If you live in an area that gets snowfall regularly, you know the love-hate relationship we have with the white stuff. A snowy evening can be a peaceful, beautiful thing—everything goes quiet, and that untouched blanket of snow creates a gorgeous blank slate of the world. There are kids sledding, and snow angels, and snowball fights.
And then there’s the cleanup. Snow and ice look beautiful for a while, but they also make getting around dangerous and difficult, so the day after a blizzard is bound to be a sweaty, back-breaking day. And making sure no one slips and falls outside your home usually means melting some form of ice on your sidewalks, driveways, and stairs. While we tend to use the general term “ice melt” (or the very specific term “rock salt” as a generic), there are actually a number of different compounds that are used as ice melters, And each comes with some pros and cons. To choose the right one for your property, here are the basics you need to know.
How does ice melt?
No matter what an ice melt product is made of, they all work in essentially the same way: by lowering the freezing point of water so that it remains liquid at lower temperatures. This is why most snow melting products are salts of some sort—salt is very effective at lowering the melting point, preventing surface water from freezing, which in turn allows it to melt the underlying snow. Putting a layer of melted snow on your sidewalks is an effective way to keep them clear of snow before and after a storm. Some snow melters do not use salts, but rely on compounds that have a similar effect.
When choosing an ice melter, you need to know what main ingredient it is using to melt your ice, as this in turn will tell you some basic facts:
- effective temperature. Different compounds can melt ice to a specific temperature. If you live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below 15 degrees, some snow melters will not work properly.
- harm and danger. Completely melting snow can be dangerous to your property in different ways. Your choice of snow melter may depend in part on whether you have more hardscaping or more plant life around your property, and whether pets will be exposed to it.
- liquid or solid. When ice melt mixes with the water, it creates what is known as a “brine,” which in turn helps prevent ice from forming. For dealing with ice and snow, sometimes pre-brined ice melted in liquid form is a better option because it works faster because it doesn’t have to be turned into brine the first time.
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What are your options when it comes to melting snow?
snow melting compound
Here are the different compounds commonly used in most snow melters you can buy – note that some manufacturers combine two or more of these to create a specific effectiveness profile:
- Sodium chloride: The term “rock salt” refers specifically to this—it’s just salt that comes in large, rock-like pieces. Sodium chloride is your cheapest option, and it technically works down to about 5 degrees – but realistically, you’ll see a decrease in effectiveness. Once the temperature drops below 15 degrees, While all chlorides will corrode your hardscaping, rock salt may be the worst of them all because of the sharp edges that can actually scratch surfaces. On the other hand, it can also provide better traction.
- calcium chloride: this stuff Works in temperatures as low as minus 25 degreesTherefore, if you live in extremely cold areas, then rock salt is a better option than rock salt. It also works faster than sodium chloride, and it won’t corrode concrete in the same way. On the other hand, it is more dangerous to handle because it can burn the skin (as well as the animal’s paws). It is often added to other snow melting compounds to lower the effective temperature.
- magnesium chloride: Effective at temperatures as low as 5 degrees, magnesium chloride is less damaging to both hardscaping and landscaping. It is generally considered a safer alternative to ice melt for children and pets because it is less irritating to skin and claws. But there are drawbacks: It is expensiveDoesn’t work as fast as some other options, and you need to use a lot more of it than other ice melters.
- Calcium Magnesium Acetate: You’ll find it in a lot of liquid snow melt, and it’s often touted as an environmentally safe snow melt because CMA is less harmful to plants, less corrosive than some other alternatives, and is biodegradable . But be careful – some ice melts Use CMA as a wrap around regular old rock salt And label it “eco-friendly,” but once the CMA rock salt melts down, you have a bunch of sodium chloride everywhere, making the claim meaningless.
- Nazia: One of the most common alternatives to chloride-based ice melters, sodium acetate works well down to nearly zero degrees, and it has a long “residual effect,” meaning it continues to make ice long after it’s applied. keeps on melting. This is one of the most expensive snow melters you can buy, however, so if you’ve got a lot of pavement to worry about, it can be a budget-busting option.
- Potassium Acetate: Usually found in liquid form, it is gaining traction by melting snow some government agencies Want to avoid chloride-based ice melt because it works faster and is effective at lower temperatures. However, this is a costly option and the environmental impact – particularly on aquatic wildlife once it reaches the water system – has not yet been adequately assessed.
- Pet-Safe: Let’s be clear: No ice melt is completely safe for pets. Chloride-based ice melt will irritate their skin and paws, and if they lick the stuff off, it can make them sick. Most “pet-safe” snow melters will use ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, both of which are actually very effective at melting snow and won’t irritate their paws. but ethylene glycol is necessarily antifreeze, and can be fatal if swallowed; And While Propylene Glycol Is Safe For Dogs, It’s Actually Not Safe Surely For cats, so be very careful about its use. Even if you use a pet-safe ice melter, you should consider a water rinse after your pet is outside.
You can also see snow melters based on urea, but this is not very common these days outside of some industrial applications as it has an extreme environmental impact.
Your choice of snow blower depends on how cold it gets in your area, how much property you have to manage, and the mix of hardscaping, landscaping and pet access you need to worry about. it occurs. what to know In The products you use are important to your and your pet’s safety.