Winter is once again upon us. With the first snowfall and ice setting in, many of you will be spending your time perusing ice melt products. However, did you know that some popular choices such as rock salt can be damaging to your concrete driveway?
Every year, millions of homeowners accidentally damage their concrete through their deicing practices. With each freeze and thaw, driveways, sidewalks, and other concrete surfaces suffer the effects of the most popular choice for deicer.
Fortunately, you'll be glad to know that not only does ice melt safe for concrete exist, but it's also a better all-round product. This article will first run through why rock salt is not the product you should be using on your concrete surfaces, before laying out the reasons why calcium chloride ice melt is a much better choice for your concrete deicing needs.
Why Rock Salt Damages Concrete Surfaces?
It's common knowledge that rock salt (sodium chloride) is the most widely used deicing agent across most of Northern America. However, using it could actually be detrimental to the concrete you're spreading it over. That's not because the product is corrosive to concrete it of itself. Rather, it's to do with the practical working temperature of the product.
While from a distance, concrete looks like a smooth, solid surface, it's actually covered in millions of tiny pores. During the warmer summer months, you can even observe this effect by throwing water over the concrete and watching as the water drains away.
However, those pores become a big problem in the winter when using rock salt as your chosen deicing product. If the ice and snow on top of your concrete were to remain frozen, then there wouldn't be a problem. However, because having an icy driveway is incredibly dangerous to both you and your property, you're going to need to apply some form of deicer to make it safe.
The problem with rock salt specifically is its practical working temperature. While technically rock salt can work until -6°F, it loses its efficiency in between 15°F and 20°F (-6.67°C). The problem is that once the rock salt melts the snow and ice, it seeps through and saturates the concrete pores as described above.
While that process isn't a problem in the summer, in the winter, temperatures can drop significantly below those temperatures mentioned above, causing the rock salt and ice melt to freeze. When temperatures begin to rise again, the expanding ice exerts internal and upward pressure that causes it to crack, flake, and splinter. This process is known as "spalling" as poses a genuine threat to the integrity of your concrete surfaces.
With each freeze-thaw cycle throughout the winter, the damage will worsen, and before long, you could find yourself needing to carry out expensive repairs. To make things worse, rock salt is "hygroscopic," meaning that it attracts water to itself. Concrete saturated with frozen rock salt can hold up to 10% extra water within it, which is that much more potentially destructive pressure for your concrete driveway to bear.
However, there's no need to start panicking. There are plenty of suitable concrete-safe ice melt products available that work at much lower temperatures, reducing the number of freeze/thaw cycles in an average winter. The best on the market is calcium chloride pellets.
Why Calcium Chloride is Safe for Concrete?
If you're wondering how to prevent the damage caused by using rock salt as a deicing product, then calcium chloride provides the best alternative. This deicer is much less harmful to the structural integrity of concrete because it has a practical working temperature that is much lower than that of sodium chloride (rock salt).
Calcium chloride pellets can work right down to a temperature of -25°F (-31.67°C). As a result, not only will you benefit from the fact that the product continues to work at such low temperatures, but it will also prevent most freeze-thaw cycles from taking place. Very rarely will overnight temperatures plummet below -25°F, which limits the number of times the ice will expand and exert pressure on your concrete driveways and walkways.
With the ice remaining as a brine liquid for most (if not all) of the winter season, you can rest assured that your concrete is being protected from damaging freeze-thaw cycles. The same is true of other porous household items such as pavers, roofs, and it affords better protection to asphalt driveways too.
One of the reasons why calcium chloride is so effective is because it's an "exothermic" compound. That is to say, when a pellet contacts water, the subsequent chemical reaction generates and expels heat. Such are its heat-generating characteristics; if you dropped a pound of calcium chloride in a gallon of water, it would increase the temperature by as much as 30°F.
That's why calcium chloride pellets keep working effectively in temperatures well below those of its counterparts. It generates heat and keeps ice in a liquid state, making it the best ice melt for concrete.
Calcium Chloride Can Be Applied in Much Smaller Amounts
Another advantage that calcium chloride holds over rock salt is that you can apply much less. You are, therefore, much less likely to damage the concrete. Gone are the days where you have to pick up a shovel to continuously spread your rock salt all over your concrete driveway before you witness any noticeable difference.
Instead, just a few pounds of calcium chloride concrete-safe ice melt can have your driveway deiced in minutes. How is this possible, you ask? A lot of the reason it's so effective in such a small amount is its chemical. You see, as well as being exothermic, like traditional rock salt, calcium chloride is hygroscopic.
