History of Salt
A book about Salt
I recently finished, Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It is a crazy book. Never did I know that salt played such a valuable roll in our history as people. Salt has made trade routes and expanded influence throughout the globe, it has caused wars and created empires, salt has really done it all.
The first thing that is interesting about salt is that it is, chemically, the result of an extremely toxic gas in the form of Chlorine, and an unstable metal, that is Sodium. Alone, these are very different, but together they are wonderful.
The next thing that I found striking w/r/t salt, and was so obvious upon reflection, is that salt was valuable mainly because of its distinct quality that it can preserve food. With refrigeration and modern preservatives, we really don’t realize how valuable this would have been — especially to conquering armies. Think about the complexities of feeding an army as it crosses the desert. Food would spoil, there is a lack of resources in the desert, and armies would wither.
Salt and Water Softeners
Last month I wrote about industrial water softeners and about the Robert B. Hill Company, specifically. Well the way that commercial, home, and industrial water softeners all work is by salt. It was actually while reading this book in my basement that I first wondered how water softeners worked. Still, there are a number of varieties of NaCl that softeners use. When you’re softening your water at home, it is generally just pellet salt that is used. Pellet Salt is interesting though because it is usually much more pure than solar salt.
The process of solar salt is pretty intense, and usually this is when the product is being used for commercial or industrial purposes, it is made via the natural evaporation of seawater or brine in large pools. These pools are called condensers. This is how neusalt, for example, is made. In the United States most solar salt comes from the Great Salt lake in Utah.
Then there is purity salt. Purity salt is food grade and it was this type of salt that Mr. Kurlansky talked about throughout his book. Table salt can be made in any of the above mentioned ways, it is generally more pure than the industrial grade stuff.
Finally, there is rock salt. Generally, rock salt is not used for industrial water softening. The most common application for this is keeping roads and sidewalks clear from ice. The drawback is that this salt can get into the water and there is a lot of dirt that is produced by this type of salt.
Just for Fun
There are some great experiments that kids can do with salt. For most of the experiments, all of the ingredients can be found in the house. One of my favorites has to the making of ice cream!