Five Must Know Tips Before You Buy Ice Melt

Snowy roads

Next time you need Ice Melt, you might want to think twice.

Wholesalers, grocery stores and hardware stores all sell deicers that are packaged to be a quick grab-and-go solution for Winter weather. However, not all ice melters are the same.

Winter has been here for quite a while but in the Mid-Atlantic you never can predict when we’ll get snow or ice.

We have been pretty lucky so far in the Richmond area. December’s snow was just enough to make things festive before the holidays.

Our Mid-Atlantic neighbors like Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, on the other hand, have already had their fair share of winter storms.

Here in the southern Mid-Atlantic, when the meteorologists start claiming “Snow!” or even worse “Ice!” we all do the same thing, don’t we?

We leave work early.

Check for school cancellations.

Go to the store to stock up on water and food.

And we pick up a bag of Ice Melt.

But do you really know what is in that ice melter?

We’re here to explain the chemicals that are most commonly used for Ice Melt, why they might be more or less effective, and what you should keep in mind next time you need to deice your driveway.

What chemicals are used for deicing?

Most Ice Melts contain at least one of the following chemicals:

  • Potassium Chloride
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Magnesium Chloride
  • Calcium Chloride

Each manufacturer has its own proprietary blend with different ratios of these four chemicals. Each chemical has specific properties and an effective temperature that makes it more or less superior at melting ice. To understand why a chemical may be a good deicer, you need to understand the following properties.

Properties and Definitions

Endothermic chemicals use heat from their surroundings. In other words, these chemicals draw heat out of the pavement in order to produce a chemical reaction. In this case that chemical reaction is melting ice.

Exothermic chemicals produce heat during a chemical reaction. These chemicals give off heat when they come into contact with water. That means the pavement is warmed by the reaction and the water is less likely to turn into ice.

Most damage to concrete occurs when ice melts, turns into water and infiltrates the concrete pores. When that water freezes again, it cracks the hard surface. Using an ice melter with an exothermic chemical will deter some of this refreezing and cracking.

The Lowest Effective Temperature is the lowest point at which the chemical can properly melt ice on pavement.

Ice Melting Chemicals

Sodium Chloride is also known as Rock Salt. You can buy Rock Salt by the bag or you can purchase Ice Melt blends that contain Sodium Chloride. Sodium Chloride is an endothermic chemical and has a lowest effective temperature of 12°F, which is relatively high compared to some other ice melting chemicals.

Calcium Chloride is an exothermic chemical which makes it a great deicer. At -25°F, its lowest effective temperature is lower than all of the common deicers. This makes Calcium Chloride ideal for winter storms and extreme cold.

Magnesium Chloride is an exothermic chemical but it is highly soluble in water. This means that as it melts ice, it will become extremely diluted. For that reason, Magnesium Chloride is best combined with other chemicals for maximum efficiency. Magnesium chloride’s lowest effective temperature is 5°F.

Potassium Chloride’s lowest effective temperature is 20°F. This the highest of the lowest effective temperatures described here.  It is also an endothermic chemical. If your Ice Melt has a high concentration of Potassium Chloride you may find that it isn’t highly effective during an ice storm when temperatures are well below freezing.

Ice Melters may contain a varied ratio of some or all of these chemicals. We prefer Quad Select Ice Melt because it contains all four of these deicers. This results in an efficient mix at a cost-effective price.

What’s the difference between Rock Salt and Ice Melt?

Rock Salt is produced from Sodium Chloride.

That means it will melt ice but it won’t do it nearly as quickly as blends that contain chemicals like Calcium Chloride.

Additionally, Sodium Chloride’s high effective temperature of 12°F means it won’t be as effective in extreme cold.

Although Rock Salt can be a good affordable option, for maximum results in winter weather, we prefer to use Ice Melt.

When should I apply Ice Melt?

Ice Melt works best when it is applied before snow or ice starts.

When water comes into contact with the Ice Melt, a chemical reaction will take place that will melt the snow or ice.

If you are confident winter weather is coming, spread Ice Melt on roads, paths, driveways, or decks. Even if the snow is not as bad as anticipated, you will protect yourself and others from falls and sliding on slippery surfaces.

Where can I apply Ice Melt?

Most deicers, including Quad Select Ice Melt, are safe for concrete, asphalt, pavers and wood decks.

That means you can apply it just about anywhere!

Although Ice Melt can be applied in most commercial and residential spaces, it can also be dangerous for plants and animals.

If you’re applying a deicer at your own home, don’t allow pets or children to play in areas where it was spread.

Take caution not to spread the chemical into plants.

What is the best way to apply an ice melter ?

Ice Melt contains chemicals so it’s important that you take proper precautions when handling the product.

  • Always wear gloves
  • Avoid touching your eyes or mouth when applying
  • Keep away from pets and children
  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling

Ice Melt can be applied by hand or using a spreader.

Using a spreader will ensure a more uniform and thorough application.

We supply hand-spreaders that are usually used for spreading seed but they can also be used to apply Ice Melt. Just be sure to use a different spreader when you go to seed your lawn!

Avoid over-applying the formula in concentrated areas and try to be as uniform as possible.

Quad Select Ice Melt contains a blue dye which makes it easy to know where you have applied it. The blue dye is water based and won’t stain your patio, driveway or deck.

Final Notes

Whether you are spreading Ice Melt for commercial properties or trying to keep your own driveway safe this Winter, it’s important to know the benefits and hazards before you buy.

If the Winter passes and we are spared a true snow storm, make sure you keep your deicer stored in a safe dry place.

Now that you know more about deicing, you can make a more informed purchasing decision next time winter weather strikes. If you are interested in trying Quad Select Ice Melt, our sales team will be happy to answer questions and provide product pricing.