Ice and snow can be beautiful to look at, but no fun at all to clean up. Lowes carries a complete line of snow and ice melter products to get you through the winter season. Ice on steps and walkways is extremely dangerous, leading to countless injuries each year. Salt is the primary component in most of today’s ice melter products. Rock Salt, Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, and Potassium Chloride all contain a considerable amount of salt in them. The reason ice melts when you spread salt on it is because the salt lowers the freezing point of water. Water freezes at 0°C or 32°F. By using salt, that freezing point can be lowered which forces the ice to melt and prevents the water from freezing or re-freezing.
Rock salt is very inexpensive but also a corrosive and concentrated substance, which can cause problems for your plants, animals, and waterways. The same chemical magic that turns ice into water creates a very salty brine that can make household pets sick, kill lawns and eats away at concrete, brick, and stone. Salt is also an irritant, which means pets with pads on the bottom of their feet may get superficial burns. The ice-melt industry is well aware that people want green. Which means eco-friendly and pet friendly claims abound. Read the ingredients. If the bulk of the product is magnesium or calcium chloride, it is a safer and less corrosive salt than the more common sodium chloride or rock salt.
All three types of ice melts are effective. But there is no perfect ice melt out there. Rock salt loses much of its effectiveness at melting ice lower than 20 degree, but is the least expensive way to melt ice. Calcium Chloride is the fastest-melting ice melter that you will find, but also the most expensive. It’s important to treat driveways, streets and sidewalks for safety. At the same time it is important to ensure that appropriate “ice melt” chemicals are selected so as to minimize environmental effects. 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:
By Victoria Stone
Rock Salt or Sodium Chloride
- Effective to 15°F (-9°C).
- Melts ice more slowly than calcium chloride.
- Does not attract moisture, keeps surfaces dry.
- Corrosive – Can harm certain metals including rebar contained in concrete.
- Harmful to vegetation.
- May be harmful to pets and other animals.
- Inexpensive alternative to calcium chloride.
- Effective to -25°F (-29°C).
- Melts ice more quickly than rock salt (sodium chloride).
- May attract moisture thus resulting in slippery surfaces.
- Noncorrosive – Will not harm concrete or other surfaces.
- Will not harm vegetation.
- May be harmful to pets and other animals.
- Significantly more expensive than rock salt.
- Uses combination of Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride pellet and Sodium Chloride
- Available in liquid and crystal form
- Used in commercial applications for parking lots, apartment complexes and sidewalks
- Melts faster and longer than traditional ice melt such as calcium chloride.
- Safer alternative for pets
50-lb Rock Salt. Item 92397. Rock Salt, has many other names such as sodium chloride, road salt or halite. Probably the best-known solution for melting ice, salt is inexpensive, easy to find, and very effective. It is effective at melting ice up to 20º F. When temperatures dip below 20ºF, rock salt tends to just lay on top of the ice. The drawback to rock salt is that it can damage concrete, grass, plants and wood decks. If concrete is less than one year old, rock salt is not recommended due to potential damage that might occur.
Road Runner 20 Lbs. Pet-Friendly Ice Melt. Item 300052. An effective blend of calcium and magnesium pellet, potassium and sodium chlorides. Does not contain any salt or sodium chloride which makes it pet friendly. Effective at temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit. Magnesium Chloride pellets also create heat to melt the ice and snow. However, the application rate must be increased to get the same amount of melting compared to straight calcium chloride.
Calcium Chloride. Item 151998. Brands will vary by Lowes location. Calcium Chloride is the gold standard of ice melters. Melts snow and ice 2-5 times faster than rock salt and works down to -25°F. Is quite safe around plants, decks and concrete. It is the one generally recommended for ice build-ups on roofs and in gutters. Calcium Chloride has the most powerful and quickest melting action on the market today