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Understanding the Difference between Wetting and Crusting Dust Suppressants

When it comes to controlling dust, knowing the type of surface you need to create is important. Without the proper planning, your best intentions won’t stop your dust problems.
Whether you're "wetting out" a dirt road or creating a crust for dust suppression, Soilworks provides solutions that provide more consistent results than other applications - and with far more reliability than water.

It’s a question we hear every day: What’s the difference?

When it comes to controlling dust, knowing the type of surface you need to create is important. Without the proper planning, your best intentions won’t stop your dust problems. To control road dust, it starts with understanding the difference between creating a surface crust and simply “wetting out” the soil or aggregate. And to understand that concept, you must examine why roads degrade in the first place.

Too wet or too dry – that is the question

Unpaved roads degrade for two primary reasons – they are either too wet or too dry. When a road is in the “Goldilocks Zone” between the two, it is at its optimum moisture content (OMC). In other words, the road’s moisture content is just right.

The problems start when the road falls below OMC (too dry) or above OMC (too wet). A road that is too wet results in a significant decrease in strength, mud, loss of traction, erosion, instability, rutting, track-out and more. Conversely, a road that is too dry can create wash-boarding, raveling, loss of fines and, of course, an increase in dust.

Traditional watering to control dust can result in both of these conditions. Trying to avoid either condition creates a delicate balancing act that can be difficult to attain and maintain long-term.

Part of achieving that balancing act without water begins with understanding whether your road needs a crust or simply a “wetting out.”

How is Wetting Out a Dirt Road Different From Building a Crust?

Dust suppression can come in many forms. When you’re wetting out a dirt road you’re treating loose soil and aggregate with a water insoluble liquid to imitate waters properties without evaporating like water. The artificially increased moisture content reduces or eliminates wash-boarding, raveling, loss of fines and prevents poor air quality. Our Durasoil is the leading example of a dust control product specifically engineered to suppress dust by wetting out any dirt, soil or aggregate that causes the dust and keeps your road close to OMC.

Durasoil is an exclusive, patented non-petroleum synthetic fluid that is designed to control dust even in the most extreme situations. By “wetting out” the soil, it creates a unique continuously re-workable and self-healing solution that coats and agglomerates dust particles and weighs them down similar to water but without being affected by environmental conditions.

Why is this important? First, there may be times when you’ll need to control dust on roads but a surface crust is ineffective. As a wetting agent, Durasoil is not impacted by extreme surface shear forces. It can withstand the abuse of extreme shear forces such as tracked vehicles, skid-steers and forklifts over time. The treated material simply moves and self-heals with the unique ability to even be re-graded without impacting performance. Since Durasoil is water insoluble, it does not evaporate and it is unaffected by rain, staying on the treated material without leaching or dissipating away for long term performance regardless of the season.

In addition, Durasoil does not require any road preparation to be effective. Therefore, when a road cannot be properly prepared for a crust forming dust suppressant, Durasoil is the perfect non-corrosive solution. It does not require the road to be compacted, crowned for drainage or to have loose aggregate removed from the surface.  This versatility paired with no curing time and no need for water dilution makes Durasoil an easy, simple and effective solution to control dust virtually anywhere.

So when would you choose a product to create a crust?

Unlike wetting agents, crust forming dust suppressants can help stabilize a road when it gets wet. Roads that are susceptible to decreased strength, loss of traction, water erosion, rutting or instability when exposed to rain or water are best suited for crust forming solutions.  Our Soiltac product is a copolymer based crust forming solution for projects that require increased soil stability. When topically applied over the surface of a well prepared unpaved road, Soiltac creates a durable three-dimensional cap or surface crust. The crust helps seal and keep water out of the road to prevent OMC levels from becoming too saturated. Likewise, when dry, the treated surface remains tightly bound reducing or eliminating the need for road grading. By adjusting the application rate, Soiltac can remain effective from weeks to several years depending on the desired project goals.

How is Durasoil different from traditional dust suppression options?

Every professional wants to complete projects as safely and efficiently as possible while also cutting down on unnecessary costs and inconveniences. On the surface, water might seem like the go-to solution for dust control. Unlike Durasoil, however, water evaporates quickly, must be reapplied constantly, and creates unnecessary wear and tear on equipment, resulting in higher costs and more manpower.

Many other dust suppressants are petroleum based and include materials that are harmful to your health and to the environment. Soilworks has engineered Durasoil to be completely pollutant-free and non-toxic. Durasoil is a synthetic dust control fluid that is made from clean, affordable and abundant natural resources.

Soilworks’ Durasoil is patented with gas-to-liquid (GTL) technology, resulting in an ultra-pure solution that is both highly effective and extremely safe. With the utilization of our new GTL technology you can apply Durasoil, even in the most extreme weather and environmental conditions from freezing -40°F/°C to beyond a blistering 160°F/70°C. Freeze dried arctic temperatures make traditional water based dust suppression applications impossible. Likewise, extremely hot desert environments quickly degrade traditional dust suppressants under the intense UV exposure.  Durasoil’s non-volatile formulation and unsurpassed resistance to temperatures and UV rays provide unsurpassed performance longevity in the field.

What’s the technology behind Soiltac and how does it work?

When Soiltac is applied to soil, the highly engineered synthetic copolymer molecules coalesce together and create three-dimensional bonds on a micron scale between soil particles. The result is a strong yet flexible solid-mass that is durable and water resistant. In other words, a dust free wear course is formed when applied topically over a dirt road.

Soiltac’s results can be customized to fit the needs of any project and can last for significant periods of time. Lighter applications create an effective surface crust that is useful for dust suppression and erosion control on non-traffic areas. Heavier topical applications are designed to be effective under vehicular traffic to stabilize the road surface and control dust.

Worried about long-term environmental effects? Like all Soilworks’ products, Soiltac is biodegradable, non-toxic and safe for on-site use.

About Soilworks

Soilworks provides engineered solutions to meet the broad needs of the dust control and soil stabilization industry. Whether the market is commercial, industrial or military, Soilworks has the innovative tools, unmatched technical support, and environmentally friendly technologies to fulfill specific requirements. Soilworks’ performance-driven portfolio of industry-leading products include the Patented U.S. Dept. of Defense Surtac®, Soiltac®, Powdered Soiltac®, Gorilla-Snot® and the now patented Durasoil®. Soilworks’ international sales network, global distribution centers and integrated customer service provide an ideal platform to satisfy all its customers’ needs. Get to know Soilworks better at www.soilworks.com or call 1-800-545-5420.

Chad Falkenberg

Chad Falkenberg is the founder, chairman and CEO of Soilworks, the world’s leading provider of dust control and soil stabilization solutions. Falkenberg founded Soilworks on strict philosophy of establishing the industry’s standards for superior performance, accountability and environmental stewardship.



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