DEICERS AND SNOW MELTERS

Comparison of snow melting products

Icy winter weather conditions often create a need for the application of de-icers to slippery sidewalks, steps and driveways. Safety concerns often take priority over potential damage to paved surfaces, lawns and landscape plants, which may result from the use of certain de-icing products. This page describes the various deicer products.


Spalling Concrete

The most common damage to concrete is spalling, and results from the concrete surface becoming pitted. Some de-icing products cause less damage to pavement. Also, sealing concrete in advance of winter weather can help prevent damage to concrete surfaces from de-icers.


Lawn Damage

One defensive measure used by groundskeepers to minimize damage to lawn grasses from de-icers is an application of gypsum (calcium sulfate) to lawn areas bordering sidewalks, driveways and roadways.

   Deicers should be used sparingly!

Deicers should be used sparingly!

Applications of gypsum are best made in the fall of the year, prior to the onset of winter weather and subsequent de-icer applications.


Below is information on the most commonly used de-icers:

CALCIUM CHLORIDE

Effective  temperature: Down to -25°F to -50°F.  Fast-acting at all temps, since it gives off heat as it dissolves.

Concrete: Doesn't attack concrete chemically.

Vegetation: Won't harm vegetation at the recommended rate.

Residue: No powdery residue.

Note: Sometimes used in roof gutters to melt ice dams.


MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE

Effective  temperature: Down to 5°F

Concrete: Increases the number of freeze-thaw cycles, which can damage concrete from freeze-induced expansion. Gradually attacks concrete chemically.

Vegetation: Environmentally safer than Calcium Chloride and Sodium Chloride, but does contain more chloride than other salty de-icers.

Residue: Tracks less than Calcium Chloride.


POTASSIUM CHLORIDE

Effective  temperature: Down to 12°F

Concrete: Increases the number of freeze-thaw cycles, which can damage concrete from freeze-induced expansion. Doesn't attack concrete chemically.

Vegetation: One of the safer de-icers around vegetation. Considered environmentally safe.

Residue: Some white residue.

Notes: Requires higher application rate.

NOTE: Some suppliers offer a product combining Potassium Chloride with Magnesium Chloride. Some companies claim their combination product "ensures a fast acting melt with long term performance"


SODIUM CHLORIDE - ROCK SALT

Effective temperature: Down to 20°F

Concrete: Increases the number of freeze-thaw cycles, which can damage concrete from freeze-induced expansion. Doesn't attack concrete chemically.

Vegetation: Sodium is harmful to vegetation. Most commonly used de-icer because of its lower cost. Loses its effectiveness below freezing temps.

Residue: Leaves a white powdery residue.

Notes: Mixed with calcium chloride to improve low-temp performance.


UREA - NITROGEN FERTILIZER

Effective temperature: Down to 15°F

Concrete: Increases the number of freeze-thaw cycles, which can damage concrete from freeze-induced expansion. Doesn't attack concrete chemically.

Vegetation: One of the safer de-icers around vegetation. Considered environmentally safe.

Residue: Some white residue.

Notes: Less corrosive to metals and rebar since it doesn't contain chloride. Requires higher application rate.