Oct 6, 2020 9:17:51 AM / Brooke Loeffler /

Residential Ice Melt Comparison

The objective of all ice melt is to reduce the freezing point of water and form brine. Ice melt products reach this goal in different ways and to varying degrees of success. While walking down the store aisle or scrolling through purchase options, it can be difficult to accurately weigh your choices. Here, we will explore how to evaluate and compare ice melt products, and what qualities to look for.

Residential Ice Melt Comparison

Evaluating Ice Melt Products

Don’t all ice melt products do the same thing? Unfortunately, you cannot expect similar performance and benefits out of all types of ice melt. Learning what you need, before you purchase, will help you avoid buyer's remorse and set you up with the best tools for the snow fight ahead.

Close up of different ice melt textures

Ingredients

Savvy consumers are accustomed to flipping over food packages to get a better look at the ingredients. Yet, most of us are unfamiliar with the ingredients in our ice melt, and what purpose they serve. Let’s take a look at the different ingredients that lower water’s freezing point (or freeze point depressants).

Chloride Salts

The family of chloride salts are the most common freeze point depressants found in ice melt. This family includes sodium chloride (white rock salt), magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, and calcium chloride. When each of these compounds come in contact with any form of water (including ice), they lower its freezing point.

Each chloride depresses water’s freezing temperature to a different point:

  • Sodium Chloride lowers to about 21° F / -6° C
  • Potassium Chloride lowers to about 12° F / -11° C
  • Magnesium Chloride lowers to about -5° F / -15° C
  • Calcium Chloride lowers to about -25 ° F / -32° C

Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)

CMA depresses water’s freezing point to 0° F. Because it is considerably more expensive than chloride salts, it is sometimes simply added to chloride based ice melts as a corrosion prevention additive.

Urea

Some ice melt products use urea (which is synthesized from natural gas) as a freeze point depressant. It can lower water’s freezing point to 15° F, but is not as powerful as chloride salts. Urea is also used as a fertilizer so it can generally help plants. However, due to its high nitrogen content, it dangerously increases the biochemical oxygen demand in ground and surface water. 

Agricultural Byproducts

Some ice melt products add distilled agricultural byproducts from crops like beets and corn. They were introduced as a less corrosive alternative to other ice melt ingredients. However, similar to urea, when these ingredients runoff into local water sources, they greatly increase the water’s organic matter. The result is a microbial feeding frenzy that depletes dissolved oxygen in our waterways.  

A Word of Caution About Additives

Some deicing products include dyes and liquid additives to increase performance and make it easier to see where the product has been applied.

Liquid Additives

When liquid additives are combined with solid particles, they just coat those crystals instead of permeating them. These liquids leach out quickly and do not deliver consistent, long lasting deicing power. Thus, any benefits they were intended to bring, are often short-lived or unobservable.

Quick leaching additives can be more harsh and destructive to concrete, plants, and other living things. Liquid additives make ice melt harsher on skin (like your hands and pets paws). They also shorten the shelf life of ice melt products and cause hardening and clumping that make it extremely difficult to store for longer periods of time.

Chemistry of Deicers-03

Added Dyes

In order to see where a deicer has already been applied, some products add dyes to their mix. These added dyes stain and damage concrete and can also harm the environment. According to the EPA, substances found in dyes can bio-accumulate and “dyes tend to absorb ultraviolet radiation and have the potential to form decay products more toxic than the original parent dye compound.”

Size and Shape Matter

When it comes to ice melt, the size and shape of the particles are very important. Ice melt must not only lower water’s freezing point, but should also restore stabilizing traction to icy pavement. Because this is such an important requirement, you should never purchase an ice melt product in 100% opaque packaging. Being able to see the size and shape of the particles will help you make a more informed decision.

Select an ice melt with a coarse texture so you have better control over where you apply it. Smooth surfaced pellets bounce and scatter away, and are harder to disperse where you actually need them. In addition, smooth particles do not restore grippy traction as efficiently as coarse granules.

You should also look for an ice melt with a variety of particle sizes. Small particles melt and form brine quickly, while larger particles vertically penetrate ice and snow and help melting power last longer. Think of it like time-release medicine for your icy pavement. 

It's All About Balance

To increase your need for ice melt, most packages do not inform consumers about 1 very important truth: use less product. Just like in cooking, adding a little bit of salt to a dish can enhance the positive qualities of your meal. While adding too much salt can overpower the flavor balance you created.

By using the same measured hand to apply ice melt, you can enjoy all of the benefits without overpowering the balance of melting ice while also protecting your concrete and plants. 

• Click here to learn more about ice melt and concrete.

Ice Melt: Fact and Fiction

To sum up, let's cut through some of the fact and fiction surrounding residential ice melt.

Fiction: The more ice melt you use, the better.

Fact: Excess amounts of any ice melt are irresponsible and will increase damage to concrete, metal, and the environment. Apply ice melt with a gentle hand, and you can enjoy the benefits as well as save money.

Fiction: If I use ice melt, I won't have to shovel.

Fact: A light layer of ice melt before a deep freeze can help prevent ice from bonding to the pavement. During storms with heavier snow accumulation, you may still see snow on your concrete. However, as you begin shoveling, you will find snow and ice removal much easier because your ice melt has undercut and loosened the ice's grip on your pavement.

Fiction: If I use "pet friendly" ice melt, I won't have to tend to my pet's paws.

Fact: All salt based products can irritate soft tissues to some degree. Pet friendly ice melts are gentler than others, but no matter what ice melt you use, you should wipe or gently wash off your pet's paws after they walk on it.

Fiction: All chemicals are "bad"

Fact: In today’s culture, the word chemical has become incorrectly synonymous with “unnatural, toxic, or dangerous.” The truth of the matter is, every substance in our universe is chemical. All ice melt products use chemical reactions to lower the freezing point of water. Instead, look at your ice melt's ingredients and stay informed on how they work, then use responsible amounts.

Safeguarding Balance With Nature’s Blend

Nature’s Blend, from Ice Slicer, is a perfectly balanced residential ice melt that gives you all the power of high performance road salt but is natural and safe to use at home.

Infographic showing the advantages of Nature's Blend

Ice Melting Power

Nature’s Blend has been independently lab and field tested to vastly outperform white salt. Our ice melt creates brine up to 5 times faster and lasts up to twice as long.

Less Corrosive

Nature’s Blend is more effective at preventing refreezing cycles on your concrete. Our all natural deicer also contains no harsh additives. Instead, it contains a balanced blend of natural chlorides and 60+ trace minerals that buffer the effects of ice melt on your concrete. These corrosion inhibitors are so effective, that  in one ASTM B-117 test, Ice Slicer was shown to be up to 70% less corrosive than white salt.

Reduces Slips and Falls

Our naturally coarse granules restore stabilizing traction under your feet and tires without the need to purchase additional aggregates (like sand and gravel).

Safe for Plants

Nature’s Blend is an OMRI-certified organic blend mined from a naturally formed halite deposit in Utah. It contains a homogeneous blend of over 60 naturally occurring minerals that buffer the effects of chlorides on the environment. Our ice melt also contains 14 out of 17 essential soil health nutrients that have also proven to be beneficial to plant life when used in the correct concentrations.

Safe for Kids and Pets

Nature’s Blend is an all natural deicing product without harmful and harsh additives, that is safe to use around children and animals. Our OMRI certified organic blend has a proven track record of safety and has been used for decades by agricultural and animal health experts.