Why does the campus smell like soy sauce?
That’s the question every time snow is expected to hit Keene State College. The KSC ground crew covers the cement on campus with a proactive snow removal product that makes plowing easier and eliminates ice, Assistant Director of Physical Plants/Grounds Bud Winsor said.
There have been rumors that the substance is soy sauce, and another that it’s old beer. They’re both right.
KSC sophomore Sean Knox said he isn’t sure what the product is, but said his senses give him a misleading clue.
“I know it’s probably not, but it smells like soy sauce,” Knox said.
KSC junior Zach Foley said he had no idea what the substance was. He added he wasn’t sure if he even wanted know.
“Do I wanna know?” Foley said.
Before each snowfall in Keene, the KSC grounds crew applies a substance called Ice Ban.
Ice Ban is a product made from magnesium chloride (a form of salt), old beer distillments and a molasses component, Winsor said.
Winsor said the product is applied to the ground before each snowfall to break the bond between the snow and the pavement, reducing slip and making plowing easier.
“The whole idea is that it will expedite the snow removal and the hope is to use less salt if you have to. It also means you can plow the snow a little later because it takes care of the first inch or two or snow,” Winsor said.
Winsor said it’s more effective to be proactive against the snow and attack it before it comes.
“It’s more efficient to melt snow from underneath than it is to melt it from the top,” Winsor said.
Though Winsor said applying the substance can be a pain, and can take up to three hours to cover the campus’ pavement, the product’s low cost and great effectiveness make it worth the hassle.
“I think the price was under two [dollars] a gallon for this stuff, so it’s more of the labor use to put it down than it is the price of the stuff, but we do think it’s worth it,” he explained.
Winsor added, “My guys sort of swear by it.”
Winsor said the product can remain effective for over a week after it is sprayed. Winsor also said that applying this product is safer for the environment than just laying salt.
“Nothing is completely safe, but if it’s done right it’s not dangerous to people or to plants,” Winsor said.
Winsor said though he wasn’t sure on the exact amount, he said he estimates about 75-100 gallons of Ice Ban are spread on campus before each snowfall.
However, the conditions have to be right in order for Ice Ban to be effective, Winsor said.
“It has to be the right conditions; the pavement has to be fairly cold. It has to be under 29 degrees,” Winsor said.
Another benefit of Ice Ban is the product’s shelf life, Winsor said.
Winsor said that because of the low amount of snow Keene had last winter, Winsor did not have to purchase any more for this winter.
“You have to keep circulating so it doesn’t get hardened in the tank, but other than that it will last quite a while,” Winsor said.
With recent major snowstorms hitting the Northeast, students can expect more attention from grounds work on the sidewalks.
Yes, the Ice Ban may bring an aroma of soy sauce to the KSC campus.
But it also helps with an effective snow and ice removal process by the KSC grounds crew.
Next time you smell soy sauce, be grateful you’re not slipping and sliding in the snow.
Stephen Trinkwald can be contacted at