Miller Landscape Blog

A Simple Guide for Choosing the Right Salt for Snow and Ice Removal

Nov 8

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11/8/2013 11:40 AM  RssIcon

The basic idea behind using salts or other chemicals to melt snow and ice is that when these chemicals combine with water, they change the temperature that water will freeze at. They make the ice or snow turn back to a watery solution at a lower temperature than 32°F. There are three main consideration when choosing a salt. How much does it cost, how well does it work, and is it safe?

                There are three main salts available for winter snow and ice removal. These are standard rock salt, some form of blended salt that is often died a different color, and the little white pellets known as Calcium Chloride.

                If you look at the packaging, rock salt is simply Sodium Chloride (NaCl). It's the same salt as table salt. Rock salt is the most cost effective option, It only works well down to about 15°F. It works well on roads and driveways but it will damage cement. It also can hurt your plants and lawn if it gets on either one.

                The blended salts, which are usually a little more expensive than rock salt, tend to be a combination of rock salt and magnesium chloride. Magnesium chloride(MgCl₂) does two things well. First, it works faster than rock salt and second, it melts snow and ice all the way down to about 5 degrees F. Blending the magnesium chloride and salt is a good option because it reduces the cost but still works almost as well. It still can harm cement and plants, although it's slightly safer than rock salt.

                The third type, the little white pellets, are a form of salt known as calcium chloride(CaCl₂). Calcium chloride is the most effective ice melting salt generally available. It will work down to temperatures as low as -20°F. Calcium Chloride is safer for concrete than rock salt or blended salts. It can still harm your lawn in high doses but is considered to be much safer there as well. Although Calcium Chloride works better than blended salt or rock salt, it does have a few drawbacks. It is the most expensive option, it can leave surfaces slimy and slippery still(which may defeat the purpose of removing ice), and it has to be stored in an air tight container. It's ability to attract moisture right out of the air can make a real mess if it's not stored properly.

                For more information, try the following resources:

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