Ice melting products were designed with safety in mind as they are meant to keep surfaces clear of ice and help reduce slips and falls. Ice melting products are used before, during, and after ice or snow storms to reduce slippery and unsafe surfaces on walkways, driveways, roads and runways.
While the objective is clear, ice melting products come in a wide array of types and sizes, often with claims that require an advanced college degree to decipher! You have seen the bags claiming melting power down to -30? below zero while others tout being pet friendly or even safe for tree and lawn areas. What is one to believe among all the hype and advertising? Let’s break it down.
Ice melts have one primary purpose, to keep water from freezing and/or melting ice already present. These products are able to achieve this amazing task by lowering the freezing point of water. So the first thing to consider is the temperature range in which the product will need to work. Some inexpensive ice melts work well only to 15 or 20?compared to expensive products that can melt ice down to -70?. For my clients in Vermont and New Hampshire, I suggest using a product that is effective to at least 0 to -10?.
Due to the corrosive nature of many ice melt products, an equally important factor to consider is the degree of potential damage you are willing to accept on structural elements such as concrete and brick, as well as harm to pets and trees, shrubs and grass. And please consider the runoff into our waterways.
The corrosive nature of many ice melts brings me to the two main classes of ice melts, the chlorides (salts), and the acetates also known as (CMA).
The chlorides range from the cheapest ice melt, known as rock salt or halite, all the way up to Potassium chloride. In terms of performance the chlorides melting power ranges from 20 to -50? below zero. Chlorides are generally the most widely used and affordable under normal winter temperatures in northern climates. However, chlorides are generally the most corrosive on steel, brick and concrete and pose the most risk of damage to surrounding lawns or trees and your pets. The cheapest bag is not necessarily going to be the best buy or deal.
The second type of ice melts are the acetates, or CMA for calcium magnesium acetate. When blended or used alone, CMA has the least corrosive characteristic of any ice melt product, but are significantly more expensive than chloride. Acetates also have an active melting characteristic down to -70? below zero which makes them ideal very cold climates and critical uses such as airport runways. When acetates are blended with chlorides the result is superior performance, lower corrosive characteristics and lower price. The more CMA blended into the ice melt, the more expensive it will be.
If you have pets, be sure to use a pet friendly ice melt blended with some CMA or potassium chloride. The risk is not only to the paws themselves, but if the pet licks their paws and ingests the product. Even with a pet friendly ice melt, try and stick to the recommended amount of product and wash off or clean your pets paws if out for an extended period of time.
Certain ice melts have dye in them for ease of application (so you can see where it has been applied) while others pull water out of the air and become hard and unusable if not stored properly. Regardless of the type of ice melt you purchase, improper use can cause undesirable side effects such as damaging your lawn or pitting concrete walkways. Inevitably, your ice melt will track into the house as a consequence of extended use but the safety gained from avoiding a fall seems well worth the necessary clean up.
Chippers offers ice melt blended with CMA based on its overall versatility, safety, and cost. Our ice melt is available in convenient refillable 12lb shakers, a 50lb bag, by the pallet, and we deliver to local homes or businesses. For the latest pricing, just call our office or simply send me an e-mail by responding to this blog post. We do not recommend rock salt because of the damage it causes to lawns and home landscapes when there are so many other better choices when it comes to ice melters.
Remember, no ice melt is 100% perfect, but each type has its advantage as it relates to use and temperature range. As a final note, ice melts prevent accidents and can create a safer outdoor environment during winter months, so be sure and do some research and pick the product that best suits your needs for ice reduction. Stay safe…the snow and ice are just around the corner.