There are dozens upon dozens of ice melt products on the market. Each will likely be a blend of salts or chemicals varying from pure rock salt (Halite) also known as Sodium chloride to the Acetates like Potassium acetate or Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). Most ice melt products will contain a blend of these and other ice melting salts. Some salts are naturally occurring and are mined, purified and blended into ice melts yielding different melting temperatures and degrees of corrosion. Some ice melters are much more expensive due to the ingredients and other valuable characteristics like Potassium acetate commonly used in airports.
Chloride salts and ice melters are among the most commonly used and come in a variety of blends, often utilizing some acetates to promote more environmentally friendly products. Some ice melters will have 4 or 6 ingredients with varying percentages to achieve both results and provide an economical product. Quite often, price is the only factor that consumers may look at when shopping for an ice melt. Lets face it, its Saturday morning at the Home Depot and you have 4 or 5 pallets of ice melt in front of you- each priced differently. The prices listed may start at $7.99 a bag and hit the top end at near $20 or more for pet friendly versions. Unless you brought your chemistry book along with your morning coffee, you are likely to go with the price versus the content. Grab a few bags and “get r’ done”!
As a rule- rock salt will be the cheapest ice melter and will also cause the most wreckage in terms of turf, tree, and pet paw burn or drying due to the high concentration of sodium. Rock salt will track into your house or business, leaving an immense film of white. By design, rock salt has a lot of freezing and thawing due to the freezing point. This factor alone is unfortunate since it causes a lot of concrete and surface damage. All of your remaining chloride ice melters have varying properties such as melting point, safety, and ease of use. The price for these kinds of ice melts will be higher and some may even be mixed with an acetate for additional performance. The most expensive ice melters will have higher percentages of acetates and specific chloride salts for premium performance. Each brand has its own unique blend and touts specific performance with the listed price.
The benefits derived from natural ice melts include reasonable pricing, performance, and environmental friendliness as opposed to say pure calcium chloride that can melt ice to very low temperatures yet is not the most safe to use around pets or people. In the case of ice melts, price can be an indicator of performance due to the contents in the bag. Remember, ice melts are a blend of many kinds of salts and materials designed to complete a specific melting task at a specific temperature. A great ice melt can destroy your patio pavers or discolor your driveway just as easy as it removes a slippery surface!