Every winter, homeowners in the Northern states of the United States and most of Canada face the task of clearing their driveways of snow and ice. While you might feel like you've got to grips with the basics of clearing and salting your driveway, have you ever been left frustrated by the results of your efforts?
Many individuals salting their driveways often complain that their driveway salt doesn't perform as they would like. In other cases, some homeowners even notice that the driveway salt is damaging their property. If you share these frustrations, you might be making a few seemingly inconsequential choices that are having a detrimental effect on your ability to clear snow and ice off your driveway.
In this guide, we'll walk you through exactly how you should be using driveway salt to clear your property of ice and snow, before explaining why calcium chloride pellets offer the best solution to the problem.
So without further ado, let's walk you through the process.
Step #1: Prepare for Salting Your Driveway
'Failing to prepare is preparing for failure' as the famous saying goes. For many homeowners, their downfall in unsuccessfully clearing ice from their property is inadequate preparation.
You can avoid this fate by keeping a close eye on the weather forecast. Suppose you know a snowstorm is coming in, or that the temperature is going to drop below freezing. In that case, you can begin to start your preparations ahead of time and allocate adequate time to deicing the following morning.
There's nothing worse than being in a rush to get to work and then being frustrated when you've only got a few minutes to try and thaw the driveway so that you a) don't hurt yourself by slipping over and b) you can safely maneuver your vehicle off the driveway without inflicting any damage to either your car or your property.
Therefore, take the necessary time to catch the weather the evening beforehand so you can wake up earlier and get to work on salting your driveway. In some states and provinces, you'll need to do this routine for a succession of days, weeks, and even months anyway, depending on where you're located. Thus, you might as well get a process in place that you can easily repeat.
Another crucial facet of your fall preparation period is ensuring you have the right tools for the job. For instance, before the snow and ice arrive, what condition are your snow shovels in? If you've got a large surface area to cover in driveway salt, have you invested in a salt spreader? When the snow begins to fall, these tools can be hard to come by, so make sure you've secured them well in advance of the weather turning.
Step #2: Put in the Manual Work First
Remember, driveway salt is only part of the equation concerning keeping ice and snow off your driveway. You'll always need to put in work beforehand to give your salt the best chance. Regardless of whether you're clearing a sidewalk, a driveway, or an entire parking lot, you need to mechanically, or manually, clear as much snow and ice as possible to give the ice melt the best chance of working.
Some property owners leave compacted layers of snow and ice measuring as much as three or four inches thick and then get exasperated with their driveway salt takes a while to melt the rest. You can save yourself considerable chunks of time by either getting down and dirty with a snow shovel or investing in a mechanical solution such as an electric or gas-powered snowblower.
With the most rigid ice and snow out of the way with your initial efforts, you can then spread the driveway salt to quickly take care of the rest. In the case of calcium chloride pellets, they will likely have made serious inroads into the ice by the time you have returned your equipment to the garage.
Step #3: Apply the Product at the Recommended Rate
Now you've laid down the essential groundwork; it's time to apply the ice melt product to your driveway. The key to success is remembering to use the correct amount of driveway salt and to lay it down evenly. Don't spread on the salt into huge piles here and there, even if some areas seem to have thicker ice coverings. Instead, apply the salt evenly across your driveway and walkaways. By doing so, you cover as much surface area as possible without using too much.
This is where so many homeowners fall into a trap concerning salting their driveways. They approach the job with the attitude of "the more salt I use, the faster it will get to work." However, this is simply not the case. Adding more salt neither melts the ice faster nor makes it any more effective. In fact, if you're using too much of certain types of driveway salt (such as sodium chloride), you can cause significant damage to your driveway and lawn once the snow melts (more on this later).
For our calcium chloride ice melt, you don't need to use any more than 1-4lbs per 500 square feet. Using more than that is merely wasting your time and money, so resist the urge to spread more. Unfortunately, that's not how it works.
Step #4: Apply as Needed Based on Initial Results
Finally, once you've applied the driveway salt once, it's time for the product to get to work. If you're using calcium chloride ice melt, then it will continue working down to temperatures as low as -25°F, meaning you won't have to reapply anywhere near as often as you might with traditional rock salt (sodium chloride).
However, if you have a sloping drive and the ice melt runs off towards the nearest road, then you may need to reapply as and when required. The same could be said if you experience an incredibly cold night where temperatures plummet below -25°F. Continue to monitor the weather and inspect the condition of your driveway and apply as and when needed.
And that's it! That's everything you need to know regarding salting your driveway. Hopefully, that will have cleared up any seemingly minor mistakes you may have been making, the most common of which is applying too much driveway salt.
Now it's time to turn our attention to why calcium chloride pellets are a better option than the most popular choice for driveways, rock salt, or sodium chloride to give it the proper chemical name.
Traditional Rock Salt Can Be Damaging to Your Driveway, Walkways, and Lawns
One of the most significant advantages that calcium chloride pellets hold over common rock salt is that they're much less damaging to the concrete and asphalt used your driveways.
