Deicers or snow/ice melting products work by lowering the freezing temperature of water, which causes snow and ice to melt and helps prevent it from refreezing. Some types of ice melting compounds will soak down through thick ice or snow and cause a brine to form at the ground level, making the snow or ice easier to remove. Others types cause the ice to turn to a soft slush, thereby making it easy to scoop up or sweep away.
There are a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used often. Sodium Chloride, commonly known as Rock Salt is perhaps the most popular and well known. However, the runoff isn’t good for plants and is unsafe for dogs. Some varieties can also pit asphalt surface.
Calcium Chloride is considered one of the most effective ice melts. It can cause plant yellowing if used in extreme amounts affecting your lawn or border plants, may also cause some pitting in concrete, and is slightly corrosive to some metals. It is one of the more expensive choices, however, it requires using less
Deicers made from Potassium Chloride and Urea are considered safe to use around your lawn and plants and are often in fertilizer blends. They may cause high levels of potassium in your soil and require balancing from large amounts in runoff spilling into your lawn or garden.
Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is a good choice for company parking lots, driveways, and private roads. It works well, but differently than other deicers, is distasteful to animals, but not harmful. Spread CMA prior to ice formation, because rather than causing it to melt, it prevents ice molecules from sticking to one another, keeping material slushy and improving traction. CMA is often used by US state road systems to protect highways.
Propylene glycol (PG) is another good choice as it can lower the freezing point of water to almost -75°. It’s not toxic to plants or animals. In the liquid form, it’s generally mixed with some form of traction-enhancing, porous granular material.
When should you use kitty litter or sand?
If you need additional traction, spread something like coarse sand, kitty litter or a nontoxic traction additive over your sidewalks, driveways, or paths. When you have a heavy snowfall, the ice melt should keep it from freezing to the ground so that you can shovel it later.
Apply your deicer/ice melt after you’ve removed accumulated snow with a snow blower and/or shovel. You may need to reapply granular ice melts after shoveling, so check the directions to confirm.
Use chemicals with caution
Most ice melting products have potential side effects, as mentioned, but you have to weigh the potential ill versus the dangers of slippery ice and snow. Be sure to read the directions carefully. Children should wash your kid’s hands when they come inside after playing with the snow where you used chemicals and rinse off your pet’s paws as well. Check the pads of your dog’s paws as granules of ice melt often get stuck in their paws and will cause burning sensation.
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