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rock salt vs ice melt

The chill is coming quicker than you may think. It’s only autumn now, but with the blink of an eye, your front yard will be covered in frozen flakes that will gently coat your grass and cling steadfast to your driveway. Soon your entire patio, walkway, and driveway will be a frozen mess and even the most agile of people wouldn’t want to test those frozen waters. 

Whether you love it or hate it, snow is inevitable. This is why it's so important to be armed and prepared for that first snowstorm -- which, depending on where you live, could be at any moment. But what’s important in addition to being prepared is being prepared with the right product. Don’t just reach for the first snow and ice melt you see at the store or for the cheapest product on the shelf. While it may seem like the easier choice, that doesn’t make it the best choice. Many leading ice melt products are made of sodium chloride, commonly known as rock salt. But contrary to popular belief, rock salt is actually one of the least effective snow and ice melt products available for purchase. 

What’s up with Rock Salt?

Rock salt (sodium chloride) is only effective at approximately 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature lower than that, and your product might not even work, leaving you with a dangerous mess. And if you’re in an area where it regularly hits negative numbers throughout the winter months, rock salt is most definitely not the right choice for you. Rock salt, unlike other snow and ice melters, is endothermic, meaning it is activated by heat in its surroundings rather than heat from within. 

Not only is sodium chloride not super effective, but it is also harmful to animals, pavement, and plant life. It causes corrosion on pavers, it damages and kills off vegetation, and it can cause health problems for your pets and neighborhood wildlife. Rock salt notoriously irritates and burns the sensitive pads on your pet’s paws, and once they are irritated, they will likely lick their paws and ingest those harsh chemicals, causing nausea, indigestion, vomiting, and potentially worse. The poor babies.

So what do we do now?

Now that I’ve turned you off rock salt, it’s time for me to offer you some great alternative options for you to think about this winter. Rock salt is not the only product available. It’s not even the most effective product available. But these two products are both safer and more effective than rock salt: magnesium chloride and calcium chloride!

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride is a form of snow and ice melt that works four times faster than rock salt in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. It generates exothermic heat from within and melts ice instantly without having to pull heat from its surroundings. Calcium chloride is also colorless, odorless, and the pellets are rounded, which is in stark contrast to rock salt’s irritating, jagged edges. Calcium chloride lowers the water refreezing temperature, preventing water from sneaking into cracks, freezing, expanding, and damaging your pavement. Say goodbye to potholes caused by rock salt, and say hello to calcium chloride! Not only is it more effective in every category, but it also has a lower toxicity level than sodium chloride, making it safer for the environment and your pavement.

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride is another form of snow ad ice melt that melts snow and ice quicker than rock salt and is effective in as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Like Calcium chloride, it also generates exothermic heat and has rounded pellets, making it easy to apply using spreading equipment. Magnesium chloride is also well-known for having low toxicity levels for not only your pavement and plants but for your pets! This is why there are pet-safe ice melts made of magnesium chloride. Ice melts made from this chemical will not harm your pet’s paws, will not cause gastrointestinal distress if ingested, and will not damage your pavement or the environment. What a great deal!

Here’s a chart to get you better acquainted

rock salt vs ice melt chart

Start preparing now -- before it’s too late. Check out the safer alternatives to rock salt here, and stock up.

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