Traditional rock salt crystals make their way into the concrete through its surface pores. They then attract water, increasing the water saturation of the concrete by as much as 10%. Once temperatures drop below freezing, the water inside your concrete will expand and cause small cracks, destabilizing and damaging your concrete.
Since winter tends to have several freeze-thaw cycles, a concrete driveway that has absorbed excess water could end up severely compromised by the end of the winter months. Common driveway salt (sodium chloride) is also incredibly acidic, which one again lowers the pH level of concrete and weakens it further.
Concerning asphalt, rock salt causes similar problems. While the asphalt is less susceptible to acidity changes than concrete, it's more brittle during the winter rendering the freeze/thaw problem described above even more threatening to a driveway with an asphalt surface.
Sodium chloride, and more specifically sodium, is also a danger to your lawn and garden. While you may want to keep snow and ice from destroying your carefully-preserved yard over the winter, adding rock salt will do more harm than good. Firstly, once sodium chloride mixes with water, the salt ions separate (sodium and chloride) and replace the beneficial nutrients in the soil plants require to produce chlorophyll.
Secondly, once sodium has penetrated the soil, it absorbs water that would typically be available to roots, causing them to dry out. Surviving in harsh winter conditions is difficult enough for plants and grasses. However, flooding the soil with sodium chloride will actually dramatically reduce their ability to withstand the subzero winter temperatures.
Finally, the acidity that is so harmful to concrete and asphalt is a threat to your soil too. If any soil becomes too acidic, it creates deficiencies in the available supply of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Unfortunately, rock salt turns soil more acidic, limiting the supply of these vital nutrients to root systems.
Calcium Chloride Pellets Are Kind to Your Driveway, Walkways, and Lawns
Calcium chloride ice melt continues to rise in popularity is its performance at the lowest temperatures, which eliminates the potential damage issues described above. While rock salt has a practical working temperature of 20°F, the practical working temperature of calcium chloride goes below -25°F.
As a result, damage caused by freeze/thaw cycles will be reduced to an absolute minimum, protecting and maintaining the integrity of your concrete/asphalt walkways, driveways, and parking lots. By using Calcium chloride ice pellets, you can rest assured that this deicing compound is still hard at work even during the coldest nights rather than exacerbating the problem.
Additionally, unlike sodium chloride, calcium chloride is not acidic, meaning it is more friendly to your driveway, lawn, and garden. Regarding soil specifically, using calcium chloride pellets helps to avoid the issues surrounding excess acidity while also providing the beneficial macronutrient of calcium, which is essential for all healthy soils.
In fact, studies have shown that adding calcium chloride to soil improves a plant's resistance to the challenging, drought-like conditions that are so prevalent amid cold and dark winters.
Calcium Chloride Attracts Moisture and Releases Heat for Better All-round Performance
Another selling point for calcium chloride ice melt over traditional rock salt formulas is that it's a chemical compound that attracts moisture as it melts. In other words, it does not require water to be activated (unlike rock salt).
Calcium chloride's high water solubility helps to create a fast-acting brine solution within seconds of contact with the surface of ice or snow. That solution then begins to melt everything it comes into contact with, creating a domino-style effect. It's this process that helps this compound to clear much larger surface areas than conventional rock salt.
In case you're wondering how it manages to create this ice melting brine so quickly, it's mostly thanks to the fact that calcium chloride is an exothermic compound, which releases heat when it reacts with the snow and ice.
This naturally-occurring feature of calcium chloride ice melt is what helps to differentiate it from competing products. Other deicers, such as rock salt, depend on their surroundings for heat. By contrast, calcium chloride generates heat as it reacts with moisture, explaining its extraordinarily low practical working temperature.
Calcium Chloride Pellets Are Much Safer for Pets
One of the biggest complaints from homeowners that use rock salt (sodium chloride) to clear driveways is that it can cause to our four-legged friends' paws. The small, sharp, and jagged edges of the rock salt substance can cause lacerations and abrasions to cats and dogs' feet.
These particles often become lodged between toes or caught up in the fur surrounding the footpads, which prolongs contact and increases irritation potential. However, with our calcium chloride-based deicer, there's no such problem. Since the calcium chloride almost immediately dissolves into a liquid brine, there's nothing left behind that could potentially get stuck in between fur or toes.
Even if your dog or cat were to step out immediately after you applied the calcium chloride, the round-shaped pellets (called prills) wouldn't cause any issues. The experience would be similar to stepping on a tiny pea for them, and they aren't dangerously sharp or jagged like rock salt often is.
Melt Ice Faster, Safer, and More Effectively with Eco Garden Snow and Ice Melt
With cold winter temperatures already pulling into view, now is the best time for you to stock up on your ice melting supplies. However, this year, it's time you moved away from dealing with all of the issues associated with traditional rock salt and instead upgraded to more effective calcium chloride pellets.
With industry-leading practical working temperatures going down to as low as -25°F, our Eco Garden organic calcium chloride ice melt allows you to protect yourself from potential injury and property damage. There's no more acidity problems, no worrying about issues caused by constant freeze/thaw cycles, and you can rest easy knowing you're not destroying your lawn.
With fast, free shipping available on orders over $35 for a limited time only, why not grab two tubs of your calcium chloride ice melt today?
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