The coldest days of winter will soon be upon us. And with winter come cold winds, snow and ice. If you’re a homeowner, then you’re probably thinking about how to safely melt ice without adversely affecting your lawn and garden.
There are a plethora of products available. That’s not the issue. It’s what product is best for the situation. Of course, concern for the environment causes you to seek out the product that has the least effect. However, all products have some effect.
How Ice Melting Products Work
In order to melt the ice, these products attract moisture that forms a liquid. Melting results when the liquid flows over and under the ice. The speed in which the ice melts depends on how fast the substance responds to the existing moisture. As temperatures drop there is less water available and melting slows down.
There are two popular and inexpensive substances that can perform the task of melting ice –- rock salt (sodium chloride) and calcium chloride. These products melt ice over the widest temperature range and are the only substances that work when temperatures are below 20°F. Rock salt works down to 15°F and calcium chloride is effective down to 5°F. Both products are corrosive and can harm lawns, trees and shrubs.
There are ice-melting products that are less corrosive. They include:
- Potassium Chloride
- Calcium Magnesium Acetate.
However, these products work down to 20°F and cost more than rock salt or calcium chloride. The least effective of the substances is fertilizer. You have to use a lot of it for it to have any effect. Thus, it has the probability to pollute surfaces and ground water. University Cooperative Extension Departments don’t recommend use of fertilizers to melt ice.
Products That Have The Least Effect On The Environment
Instead it is recommended that you use products like magnesium chloride, sodium chloride, or calcium chloride. They’re effective through the full range of temperatures and their effect on the environment is minimal.
It’s best to apply the ice melting substance before the ice has a chance to form. Spread a thin amount of it over an entire surface. If you’re contending with thick ice in very cold temperatures, add water to begin melting.
It is suggested that you don’t use these products over concrete less than a year old and on stone sidewalks and other surfaces that are in poor condition. Instead, use sand or cat liter only to ensure the best footing.
Be aware that runoff of the substance can harm plants and salt damage appears more obvious in the spring.
Harm to plants manifests as browning foliage, stunted growth and die back to sections of plants adjacent to walkways, driveways, and roads. If you suspect salt damage to the lawn or other foliage, test the soil. If the test confirms your suspicions, then flush the affected area with 3-inches to 4-inches of water in 1-inch applications. In addition, adding Gypsum can reduce sodium levels in the soil.