Ice Melt Salt Types

How to Determine the Best Ice Melt / Ice Salt for Your Local Climate and Driveway Type

By Mark J. Donovan

If you live in an area where the winters are harsh it’s always a wise idea to have a bag or two of ice melt salt in your garage or home to keep the driveway and walkways free from ice.

There are several popular ice melt salt types to choose from, and they each have their unique pros and cons. Some deicing salt types are meant for temperatures above 20o Fahrenheit, while others are meant for temperatures below 0o Fahrenheit.

In addition, some ice salt types are more destructive to concrete and vegetation than others. So it is important when buying ice salt to consider the average winter low temperatures in your area as well as what type of driveway and adjacent grass or shrubbery you have.

When trying to decide amongst the various ice melt salt types available on the market, it is important to realize one important thing. All ice salt types effectively lower the melting point or freezing point of water. As a result, they cause the ice to melt and stay in a liquid form at lower temperatures.

Of approximately a dozen different types of deicing salts that exist, there are four that are most commonly used by homeowners and municipalities.

Sodium Chloride Ice Salt

First on the list is Sodium Chloride, or rock salt. It is probably the most commonly used ice salt on the market. It can melt ice down to around 15o Fahrenheit.

However, it is corrosive to concrete driveways and walkways as well as to metal. It can also damage vegetation. It also produces a high amount of Chloride ions which is bad for the environment. Therefore, Sodium Chloride should be used in moderation and only on non-concrete surfaces.

Calcium Chloride Ice Salt

For very cold areas Calcium Chloride is probably the best ice salt type. It melts ice faster than Sodium Chloride and can melt ice down to -20o Fahrenheit. It can, however, irritate skin and is corrosive to concrete as well.

Potassium Chloride Ice Salt

Another type of ice salt is Potassium Chloride. It is very similar to Sodium Chloride, however it only effectively melts ice down to 20o Fahrenheit and again it also can easily damage concrete driveways and walkways.

Magnesium Chloride Ice Salt

The last fairly common ice salt type is Magnesium Chloride. It is similar to Sodium Chloride, however it can melt ice down to approximately 0o Fahrenheit.

The nice feature with Magnesium Chloride is that it is less damaging to concrete driveways and walkways and to vegetation. It also releases fewer Chlorides ions to the environment than Sodium Chloride.

So in preparation for the next winter season make sure to visit your local home improvement center and pick up a couple of bags of ice salt that is right for your local weather conditions and driveway surface type.

Also, no matter what ice salt type you purchase, use it in moderation so that you limit the impact to the local vegetation and environment. Even used sparingly, deicing salts will do a great job of melting ice build up on driveways and walkways.

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