There’s no denying it: Ice on steps and walkways is extremely dangerous, leading to countless injuries each year. It’s bad enough if you or a family member take a tumble, but it may be even worse if someone else does. Under certain circumstances, you could be liable if someone slips and injures themselves while on your property.
Thankfully, salt and ice can’t co-exist. Commercial deicers use various chemical variations of salt to melt away dangerous ice on patios, walkways, and driveways.
How salt works on ice
Salt and deicers are effective ice-melting agents because they lower the freezing point of water, turning ice back into water. Salts and deicers are cheap, effective, simple to use, and easier than attacking ice with brute physical force.
Choosing the right salt and deicing product
As a shopper for deicing products, you’ll have to balance your needs with any environmental concerns.
In general, the lower the price of the product, the more salt it contains and the more potentially harmful it is to the environment. Check product labels to figure out the chief ingredients in these popular deicing products:
- Sodium chloride: Also known as rock salt, this basic compound is one of the cheapest ice melters on the market. It has the lowest price per pound, but it’s the hardest on the environment and not that effective at temps less than 15 degrees F. Cost: $6 for a 50-lb. bag.
- Calcium chloride: One of the best choices for super-cold climates, it’s effective down to minus 25 degrees F. It’s a better environmental choice than sodium chloride. Cost: $20 for a 50-lb. bag.
- Calcium magnesium acetate: Relatively new on the market, it’s a salt-free product that’s touted as environmentally friendly, but that claim has yet to be tested in the long run. It costs more than other deicers. Cost: $30 for a 50 lb. bag.
Tips for using deicing products
- Buy the right blend. By having a product that best suits your climatic conditions and average low temps, you’ll need to use less of it.
- Keep walkways shoveled in the first place as snow quickly becomes ice when walked upon.
- Pre-treat walkways before the storm hits. You’ll need less deicer in the long run.
- Mix sand with salt — you’ll use less to melt ice, and gain the traction provided by sand.
- Store ice-melt products in airtight containers to maintain maximum effectiveness.