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Long-Term Survival Food Storage: Salt

by Robert Wayne

While everyone knows that the human body can’t survive without water, few probably realize that the body also can’t live without salt. We’ve been so propagandized by discussion of reduced salt intake and low-sodium diets that many people probably don’t realize the importance and necessity of salt to life. Without salt, you would experience symptoms like muscle cramps, nausea, and vomiting. And eventually you might fall into a coma and die.

Survivalists understand the importance of salt, not just for consumption, but also for all the other things for which salt is important. Most people are going to use salt primarily for seasoning, to make their foods more palatable. But salt can also be used for health reasons, such as assisting hydration in the event of heavy physical exertion.

Salt can also be used for food preservation, such as salting meat or pickling vegetables. And salt can even be used to put out fires.

The way you’re going to buy and store salt will likely depend on the type of salt you’re looking to store.

  • Iodized Table Salt
  • Sea Salt
  • Rock Salt
  • Curing Salt
  • Pickling Salt

1. Iodized Table Salt

Most people are familiar with the round containers of iodized table salt that are purchased in stores. They’re cheap, ubiquitous, and what most people think of when they think of salt. But because of the iodine added into the salt, the shelf life of iodized table salt isn’t indefinite.

It’s generally recommended that iodized salt be consumed within 5 years for peak quality. After that, you may want to consign that salt to other uses, like smothering metal fires.

2. Sea Salt

Sea salt is normally formed through evaporation, as seawater is exposed to air and sunlight and the resulting salt left over after evaporation is harvested. Sea salt contains trace minerals, but its shelf life is indefinite. As long as it is stored in dry conditions, salt can be stored for years or decades.

3. Rock Salt

Rock salt is normal sodium chloride mined from deposits that are already in rock form. Much of the rock salt you’ll find available for sale isn’t intended for human consumption. One of its primary uses is for making ice cream.

4. Curing Salt

Curing salt is often known as “pink salt” or Prague powder. But don’t confuse it with pink Himalayan salt or Andean or Bolivian pink salt. Those salts are sodium chloride. Curing salt is sodium chloride mixed with sodium nitrite, which is dyed pink to ensure that no one tries to consume it. Consuming sodium nitrite can be fatal.

The nitrites in curing salt kill toxins in meat and other foods, which is why nitrites are so common in so many cured foods today. If you expect your diet to rely heavily on cured foods, especially cured meats, you may want to lay up a store of curing salt.

5. Pickling Salt

Pickling salt is pure sodium chloride, specifically formulated to ensure that no impurities cause pickled foods to discolor. These salts contain no caking agents, iodine, or other additives that table salt does.

How to Store Salt

As long as salt is stored in a dry location it can remain good almost indefinitely. You’ll want to keep it out of cardboard containers or any other type of container that can absorb moisture. You also don’t want to store it in metal containers, as any sort of moisture getting into those containers can cause the salt to corrode the container and spoil your salt.

It’s safest to store salt in food-safe plastic or Mylar bags, and then in food-safe plastic buckets or containers. This ensures that your salt remains free from moisture and odors. If for some reason your salt absorbs moisture, you can dry it out. And if it dries out too much in storage and clumps or forms rocks, you can break them apart to use your salt.

Expect to use about 8-10 pounds of salt per person per year, which gives you an idea of how much salt you’ll need to store. And be sure to stock up on salt while you still can. With some salt-producing areas still suffering from labor shortages and shipping issues, the supply of salt on the market today isn’t as robust as it was just a few years ago, so plan accordingly.


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