Snow and Ice are on their way. I thought it would be a great time to bring my readers up to speed on the wide variety of ice melting products.
Popular science and technology have caught up to the world of ice melting products. Walk into any retail store across the country while snow is in the forecast and you will see exactly what I am talking about. Instead of a few snow shovels and rock salt, consumers are now met with a wide range of options when looking to melt away that pesky Ice and Snow associated with old man winter. Rock Salt, Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride and the list goes on and on. As your expert on the subject, I will help find the best ice melting product for your individual needs.
The Basic Principal. Potassium chloride, rock salt, magnesium chloride and calcium chloride are the most common ice-melting salts used today. Ice melters are not naturally hot; they do not melt ice as the term suggests, but rather, they act to depress or lower the freezing point of the snow or ice upon which they are spread. This allows the salt or chemical particles to bore their way through ice and form a layer of brine under the surface, which helps the top layer of ice to break up. If the brine is able to remain in place, it will continue to melt any snow or ice that comes in contact with it.
Rock Salt. Rock salt is the product that is most commonly associated with melting snow and ice. Rock salt is mined from the earth and is by far the cheapest ice melting product on the market. Be wary though as there are several draw backs. As with any salt water application, corrosion is something to keep in mind. When using rock salt, do your best to keep it away from metal doors, concrete containing rebar and thoroughly rise your shovel with tap water as soon as you are finished. Also keep in mind that the brine solution associated with Rock Salt can work its way into planting beds and actually burn the roots of surround plantings and turf. Further, Rock Salt has a tendency to evaporate quickly and present the need for frequent re-application. Multiple applications creates a freeze-thaw-freeze effect which can do serious damage to your concrete, red brick and pavers. If rock salt is your only option, I recommend removing the slushy residue as soon as possible. Rock Salt is a relatively fast ice melting product but is basically useless in temperatures lower than 20 degrees. Lastly, do not use rock salt in areas where your pets will be tracking. Rock Salt can work its way into an animals paws and actually eat away at their skin.
Calcium Chloride is one of the most effective all around ice melting products. Unlike rock salt, calcium chloride absorbs moisture from its surroundings and actually releases heat as it changes from a solid to a liquid allowing it to form a potent brine solution. Calcium Chloride works in temperatures as low as -25 degrees fahrenheit and leaves a brine residue instead of the chalky salt residue left behind by rock salt. Further, a 50 pound bag of Calcium Chloride does about twice the area of a 50 pound bag of rock salt, however can cost up to three times as much.
Magnesium Chloride is considered (by some) as the best total ice-melter. It is less corrosive on metal surfaces, protects concrete from spalling, is less toxic and environmentally as safe as Calcium Chloride and much less corrosive than Sodium Chloride (rock salt). Magnesium Chloride is effective to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, is less irritating to the skin, is effective as a preventative application, safe to use around animals but will become diluted more rapidly.
Potassium Chloride and Urea.
Potassium Chloride and Urea are common ice melters that are often perceived as safe products to use around vegetation. Both need to be used at a slightly higher rate of application, with Urea melting to 15 F and Potassium Chloride melting to 12 F. Urea does not contain chlorides, so it is less corrosive and safer for use on concrete containing rebar and around steel structures. This is one of the preferred ice melters for airports. Both product are readily available. Due to its high nitrogen content, Urea will further provide a lush burst of growth in surrounding planting areas.
When shopping, take notice of the interesting names and claims on the products. Everything on the market today either contains the products mentioned above or a mixture of the products mentioned above. Don’t be fooled by fancy additives or a flashy label. As always, buy the best one that you can afford, stay safe and don’t hesitate to post any questions in the comments section below.
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Cape May, New Jersey