person walking on pavers with Snow Melt

Ice melt is essential to the safety of your family during the cold-weather months. The type of product you choose should be appropriate for your climate, your landscape and your family members. If you experience harsh winters, you'll need a heavier-duty ice melt. Also, you should make sure the ice melt salt you choose will not cause deterioration to your walkways, stairs and porch areas. If you have pets, it’s important to use a pet-safe ice melt, too. Find out what ice melt is made of and how to use it with this complete guide.

What Is Snow and Ice Melt?

Snow and ice melt is a product that helps remove slippery ice and snow from walkways and other high-traffic areas. Most products are composed of chemical salts that lower the freezing temperature of water. Once you apply it, the ice and snow will liquify or become slush that you can easily remove with a shovel.

How Do You Apply Ice Melt?

For best results, apply a thin layer of ice melt to potentially slippery spots before snowfall and freezing temperatures. This gets the melting process started as soon as the snow falls. However, ice melt is effective both before and after a freeze or snowfall.

You should also distribute snow melt salt immediately after clearing snow. It will help finish the job to make the surface safer, as well as address any additional snowfall.

Use the product sparingly. Too much ice melt creates toxic run-off that can harm vegetation and concrete.

Keep in mind that different ice melt products have different ingredients. Read the label instructions completely before application to make sure you use the product correctly.

Is Ice Melt Safe for Concrete?

Not all ice melters are safe for concrete. Rock salt and products with chemical salts can cause or increase cracks.

By lowering the freezing point of water, the ice melt keeps water liquid longer despite freezing temperatures outside. The salty ice melt water may then run into the cracks of your concrete. Then, when the temperature plummets low enough, the salty water will freeze and expand about 9%, widening the cracks.

Some ice melt products cause little or no damage to your concrete sidewalks, driveways and steps. Melting compounds containing potassium chloride and magnesium chloride are less damaging to concrete than, for example, rock salt. Calcium chloride ice melt is another option for minimizing damage.

Calcium magnesium acetate is an even less corrosive ice and snow melt compound, and it's also environmentally friendly. Instead of melting the ice, calcium magnesium prevents snow particles from adhering to a concrete surface. This makes the ice and snow easier to remove.

Other Important Precautions to Consider

Any time you use a chemical-based product in and around your home, you have several factors to consider. The safety of family members is naturally your top priority, but you should also take the welfare of your pets, plants and possessions into account.

What if a Pet Ingests It?

Dogs and cats don’t typically eat ice melt, but they may lick a puddle of melted water containing the chemicals if they are thirsty. Also, if they lick their paws after coming in from the cold, they may accidentally ingest ice-melting salt. Although small amounts may only cause minor woes like an upset stomach, use pet-safe ice melt to be on the safe side. Look for pet-friendly ice melt labeling. Alternatively, it might be labeled safe paw ice melt.

Can It Damage the Landscape?

Although you should avoid putting ice melt on your landscaping and lawn, runoff from hardscape surfaces like sidewalks often migrates into lawns and flowerbeds. Most of the leading ice-melting products can harm sensitive plants. Try to keep the product well away from vegetation, and shovel away melting ice/snow before it can seep into your landscape.

Will It Affect Your Car?

The commercial ice melt your local roads crew sprays on roadways can cause damage to the undercarriage of your vehicles. Magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, in particular, will corrode metal. One way to prevent undercarriage damage is to protect with a commercial coating before winter road maintenance begins.

What About Your Floors?

Keep in mind that family members and visitors will probably track snowmelt salt into your entryway or mudroom. It can leave a residue that requires extra cleaning. You can keep the buildup to a minimum, though, by making sure to use your ice melt sparingly outdoors.

Will It Harm the Environment?

If you go overboard with ice melt, the runoff from melting ice and snow can seep into groundwater and drains, making its way into lakes, rivers and aquifers. Chloride and salts that keep your walkways safe have the potential to pollute the water you drink and the bodies of water you enjoy all summer long.

Be mindful of the environment when you are using ice melt products. Remove the snow by hand or machine whenever possible, and use snow melt mainly for high-traffic areas to prevent slip and falls.

What Is the Best Ice Melt?

The best ice melt for your household prevents accidental slips while posing a minimal danger to pets, your yard and the environment. Remember to apply only the amount you need to help prevent adverse effects.

Is Calcium Chloride Safe for Driveways?

Of all the most common ice melt products, those that contain calcium chloride are among the least damaging to your concrete pathways and parking area. It is effective to –20 degrees Fahrenheit. It can damage your landscaping, though, so take care when applying it.

Chloride and Salt Free: Pet Safe Ice Melt

Products containing calcium chloride and sodium chloride can damage your pet’s paws, making them cracked and sore with long-term exposure. These types of ice and snow melts can also be toxic to pets that lick their paws. Instead, choose a product that is chloride and salt-free to help protect and keep your pet more comfortable this winter.

Dog with booties on walk way with snow melt

Sugar Beet Juice: Environmentally Friendly Ice Melt

Ice melt containing sugar beet juice rather than salt and chlorides is non-toxic to your landscape, your pets and the earth at large. The sugar in the beets lowers the freezing point of ice and snow, so it will melt at colder temperatures. Although the beet juice requires a brine solution to effectively melt ice, the juice is also sticky enough to keep the brine contained where you put it, minimizing salty run-off. For best results, use this type of melting product before significant ice or snowpacks develop.

How to Melt Ice on Driveway Surfaces

If your concrete driveway is less than a year old, you should avoid using ice melt until it has cured longer. It’s a good idea to seal the driveway before winter sets in for extra protection against damage. Another strategy to minimize ice melt damage is to mix the product with sand, which provides better traction while cutting down on chemicals.

Lightly layer the bare cement with ice melt prior to the season’s first storm. Once the snow begins to stick, add a second light layer as it continues coming down. This should break up the snow and ice sufficiently for you to shovel the remainder and clear the driveway.

Does Ice Melt Ruin Your Driveway?

If you take the proper precautions and choose a safe snow melt for use on your driveway, damage will be minimal. Pre-sealing and then removing slush promptly also helps you prevent cement deterioration.

True Value Helps You Get Ready for Winter

Stop by your local True Value store today to find the ice melt that works the best for you and your family.