This chemical feature is a negative attribute of rock salt because of its much higher practical working temperature. However, it's a positive attribute in the case of calcium chloride. Once the product is spread across a concrete surface, it actually attracts moisture and generates the heat we mentioned above. This process creates a domino effect whereby the warm "brine" solution created continues to spread and melt everything else within reach. The result is that just one initial pellet can melt a sizable surface area as it continues to assimilate ice and snow into the rapidly-expanding brine.
Homeowners often cite price as the reason that they continue to use rock salt. There are no two ways about it; rock salt is the cheapest mass-produced deicer out there. However, given how much you have to apply, you're likely to end up spending far more on rock salt that you ever would if using calcium chloride ice melt.
To give you an example, if you were to use conventional rock salt (sodium chloride), you would usually apply five pounds per 100 square feet of driveway. However, when using calcium chloride ice melt, you would only use a fraction of that amount. Here at Eco Garden Solutions, we recommend an application of between one and four pounds of product per 500 square feet for our Eco Garden Chloride Ice Melt.
In real terms, that means even if you took our higher recommendation for application (four pounds per 500 square feet), you would apply 6.25 times less product to deice your driveway or walkways. At the lower end of our recommended application (one pound per 500 square feet), you would be applying a whopping 25 times less product. So, yes, while it's true that, pound-for-pound, calcium chloride is more expensive, using this type of ice melt safe for concrete will actually save you a considerable chunk of money.
There's another good reason you want to be applying less deicer, which relates to the chloride content.
Calcium Chlorides Ice Melt Lessens the Negative Impact of Chloride
Chloride is a substance that is necessary for the effective functioning of deicing products. However, it is not good for the environment. The problem is that there is no natural process by which chlorides are broken down, metabolized, taken up, or removed from the environment. Chloride is toxic to aquatic life, negatively impacts vegetation, and can harm wildlife too.
In a conventional rock salt compound, chloride can make up as much as 60% of the ions. The chloride makes its way into ecosystems through the runoff from rain, melting snow and ice, and through the splash and spray of vehicles driving on treated road surfaces. The more rock salt that is applied, the worse for the environment, so it makes sense to invest in alternative ice melt products that require you to use a lot less chloride.
There is another reason why chloride is an unwanted presence. When it comes into contact with certain materials, it can have a corrosive effect. As chloride-based deicer melts the ice and snow that it comes in contact with, the dissolved ice seeps into the cracks in concrete and asphalt where it may come in contact with reinforced steel or necessary pipework. Chloride reacts with the iron within the metal and causes it to corrode (rust).
Given just how much rock salt you have to apply to get it to work effectively as a deicer, it's only a matter of time before you could inadvertently end up corroding some of the critical infrastructure hidden beneath your concrete or asphalt driveway and walkways.
Lastly, by applying much less concrete-safe ice melt, you can rest assured that it won't leave significant unsightly salt stains come the spring. One of the most prominent issues with rock salt is the stains it leaves all over a driveway after a harsh winter. However, by using calcium chloride pellets, you can spread a fraction of the amount and avoid the same fate.
Calcium Chloride is the Best Ice Melt for Concrete
Hopefully, now you can understand that calcium chloride is an ice melt safe for concrete. It has a much lower risk of intensifying the freeze-thaw cycle like rock salt since it can work at much lower temperatures. That lower practical working temperatures prevent ice melt from refreezing and exerting pressure on concrete, causing spalling.
The exothermic and hygroscopic nature of this concrete-safe ice melt also means that you can apply a lot less of it, reducing the impact you have on the environment and decreasing the severity of any subterranean corrosion.
That's without mentioning the added benefits, such as the fact that is can melt snow and ice up to four times as fast as rock salt, and you only need to use up to 25 times less product to clear the same surface area as rock salt. The sphere-shaped calcium chloride prills are also pet-friendly, and they leave no leftover residue for you to track into your home.
So, where can you buy ice melt safe for concrete?
Keep Your Concrete Safe with Eco Garden Calcium Chloride Snow and Ice Melt
With cold winter temperatures already with us, now is the best time for you to stock up on your ice melting supplies before they really plummet. But this year, it's essential that you move away from using the traditional rock salt you've always relied on in the past. The chances are that by using it, you're actually doing more harm than good, especially if you have concrete driveways, walkways, and pavers. It's time you made the switch to the more effective, concrete-safe, and eco-friendly calcium chloride.
With industry-leading practical working temperatures going down to as low as -25°F, our Eco Garden Calcium Chloride Snow and Ice Melt allows you to protect yourself from potential injury without causing any unnecessary damage to your concrete. There's no more worrying about those freeze/thaw cycles, and you can rest easy knowing you're not contributing to the destruction of aquatic life, vegetation, and vital underground infrastructure such as pipework.
With fast, free shipping available on orders over $35 for a limited time only, why not stock on your supplies of calcium chloride ice melt before they sell out?