The Inside Scoop on Melting Agents

    The bitter cold has arrived and with the days ahead looking to be just as cold, the ice doesn't look like it's just going to go away on its own. Nobody wants to be "that neighbor" that didn't shovel or de-ice their property, but what's the difference between rock salt and other de-icers? I've put together a primer that will tell you what melting agents are plant-safe, kid-safe and how to keep your walkways safe for everyone.

    Rock Salt is sodium chloride and is a mined mineral with some impurities. It is a hard crystal that has some traction qualities to it. It is also the least expensive per pound. The down side to the material is that more has to be applied per square foot than other materials and just as ocean water freezes, this material fails to work at lower temperatures. When temperatures are below 20 degrees it really doesn't perform well. Another downside to it is that it is corrosive to metal. It is also toxic to grass and plants, and with excessive use it will render a soil to be sterile to plant life.

    Calcium Chloride has the lowest melting point at -25 degrees. When it comes in contact with ice it immediately heats up and melts the ice or snow. It is similar to rock salt because it has a high available chloride content but it is more toxic. It is the fastest acting of all the ice melting agents. The white bead can break down with water and leave a slimy coating if put down too heavy.

    Magnesium Chloride will melt down to -5 degrees. It is less toxic than baking soda and has a chloride content that is approximately 50% of rock salt. It is much kinder to the environment and safer to use around kids and pets. It is also used as a dust controlling agent in horse arenas.

    Potassium Chloride melts ice down to 12 degrees and is used in the fertilizer industry as marinate of potash. It is a hard mined crystal and has some traction quality. It is not as corrosive as calcium chloride or rock salt, it's also used by plants as a nutrient and thus will not harm plants if not over applied.

    Urea is a nitrogen fertilizer. It is used by airports as an ice melter because it will not corrode expensive aircraft. It has no chlorides and melts down to 15 degrees. It is considered safe to use around pets and children. 


    Greenscapes is a blend of potassium, sodium, magnesium chloride with corrosion inhibitor, turf mark green liquid and ice ban. Safest on concrete.
    Works to -10°.

    Safe Step 6300 Enviro-Blend will not damage vegetation or your floors.
    Works to -10°.

    Safe Step Sure Paws is 100% all natural and organic. It is safe for pets paws and skin.
    Works to -15°.

    Fast Melt is a blend of urea, potassium and sodium chloride.
    Works to -7°.

    Calcium Chloride Pellet is best on asphalt. It is very corrosive.
    Works to -25°.

    Calcium Chloride Flake is usually mixed with sand. For commercial use.

    Halite is rock salt that comes in 25lb and 50lb. bags for use in areas where run off is not a concern and the temperatures are warmer. It is most affordable but very corrosive.
    Works to 5°.

    Magnesium Chloride Pellet is less corrosive than calcium or halite. It is safe on concrete.
    Works to -5°.

    Magnesium Chloride Flake is used to control dust and hold footing in riding rings. It is safe on concrete.
    Works to -5°.

    Scaling of concrete is a major concern for property owners. It occurs from rapid heating and cooling of cement. It is more likely to occur with calcium chloride and sodium chloride. It usually is a concern when ice melting products are overly applied or unevenly applied. It is alway is best to follow directions and use a spreader.

    For those of you who can't get enough of this subject (and we know you're out there) visit Peters Chemical Company for the the final word on ice melters.

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