Salt-15 Fascinating Facts About this Everyday Item
When it comes to salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl) as we learned in science class, most of us have never thought beyond the fact that it fills one of the two shakers at the end of our dining room tables. However, you might be surprised to know that there are more than 14,000 uses for salt in the world today. Uses range from simple daily activities to maintaining functions that allow us to survive. Salt is one of the most abundant minerals on the planet and is the only rock found in nature that humans actually eat. In fact, the mineral is so far reaching that NASA scientists have even detected its presence in space. From cooking to cleaning and other uses around the house to manufacturing and big business, our world would be a much different place without this simple substance. Check out these 15 fascinating facts about a mineral that we all take for granted.
- We will never run out of salt: Seriously. According to the Salt Institute, salt is the most common non-metallic substance on the planet. With an estimated world usage at 240 million tons a year, it is good to know that the United States’ reserves of 55 trillion metric tons could keep our movie popcorn salty for quite some time. Estimations for the world’s salt reserves are simply too high to count. While there are vast salt deposits found underground, the majority of the world’s salt is found in oceans. In fact, the amount of salt in the ocean is enough to create a full scale topographic map of Europe several times over.
- Salt consumption can be used to track population growth: In our constantly changing world, where technology seems to gain momentum on a daily basis, it is fascinating to think that something as simple as charting salt production can tell us so much about the world’s expanding population. By tracking salt consumption, we can learn about population growth because it reflects the use of food salt, while the use of road salt, chemical salt and salt for water conditioning can tell us more about industrial development. Not surprisingly, the United States and China lead the world in salt production, with China taking the top spot in 2007.
- We depend on it to get to work in the harsh winter months: While people in warmer climates do not have to worry about massive winter storms shutting down roadways and airports, it is simply a way of life for people who live in colder climates each and every winter. When snow and ice begin to form, salt is dispersed along roadways and when the salt reaches the roadways it lowers the freezing point of the water or ice it comes into contact with. When applied to roadways before or just after a winter storm, the salt and surrounding water form a brine mixture that requires significantly cooler temperatures to freeze. So significant in fact that a 10 percent salt solution will lower waters freezing point to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, while a 20 percent solution will not freeze until 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
- We need it to survive: While we do not want to go over the top with our daily salt intake, without a healthy amount of salt in our bodies — about 4 oz., according to the Smithsonian Magazine — we would simply not be able to survive. Without salt, our muscles would not contract, our blood would not circulate, food would not digest and most important of all our hearts would not beat.
- The world’s oceans get saltier every day: While the world’s oceans are made up of approximately 3.5 percent salt, the salt content in the ocean actually increases every day. Salt accumulates in the ocean as rain falling on land dissolves s salt in eroding rocks and washes it into rivers which drain into the world’s oceans. The salts in accumulate as water evaporates from the ocean that forms clouds. The rate of increase is so small however that it is virtually immeasurable according to the Smithsonian. If the oceans were to dry up, enough salt would be left behind to build a wall 180 miles tall and one mile thick wall that could circle the Earth’s equator. More than 90 percent would be sodium chloride, or regular table salt.
- Salt exists in outer space: If an inexhaustible supply of salt on earth is not enough, salt has been found on earth that has come from as far away as outer space. In this particular case has been found on meteors that have crashed to earth. Scientists have also found a presence of salt on Mars which gave life to the theory that life may in fact exist on the red planet. NASA scientists have also detected sodium salts in ice grains in the outer-most rings of Saturn’s outermost ring. The salty ice suggests that one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, which forms Saturn’s outermost ring from discharging jets, could harbor a reservoir of liquid — possibly an ocean — underneath its surface.
- It’s medicinal: While most of us are familiar with the age-old technique of gargling with a warm cup of salt water to aid a sore throat, salt can also be used for a number of other medicinal uses. Mixing a bit of salt with water can make a nice solution for relieving tired and puffy eyes, while warming up that same solution can be used sooth tired feet by soaking them in the warm, salty mixture. Salt can even be used as a way to relieve bee stings, mosquito bites, poison ivy and other mild skin irritations.
- It’s a household cleaner: While a dreaded wine stain usually spells the end of the road for most tablecloths and rugs, the next time it happens simply blot up as much of the spill and possible before immediately coving the spill with salt. The salt will absorb the residual wine. After letting set for a moment, simply rinse the cloth with cold water to get rid of the remaining salt and wine.
- It’s good for your teeth: In addition to the first aid tips mentioned above, you can also use salt to make a tooth paste mixture good for cleaning teeth. Simply pulverize the salt with a kitchen roller and then add one part salt to two parts baking soda and use the mixture on your toothbrush to whiten teeth, remove plaque and liven up gums.
- It removes stains: In addition to getting stains out of cloth, salt can also be used as a powerful cleaning agent around the house. Mix equal parts of salt, vinegar and flour to form a paste. Then use the concoction on brass as a way to polish away stains and oxidation. You can also get rid of rust and mildew stains with another salt-based mixture. This time use salt along with lemon juice, spread the mixture over the stain, leave in the sun for about an hour and then rinse.
- It makes roads: Each year in mid-September, one of America’s largest salt beds is turned into one of the world’s fastest raceways as racers from all over the world come in search of setting record top speed runs. The lake bed was originally formed when a prehistoric salt lake dried-up after the last age some 15,000 years ago leaving a flat, smooth salt bed that spans more than 30,000 acres. The smooth surface and large expanse creates the perfect environment for these speed machines to make record runs.
- It’s a fire extinguisher: The last thing that anyone ever wants when preparing a home cook meal is to end up battling a fire, particularly a grease fire. The last thing you want to do in the event of a grease fire is to throw water on the blaze. Water will simply spread the fire, so instead keep a box or container of salt next to the stove. In the event of a grease fire, smother the flames with salt to extinguish the fire. Also, you can use a sprinkling of salt to throw on flames from a barbecue grill to reduce the flames and smoke from dripping meat.
- It’s used in religion: Throughout time, salt has played a vital rule in religion, particularly in the Bible and Jewish society. While the Bible includes more than 30 references to slat, the Talmud also features several references to the significance of salt in Judaism, particularly in ancient animal sacrifices made to god to symbolize purity.
- It used to be priceless: During the Middle Ages, salt was often referred to as white gold in part to its scarcity but also due difficulty to transport. Moving salt by sea was a risky venture as all was lost instantly in the event of the ship wreck, as the salt would simply dissolve into the water. Instead, roads built by the Romans became the primary routes to transport salt from the Adriatic Sea, where salt was produced by evaporating sea water, all throughout Europe. However, due to its value, salt being moved along these early highways were frequent targets for highway robbers.
- Windows, lenses, and cameras would not exist without salt: For those of us who needed glasses or who have ever taken or appreciated a photograph, it can be quite shocking to think that without salt neither would be possible. Salt is a key ingredient when it comes to making high quality optical lenses. From the pieces that are slipped into frames for eye glasses to the pieces that go into both still and video equipment around the world. Salt cake is a common material found in the production of high quality glass and lenses.
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