Melting ice and snow quickly can make everyday life a bit easier during the winter. Finding products which melt ice as quickly as possible helps. Ice-melting products range from simple rock salt to various combinations of chemicals, with some products safe to use on lawn, plants and concrete.
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Rock salt is a traditional de-icing material long used to clear driveways and is still the most commonly used ice melting product. Composed of sodium chloride, rock salt melts ice down to 5°F, so is not effective in very cold weather. It corrodes steel and can damage vegetation. In tests done for the California State Science Fair, it proved to be the most effective and quickest ice melter when compared to table salt, cat litter, calcium chloride and rubbing alcohol.
Potassium choride, which is a common fertilizer, is an effective ice melter down to 12°F. It is not safe for vegetation in high doses and it melts ice more slowly than does calcium chloride.
Urea, another fertilizer, melts ice down to 15°F, and is safe to use around rebar, steel and concrete. It also works more slowly than calcium chloride.
Magnesium chloride is an effective ice melter, working down to 5°F. It is safe to concrete and vegetation, but not as effective as calcium chloride, since magnesium chloride requires more product for the same results. Magnesium chloride comes in pellets and flakes and works exothermically.
Calcium chloride works differently than other ice melting products, because it does not require moisture to work, and in fact removes moisture from the ice by creating heat. Calcium chloride de-ices down to -25°F. It works more quickly than rock salt, magnesium chloride or other ice melting products, melting ice 2 to 14 times more quickly. However, it costs 40 to 50 percent more than other products. Calcium chloride products come in pellet and flake forms and some actually burn right through the ice on application. Calcium chloride can be safely used around vegetation, concrete and steel.
Acetate De-Icing Products
Sodium acetate and CMA products melt ice as rapidly as calcium chloride, but they are more expensive and leave an oatmeal-like residue. Because of this, they are best used on roads and airport runways and not as useful on walkways. Potassium acetate is safe for use on steel and concrete and requires fewer applications than other de-icing products.
Combination De-Icing Products
Several products on the market combine some of the above ingredients to take advantage of their best properties. In addition, some products use calcium chloride as their primary ingredient, but cut it with other chemicals to reduce the price. Products of this type include National Melt, GreenMelt and ComboTherm Commercial Strength Blended De-Icer.