Green Collar Landscaping

Solving Winter Woes: Pros and Cons of Salt vs Ice Melter

the snow removal experts at Green Collar Landscaping go over the pros and cons of using salt vs. ice melter to keep your property safer this winter.

For the kids, winter is all about sledding and snow days. It’s not as much fun for grownups- not only do we have to shovel those drifts, but we also have to clear ice from every walking surface. Some use rock salt for this purpose while others use ice melter, but which is better? In this blog, the snow removal experts at Green Collar Landscaping go over the pros and cons of using salt vs ice melter to keep your property safer this winter.

Salt vs Ice Melter- What’s the Difference?

Rock salt and ice melters will both melt the snow and ice on your driveway, sidewalk, front steps, and other surfaces. You buy both products as bagged pellets and sprinkle them across the ice, lowering its freezing point and causing it to melt. What makes them different is their chemical composition and how well they perform in certain temperatures.

  • Rock salt includes chunks of pure sodium chloride (salt). It does a good job of preventing ice formation in temperatures as low as -15°C.
  • Ice melter consists of a combination of sodium chloride and other chemicals. It clears away ice in temperatures too cold for salt, with -23°C being the general limit.

Each one has its pros and cons. Speaking of which….

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Salt to Melt Ice?

For a long time, rock salt was everyone’s go-to for clearing ice. The government has estimated we use about five million tons of rock salt every year to make roads safer- and that doesn’t include our driveways and sidewalks. Its popularity can be attributed to its many advantages, such as:

  • It’s Cheap: Salt is relatively inexpensive compared to other ice-melting agents, making it a cost-effective solution for homeowners, business owners, and municipalities.
  • It’s Easy to Find: You can find rock salt at most hardware stores, supermarkets, and other retailers.
  • Works Well at Moderate Temperatures: Rock salt is effective at melting ice and snow in moderate to low temperature, which covers a wide range of winter weather conditions.
  • Easy to Apply: You can apply rock salt by hand or with a spreader- no fancy applicators required!

Now for the cons:

  • Potentially Negative Environmental Impact: Excessive salt use or improper application can damage vegetation, contaminate waterways, and harm wildlife.
  • It’s Corrosive: Concrete and other materials can be corroded by salt, resulting in long-term damage. If your concrete is less than a year old, you might want to consider other options.
  • Potential Health Concerns: Excessive salt distribution can cause health concerns for pets and humans. 

Rock salt can be an affordable and effective way to melt ice and snow on your property. The key is to use it responsibly and in moderation to minimize the effects on the environment and your health.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Ice Melter? 

There are several different types of ice melters available, each with different characteristics. Here are two of the most common types, along with their respective pros and cons:

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride ice melts are a popular choice for businesses and homeowners alike. Made from brine deposits, it is one of the most effective and fast-acting ice melters, being especially effective in deep freeze conditions. This is because it generates heat as it dissolves. Calcium chloride melts twice as much ice as the same amount of magnesium chloride, making it a cost-effective option if you prefer to use ice melters.

While less damaging to concrete than rock salt, calcium chloride does corrode metal, so use it with caution around your car and any metal fixtures. It can also be harmful to pets, so be sure to clean your pet’s feet after exposure to prevent irritation or make sure you go with pet-friendly options. Speaking of feet, you’ll want to remove outdoor footwear as soon as you go inside, as calcium chloride can leave an oily residue that is difficult to remove.

Magnesium Chloride

A naturally occurring compound, magnesium chloride is found mostly in seawater. Upon coming into contact with ice, it starts melting buildup as quickly. Magnesium chloride ice melts leave very little residue, protecting your home’s interior should it be tracked inside. It also causes less irritation if you are accidentally exposed, although its corrosive properties can rust metal. 

On the down side, magnesium chloride has a more limited temperature range for melting ice, being most effective at temperatures greater than -17°C. It is more expensive than other ice melters and can cost twice as much as calcium chloride.

Are Salt and Ice Melter Your Only Options?

Maybe you’re not a fan of using salt or chemicals to clear ice from your property. There are some natural ice control solutions you can use, but most of them provide traction on slippery surfaces instead of melting ice. They include:

  • Sand
  • Alfalfa meal
  • Cheese brine
  • Coffee grounds
  • Wood ashes
  • Sugar beet deicer 

While most of these substances do a good job of keeping residential properties safer, commercial and government properties experience higher volumes of foot traffic, which can wear down sand or coffee grounds and increase risk. In this case, traditional ice removal options like salt or ice melter are a more effective option.

Salt or Ice Melter? Which is the Best for Your Property This Winter?

Understanding the differences between rock salt vs ice melter, along with their respective pros and cons, is important when selecting the best de-icing solution for your needs this winter. Although the weather has been pretty tame in Southwestern Ontario so far, you never know when the kids will have another snow day and you’ll be forced to drag out the shovel and de-icer. 

At Green Collar Landscaping, we provide commercial clients with responsive and reliable snow and ice removal services. Whether you need scheduled or emergency removal, we’re there to protect your customers, employees and your reputation. To get a free quote on our services, call 289.204.7621 today.

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