Why Do Snails Die from Salt? (The Adverse Effect of Osmosis)

Snails are some of the slowest and persistent pests you can have around your garden or home. They are often the unwanted guests that come in mass during the rainy seasons. When it comes to getting rid of them, the solution most people know is using SALT. While other remedies exist, you may be wondering – why do snails die from salt?

Snails die from salt due to osmosis. The skin of a snail is made of cells that have highly permeable membranes. Pouring salt on it will pull water out of the animal, which may consequently lead to dehydration and death if there’s enough salt. This process is known as osmosis.

Although most people use salt to kill snails, it is often considered inhumane and really horrible to watch. Perhaps, you will be left with a pool of snot to clean up.

Why Do Snails Die from Salt

Why Do Snails Hate Salt?

Well, snails hate salt because it hurts them. In fact, you can see salt as snails’ kryptonite. Pouring salt on snails is making them go through a slow and painful death.

They squirm in anguish while releasing a lot of mucus, and if the salt is enough, they eventually end up dead.

This is possible because salt is a moisture binder, so sprinkling it on snails pulls water out of them through a process known as osmosis. Unfortunately, snails need water for survival, and will eventually dry out in a pool of salt.

Why Does Salt Kill Snails?

Salt kills snails due to OSMOSIS.

Osmosis occurs whenever a solution comes in contact with a permeable membrane. The solution here is a uniform mixture commonly made of a solute and a solvent. The solvent is the one that dissolves the solute so the mixture is formed.

It has been scientifically proven that when a permeable membrane has a solution on both of its sides, the solvent will move through the membrane from the side (solution) with less solute concentration to the side with more solute concentration. This happens so the concentration of the solution on both sides can even out.

Now, let’s bring it down to our little slimy friends. A snail’s body is made up of a lot of water. In fact, in some snails, water makes up to 80 percent of the body mass. The snail’s skin also consists of cells that have extremely permeable membranes.

Much of the water in the snail is used in producing the mucus. The mucus is the slimy substance that aids movement and largely consists of water.

Now, when you pour salt on the snail, it dissolves in the mucus to form a highly concentrated salt-water solution. Since there’s more salt in this solution compared to the salt inside the snail cells, osmosis will occur, causing water to be drawn out from inside the cells to dilute the solution outside.

As the snail dries out, more air and water are forced out as the body shrivels up. You might hear a bubbling sound coming from the slime. If there’s enough salt, the snail will eventually dehydrate and die. All these can happen quickly if there’s sufficient salt outside the snail.

So, contrary to what many people believe, snails don’t actually melt when salt is poured on them. Instead, they dehydrate because the salt pulls water out of them. If you’ve ever seen a completely dried fruit, then you may have an idea of what I’m talking about.

Comparing Snails Skin to Human Skin

Now, let’s bring it down to the human body to gain more understanding.

The human body is estimated to contain about 55 to 60 percent of water (some snails actually contain 80 percent water). Think about what will happen if you lost half that amount of water (that’s equivalent to 30 pounds for someone that weighs 100 pounds) in a few minutes. That is exactly what snails go through when exposed to salt.

Luckily, for us, our skin is not as permeable as that of snails, so pouring salt on it doesn’t create any problem. Try pouring salt on your hand and see if it does anything to you.

On the other hand, if you poured salt on your eye or an open wound, then you can get a feeling of exactly what snails experience when salt is poured on them.

The moral of the story is that snails don’t have thick skins like yours. And pouring salt on them is more like desiccating their entire body, which sounds really horrible.

How to Get Rid of Snails without Using Salt

While there are folks who care less about how a snail dies, they are others who are concerned and don’t want to see any living creature experience such a painful death. If you belong to the latter group, then you must be wondering if there are other humane ways to get rid of snails from your plants or property.

Here are four ways to go about it.

Use Copper Foil

If there’s any area in your home you don’t want snails to get to, just surround the place with copper tape or foil. This could be your garden beds and planters.

Snails generally don’t like to cross over copper, because when they do, they get a neural signal (more like an electric shock though harmless). This deters them from going further.

You can easily get copper tape in local garden centers.

Use Egg Shells

Crushed eggshell is another thing that you can use to deter snails from your home. Just spread the shells around your plant or wherever you don’t want the snails to get to.

Snails generally don’t normally move on anything sharp or thorny. Once they encounter the crushed shells, they will likely retreat or stroll to the next garden around.

Trap the Snails

If you prefer to get rid of the snails yourself, then you can simply collect and relocate them. This can be accomplished using snail traps. You simply trap the snails alive and relocate them later.

This sounds great and is the method I personally adopt when I don’t have copper foils or eggs to smash. However, you need to worry about where to relocate the snails. This is very important as we don’t want to upset the ecosystem.

You don’t want to throw them over the fence, as that would only make things worse. Despite its small size, a snail can cover nearly 25 yards in a single day. So there’s no guarantee they won’t come back looking for food in your yard.

The best plan would be to take the snails back to the place they came from. If you have no idea where that is, then simply locate a place that has a lot of biodiversity, and let nature handle the rest. Make sure the place is located at least a mile from your home.

Stamp the Snails

That sounds horrible but it’s still something to consider. At least it will give the snails a quick death which is far better than pouring snails on them. Just stamp the snails with your leg to kill them in a second.

a moving snail

How to Save a Snail from Salt

So how do you save a snail that is dying from salt? Simple – put it into a pool of water immediately.

By doing this, you will be diluting the salt outside the snails and that will reverse osmosis in the opposite direction, or at least balance things out.

The whole idea is to stop water from flowing outside the snail and replenish the lost water in the animal.

So the next time, you see a snail getting “roasted” by salt, get it into water as soon as possible.

Conclusion: Why do Snails Die from Salt?

As you can see, salt is a terrible weapon to use against snails. It is painful and brings so much suffering to the tiny slimy creatures before killing them. Personally, I would never wish to see anyone (including animals) suffer in such a terrible way. It’s gruesome to watch.

That said; no one wants snails lurking around in their garden as they can cause serious damages. Thankfully, there are other humane ways to get rid of snails that doesn’t involve using salt. We’ve already described these methods above.

If you have any more questions or suggestions as to why do snails die from salt, drop a comment below, and I will be glad to engage with you.


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