What are some ice melt alternatives to rock salt?

As the winter season is fast approaching, many homeowners and business owners must decide how they will clear this winter's ice from their property. The destructive power of rock salt, or sodium chloride, cannot be overstated -  this is why many are stepping back and evaluating alternatives to salt for melting ice. Below, we will offer several alternatives -  both chemical and mechanical and list the advantages and disadvantages of each as an ice melt alternative.  If you already know enough about ice removal and ice control, then click here to purchase calcium chloride as an alternative to salt for melting ice. Otherwise, read on!


Chemical methods as ice melt alternatives.

In recent years, many chemical alternatives have emerged as environmentally better options for sodium chloride or rock salt. We will list the most popular five below, and leave it up to you to decide which is right for your application.

Calcium Chloride: As we discussed before, calcium chloride will melt ice down to below -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it absorbs water and generates heat as it melts, it will not only require a smaller application to cover the same area but it will also melt ice significantly faster than any of the other options. Calcium chloride is also not harmful to wildlife, aquatic life, and will not damage concrete nor the surrounding grass.

Magnesium Chloride:  Magnesium chloride as an ice melt is rather similar to calcium chloride.  It does have a higher effective temperature, meaning that will only work down to 1 degree Fahrenheit.  It also does not generate as much heat as calcium chloride, nor does it melt as fast. Having said all of that, it is still a superior salt compared to rock salt.

Potassium Chloride:  Potassium chloride is a cousin of sodium chloride, conventional table salt. It is oftentimes marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to rock salt. Potassium is substantially less harmful to aquatic life and surrounding plants and grass. The biggest drawback is that it only works up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and if you live and regions that experience snowstorms and deep freeze, this product may need to be combined with other methods of ice removal.

Calcium-magnesium acetate: Often abbreviated as a CMA, calcium magnesium acetate is yet another environmentally safe option or deicing your driveway. The two major drawbacks of using this are that the volume of ice melted will be less, and the melting speed will be lower when compared to magnesium chloride or calcium chloride.

Urea:  Urea is one of the most planet-friendly alternatives for an ice melt. Just like potassium chloride it only works up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The other major drawback is that urea runoff may pollute nearby lakes and streams, causing algae blooms. It is a high source of nitrogen, and will inadvertently need to be absorbed by plants to be safe for the environment.

Mechanical methods as alternatives or melting ice.

While it is not always possible to eliminate conventional chemical applications when melting ice, it is possible to drastically reduce the amount of ice melt you need to apply. Here we will highlight 4 conventional methods available to supplement your chemical ice melt needs.

Mechanical removal of snow and ice:  This is the old-fashioned method of shoveling the snow, using a snowblower, or getting a snowplow. While this method is very practical, the snow and the ice have to be removed before they melt, to prevent a refreeze and new ice formation.

Spreading sand or gravel:  While sand itself will not melt the ice, the application of it will prevent slippery conditions that may cause falls and injury. This has to be done before the snowstorm is scheduled, and shortly after the snow has been removed. Sand also has the benefit of reducing the amount of ice melt you may need to apply.

Heated driveways and heated asphalt: Just like heated flooring in your house, heating elements can be installed in your driveway and use during the winter to melt the ice and snow. This is a very expensive method but does work wonders if they're able to afford it.

Snow melting mats: This is a relatively new invention, and mimics the effects of a heated driveway. Small mats can be installed and deployed on your porch, patio, or front door entrance -  to eliminate patches of snow and ice in select areas. While inexpensive, they do offer limited use due to the size of the mat and limited application.

Final thoughts.

While rock salt and sodium chloride have conventionally been used to remove ice from iced-over driveways, pathways, and pavers, this has often been done due to the lack of alternatives. As we get better at treating and understanding ice, many options have emerged, allowing homeowners the opportunity to select what is right for their application. It is up to each individual to assess their own needs,  and determine the best application for their particular situation. Should you choose to use calcium chloride as your go-to alternative to salt for melting ice, you can purchase our Eco Garden Calcium Chloride Ice Melt.

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