How to Choose the Best De-Icing Salt

Standing on Snow and Ice

How to Choose the Best De-Icing Salt

Pennsylvania winters are known for cold temperatures, snow, and ICE. And if you have sidewalks or steps you know the importance of keeping them snow and ice-free to prevent the risk of injury from slips and falls. 

Salting to prevent and melt ice is one of the most common methods used by homeowners. But do you know the correct type of salt to use?

Sodium Chloride (also known as Rock Salt)

  • most commonly-used
  • cheapest of the de-icing salts
  • easy to apply
  • does not damage concrete
  • will not melt ice when temperatures fall below 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius)
  • corrosive to metals
  • can damage grass and trees
  • when it dissolves, it releases chloride ions, which can contribute to pollution in streams, rivers, and lakes

Calcium Chloride

  • more expensive than rock salt
  • popular in colder climates
  • produces an exothermic reaction, so it can melt snow and ice at -25 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 degrees Celsius).
  • safer to use around vegetation
  • can irritate moist skin
  • high concentration applications can damage concrete
  • similar environmental risks similar to other salts

Potassium Chloride (known for its role in the production of fertilizer)

  • does not usually harm vegetation
  • does not irritate the skin
  • only effective when the temperature is above 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius)
  • twice the cost of rock salt
  • typically combined with other chemicals to help melt ice at lower temperatures
  • it can pollute the groundwater with the chlorine it releases

Magnesium Chloride 

  • similar to calcium chloride
  • can melt snow and ice at -15 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 degrees Celsius)
  • produces the least amount of chlorine of the common salts
  • poses a pollution risk to nearby water supplies
  • less corrosive and less damaging to vegetation than calcium chloride 
  • higher cost

Remember when choosing the right de-icing salt, to weigh the pros and cons of each salt’s costs, workable temperature, and environmental impact.

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