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Tips on How to Use Ice Melt Around Your Home This Winter

The first day of winter (Friday, December 21) is quickly approaching.

Now, you never quite know when Old Man Winter will make his first appearance, but when he does, it’ll be a doozy.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, we can expect:

  • Coldest periods in mid-November, early and late December, early January, and early and mid-February
  • Precipitation and snowfall will be above normal with the snowiest periods in late November, mid- and late December, and early to mid-March

So, winter’s going to be colder and snowier than usual.

In order to combat heavy snow and slick ice, you might reach for a bag of ice melt or rock salt from your local hardware store.

Before you start spreading it around your home, here are some smart tips you should be aware of.

Ice melt and rock salt are not the same

Although they’re both very helpful to have and use in winter, ice melt and rock salt are different products.

Ice melt:

  • Usually made from calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, or potassium chloride
  • When applied, ice melt lowers the freezing temperature of the ice
  • When it comes into contact with ice, a brine is formed which heats and melts it away
  • As it reaches hard surfaces, ice melt spreads

Ice melt is best if:

  • You can keep kids and pets away from it
  • You want something that works quickly
  • The temperature will be above -25°C

Rock salt:

  • Also known as sodium chloride
  • Contains grit, gravel and stones
  • The aggregates inside of rock salt stay in place once the ice has melted away

Rock salt is best if:

  • Traction is important (for walking or driving)
  • You need clean and clear stairs
  • There no plants, trees, shrubs, or grass nearby

Shovel and clear as much ice and snow as you can first

Why shovel when you can use the quick convenience of ice melt or rock salt?

Firstly, when you clear away snow and ice, you won’t use as much sidewalk salt around the house. Long-term, that’ll save you money.

The less salt you use, the better you protect the various surfaces around your home over the winter:

  • ASPHALT/CONCRETE: If salt wasn’t corrosive, it wouldn’t be effective. Too much of it can stain, discolour, or even crack concrete or asphalt paving stones.
  • PLANTLIFE: Salt and plants do not mix. Salt found in soil starves plants and flowers, keeps vital nutrients (potassium, phosphorous) away, and dries out the roots.
  • STEEL/METAL: Salt can corrode metal surfaces, (cars, patio chair frames or tables). Eventually, these surfaces may become rusty.

Do not overspread or over-apply

While the natural inclination would be to flood snowy and icy surfaces with as much ice melt as possible, doing the opposite is more beneficial.

Here’s why:

  • Extra salt may not reach the surface you’re looking to clear. Instead, it’ll get wasted or end up on plants and flowers, (which is not ideal).
  • If there’s no snow or ice to melt, the excess salt will just sit atop your patio stones and begin to break them down.

Follow these tips to ensure you only use the right amount of salt

  • Follow the instructions on the ice melt bag you use
  • Use only the smallest amount you possibly can
  • Combine your rock salt with sand (if you have some available)
  • If you aren’t quite sure how much to use, a single handful per 1 square yard should suffice

Look for environmentally-friendly products

When you shop for ice melt, rock salt, or other de-icers, look for products which are labelled as eco-friendly, such as:

  • GREEN ICE MELTERS: These products are made from compounds which will not negatively impact soil should they come into contact with each other
  • TREATED SAND: A combination of calcium chloride and common sand

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