How do you choose the best deicing product for your home?

All around central Minnesota, our lakes and creeks are becoming too salty from the deicers we use on our driveways and sidewalks in the winter. In the land of 10,000 freshwater lakes, this is a problem.

there are a few things to consider when it comes to effectiveness and protecting the plants, grass, animals and cement around your house.

Salt

When it comes to melting ice on driveways and sidewalks after a winter storm, different salts work differently. The ones you’ll be able to find in stores are chloride-based. The most popular combinations of salt are sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride.

It’s important to know which type of salt you are buying. It not only makes a difference in its effectiveness but can also help you protect the cement and landscaping around your home.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride is the best deicer that’s readily available to homeowners for two reasons. It works at lower temperatures than the other readily available products and, as long as it isn’t applied excessively, it won’t harm plants. This chloride-based product tends not to release as much chloride as other products and is not as toxic.

Lowest temperature threshold: -25 F

Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride, commonly called rock salt, is generally the cheapest and most widely available deicer. It’s often mixed with sand or other materials and is only effective at melting ice when temperatures remain above 12 F. When temperatures drop below that threshold, sodium chloride won’t melt the ice. It is also considered more toxic than calcium chloride or magnesium chloride because it releases more chloride.

Lowest temperature threshold: 12 F

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride has the second-lowest temperature threshold, effective at 5 F. Along with calcium chloride, magnesium chloride doesn’t release as much chloride as sodium chloride and potassium chloride. It can also be considered not as toxic as those varieties.

Lowest temperature threshold: 5 F

Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride has the highest temperature threshold and is least effective, melting only to 20 F. Additionally, like sodium chloride, it can be considered more toxic than calcium chloride or magnesium chloride because it releases more chloride.

Lowest temperature threshold: 20 F

Deicer tips

  • No matter which product you chose it’s important to only use enough deicer to melt the ice in the desired area. Using an excessive amount can harm plants, animals and concrete surfaces around your home. This is especially true for sodium chloride and potassium chloride. However, all chloride-based products can be toxic to the environment. Using small amounts is always safer.
  • You can try using a non-chloride product like calcium magnesium acetate to reduce your environmental impact. These chemicals work together preventing snow from sticking together or to the surface of your driveway and sidewalks. However, calcium magnesium acetate is only effective at 20 F.
  • Some homeowners decide to use fertilizer as a substitute for chloride-based salt products in an effort to reduce their environmental impact, but that’s not always the best idea either. In order for fertilizer to effectively melt ice, you have to apply way more fertilizer than needed. By doing this, plant material can be harmed anyway. Applying too much fertilizer is not safe.
  • Natural products, such as wood chips, ash, sand, birdseed, cat litter and sunflower seeds, won’t effectively melt ice but may be able to apply traction on slippery surfaces.
  • No matter what type of precut you chose to use, you should remove as much snow as you can before applying a deicing product to ensure its efficiency. Deicers are the most effective when they are applied to ice rather than snow.
  • Let the sun help. Hold off on applying deicer if the weather looks like it’s going to warm up the day after a storm.
  • Always remember to shovel, snow blow or plow first, and only apply a deicer if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

1.What is a deicer? A deicer is a product that melts snow and ice and is used to break the bond between snow/ice and the pavement.

2.What is rock salt? Rock salt is another name for NaCl or sodium chloride. It is a common deicer that is inexpensive, but it does not melt effectively at low temperatures.

3.Are any deicers environmentally-friendly? No. All deicers impact the environment.

4.What does practical melting temperature refer to? This is the lowest temperature that a deicer will melt snow and ice effectively.

5.What is the practical melting temperature of a deicer blend? It’s hard to tell. Refer to the practical melting temperature chart to get an idea of the lowest temperature at which the ingredients work.

6.When is the best time to apply a deicer? Right after the storm and after shoveling. Let the deicer work to break the bond between the snow and pavement and then shovel again.

7.Should I mix salt and sand together? No. Sand only provides traction when it is on top of snow and ice. Salt will melt the sand into the snow and ice making it ineffective.

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