there are climate requirements which is a downside of using Mag Chlorides. Mag Chlorides are effective in high humidity climates where the moisture content is high. Mag Chlorides are not effective in dry climates where the humidity and moisture content is low. When Mag Chloride is used in a low moisture content area, the soil and Mag Chloride will dry out, which will result in the treated soil being ineffective and yielding in dust, and being unstable.
Another negative is that Mag Chloride is extremely harmful to the environment. Mag Chloride easily washes off with rain or when the snow melts. The washed-off Mag Chloride is then able to leech into surrounding plant life and groundwater. Magnesium and Chloride are both essential nutrients for plant growth however too much of either will harm the plant. Highly concentrated Mag Chloride can be toxic to plants and makes it more difficult for plants to absorb water and nutrients. Mag Chloride in the soil can be absorbed by the plant's roots and taken through its water-conducting system. The Mag Chloride will begin to build up at the margins of the leaves, becoming weakened or killed. Vegetation affected by Mag Chloride will exhibit leaf scorching, marginal necrosis, and needle tip burn. Plant growth will also be affected significantly.
If you care about the environment or potential damage to your vehicle, Mag Chloride is most definitely not the best solution for your dust control or soil stabilization.
If you're having dust or soil stabilization problems and you're environmentally conscious, Mag Chloride is not a good solution for you.
Instead, try finding an organic dust suppressant or soil stabilizer. A good alternative for dust control is the enzyme based Surfa-Zyme; for soil stabilization, the enzyme based Perma-Zyme.
Both are made out of food-grade material and are 100% environmentally friendly. They require no special PPE and can easily be washed from your equipment.
Perma-Zyme is an enzyme based soil stabilizer that is used for unpaved roads and the subbase of paved roads. As a soil stabilizer it creates a concrete-like surface that will last up to 10 years. Perma-Zyme does require at least 15% clay in the soil, but most soils have at least that. One of the big differences with Perma-Zyme is that it requires one application.
Though Perma-Zyme only has to be applied once, there is a construction process involving a few pieces of equipment. You will need a motor grader, water truck, sheepsfoot compactor, and a smooth wheel roller.
The first step in applying Perma-Zyme is ripping up the soil using the motor grader. For standard traffic that will see cars and pick up trucks rip up 6 inches into the soil. For heavier traffic, you must dig 12 inches deep. Next is to use the water truck to get the soil to optimum moisture. After the soil is at optimum moisture, mix Perma-Zyme with water in the water truck and spray it evenly across the soil. After the Perma-Zyme has been applied, use the high vibratory function on the sheepsfoot compactor to allow for aggressive compaction and then the smooth wheel roller for additional compaction.
Surfa-Zyme is an enzyme based dust suppressant. The solution is applied to the soil by first diluting it with water and then spraying it over the road. It creates a natural crust over the soil and traps the dust particles. Surfa-Zyme is compatible in a variety of climates and is long lasting. Ideally, a road treated with Surfa-Zyme will have at least a 20% clay content in the soil before treatment. Surfa-Zyme does require multiple applications, but will create a stronger crust the more it's applied.
Magnesium Chloride can be an effective solution for dust control and soil stabilization, but it isn't the most efficient. Mag Chloride is corrosive to vehicles and extremely harmful to the surrounding vegetation. It needs to be continuously reapplied.
A better solution would be using an organic dust suppressant like Surfa-Zyme or a permanent solution like Perma-Zyme. Both are 100% environmentally friendly and will not harm the workers applying the product or vehicles driving on the road.