How to Use Coal Ash to Melt Ice


In winter months, especially in the North and Midwest, sheets of ice can coat hard surfaces, creating a dangerous environment. Whether you are melting ice on roadways and driveways or trying a simple science experiment at home, ice melting is an interesting project to observe. The substances used to melt ice are numerous and some are more effective than others. Coal ash is one such substance, commonly used to melt large, thick sheets of ice such as those that form on rivers.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice
  • Coal ash
  • Protective face mask
  • Gloves
  • Procure some ice. This can be a sheet of ice in your own driveway in the winter months, a block of ice purchased from a store or even ice cubes from the freezer. Store the ice in a freezer or outdoors as long as temperatures remain at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Purchase coal ash. Coal ash may be purchased from chemistry supply stores or from coal manufacturers. Exercise caution when purchasing your coal ash and make sure you are purchasing from a reputable company. Coal ash can be a valuable resource, but some of it can be tainted with minerals such as arsenic, which can be fatal. Research your company on the Better Business Bureau and look for customer reviews that will indicate the reputation of the company.

  • Apply the coal ash to the ice. Put on your gloves and protective face mask when working with the coal ash. If you are spreading the coal ash over a large sheet of ice in a driveway, you may choose to spread it in a mechanical spreader like those that dispense grass seed or fertilizer on your lawn. For ice blocks or cubes, simply sprinkle the coal ash over the ice. Coat the ice with a thin layer of ash.

  • Place the ice in a sunny location. Coal ash melts ice by absorbing heat from the sun. It begins to pockmark the ice, making it weaker and softer for removal. Without exposure to the sun, the coal ash will not work.

Tips & Warnings

  • Coal ash is very messy and can stain carpeting if tracked into a home. Provide boot cleaning materials at all entrances and wash off coal ash before entering a home.
  • Coal ash can contain undesirable minerals, metals and other deposits. It is not highly recommended for residential ice removal and should always be handled with protective gloves and a mask.

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