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Choosing an ice melt can be a frustrating experience since there are so many different types and brands competing with each other. Like children vying for their mother’s attention, ice melts are jumping out to you and promoting their self-proclaimed best qualities. You hear all these buzzwords so often that it becomes difficult to even distinguish one from the other.
All ice melts will melt ice and snow, but will they all do so in a way that works for you? Most will claim that they work instantly and effectively. But it’s important to note that one brand’s “instantly” is another’s “6 hours later.” Not all claims are made equal, which is why you should be knowledgable about each type of ice melt, the chemicals used, and how the chemicals work. Once armed with knowledge, you will be able to make a quick and informed decision when it comes to buying snow and ice melt this winter.
Types of Ice Melt
Potassium Chloride - This type of ice melt is endothermic, meaning it draws heat from its surroundings. Its lowest effective temperature is 25°F, and it works the slowest out of all other chloride ice melts. It also has a high potential for corroding your driveway and impacting the environment.
Urea - Urea is very similar to potassium chloride in that it is endothermic and is only effective as low as 25°F. It works very slowly and has a low melt volume capability, making it less economical than other ice melt options.
Sodium Chloride - Better known as “Rock Salt” is also an endothermic ice melt, meaning it does not generate heat from within, rather it pulls heat from its surroundings. This form of ice melt is the most common and is fairly inexpensive, however, it only works in temperatures as low as 20°F, making it nearly ineffective in places with frigid conditions. It is also moderately corrosive to metals, plants, and pavement, so if you’re going to use rock salt, be ready to say goodbye to your greenery and decorative landscaping.
Calcium Chloride - Calcium chloride is one of the most effective ice melt chemicals there is. It is EXOTHERMIC, meaning it generates heat and can penetrate thick snow and ice in temperatures as low as -40°F. Because it is exothermic, it works much faster than other ice melt products and has been proven to melt 4x faster than sodium chloride. Not only is it more effective, but it is safer on the environment and will not chemically harm plants, greenery, decorative landscapes, or pavement.
Magnesium Chloride - Magnesium chloride is also more effective than other ice melts because it is exothermic and works in temperatures as low as -10°F. It is also one of the most environmentally friendly ice melt products out there. It is non-corrosive to properly set pavement and it will not irritate animals or wildlife, which is why magnesium chloride is considered a “pet-safe” ice melt. Your pet’s paws will not get hurt, and if ingested, this ice melt will not wreak havoc on their digestive system as other ice melts often do.
So Which One is Right for me?
If you have a lot of property, don't have animals or pets that frequently roam your land, and live in an area where the temperature gets to negative numbers regularly during the winter, then calcium chloride is the way to go. It is highly effective at the lowest temperatures and melts ice 4x faster than rock salt and other chloride ice melts. This is the most powerful ice melt on the market, and also leaves little environmental impact.
If you do have animals, wildlife, or pets that roam your property, then magnesium chloride is probably the safest choice for you. While slightly less effective than calcium chloride, magnesium chloride still packs a punch and works in negative temperatures. It is still more effective than rock salt and other chlorides, so it's definitely worth your while if you're looking for an animal-friendly, environmentally-friendly product.