A Breakdown of Ice & Snow Melt

There’s a chill in the air, the trees are becoming bare, and as the popular Game of Thrones quote states: “Winter is coming.” Whether you like it or not, the snow is going to fall. That’s something we can’t control. What we can control is that the snow is the only thing falling, not your friends, family, clients or staff. When surfaces around your business become slippery due to snow and ice, it creates a real hazard for everyone. Each year, more than 800,00 people are hospitalized due to fall injury. Make sure you’re prepared with Ice & Snow Melt. Understanding the traits of different ice melts can help make sure you’re getting the most effective treatment for your surfaces. 95% of chemical ice melts on the market are made from one or more of these 7 ingredients: Sodium Chloride (also known as Rock Salt), Potassium Chloride and Urea (which are fertilizers), Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Sodium Acetate, and Calcium Magnesium Acetate. To help make sure you keep a safe and slip-free environment around your business this winter, check out these tips for ice melt:

1. What’s Most Important

Priority number one, two and three should be safety, safety, and safety. Keeping steps, walkways and other common areas that are the responsibility of the site manager clear and safe is an absolute must. An ice melter should be able to work fast to keep these areas clear, but should also not create any new problems while it is working. An effective, fast acting deicer naturally makes ice and snow removal easier which, in turn, saves time, reduces maintenance and reduces risk.

2. What Melts Quickest

At 15 degrees Fahrenheit, Calcium Chloride pellets melt about twice the volume of snow in 20 minutes as rock salt.  Calcium Chloride pellets penetrate ice faster than other deicers, and the difference is even more dramatic at colder temperatures. Unlike Rock Salt, Calcium Chloride absorbs moisture from its surroundings and actually releases heat as it changes from a solid to a liquid, so it forms a potent brine faster. Keep in mind that ice melters do not melt ice in their solid form. The solid must first penetrate the pavement and dissolve into a brine. The lower freeze point of the brine breaks the bond between the ice and the sidewalk.

3. What’s Best for Concrete

Most damage to concrete is not caused by the deicer itself, but rather by the expansion pressure from the repeated freezing of water. As the number of freeze/thaw cycles increases, it can contribute to damage. Independent testing of commonly used deicers has shown that Calcium Chloride is the least harmful to concrete (excluding Sodium Acetate and Calcium Magnesium Acetate) after 500 freeze/thaw cycles. To minimize the impact on concrete, ice and snow should always be removed promptly and any excess deicer brushed away after sidewalks have been cleared.

4. What Works at Coldest Temperatures

Calcium Chloride can be effective down to temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees F. Sodium Acetate is effective down to 5 degrees F, while Potassium Chloride is effective to 12 degrees F and Urea is effective to 15 degrees F. Calcium Magnesium Acetate and Rock Salt come in at the warmest effective temperatures, both being effective around 20-22 degrees F. Calcium Chloride and Sodium Acetate have the added benefit of working like a “shield” against frost and ice formation for several days after application.

5. How to Prevent Tracking

Tracking is when the white, powdery residue that is left behind by most deicers is tracked in from the outside and on to your business floors. Although Magnesium Chloride and Calcium Chloride leave a clear brine solution rather than a white, powdery one, prevention is still the best approach. Walk-off mats are one of the simplest yet most effective ways to cut down on tracking. Studies show that at least four feet of mat is needed, with six to ten feet needed for higher traffic areas.

6. How to Protect Vegetation

All common deicers have the potential to harm vegetation. The best way to protect trees, shrubs and grass is to not use too much. Deicers are not intended to melt every bit of precipitation and should always be used sparingly. For Calcium Chloride, it usually takes only two to four ounces per square yard to effectively remove bonded ice and snow.  Keep in mind, excess snow can damage bushes, too; another reason why treated areas should always be shoveled away from sensitive vegetation.

7. What is the Best Value

To determine the best value, do not compare costs on volume alone. For example, Rock Salt typically costs substantially less than Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, or Sodium Acetate by weight. Yet, a 50-pound bag of these products will deice at least twice the area as a 50-pound bag of Rock Salt and work at colder temperatures. Labor is the biggest cost of winter maintenance, so overall effectiveness should always be the guide. In addition to an ice melter’s primary effectiveness, any refreeze protection it may offer (such as from Calcium Chloride or Sodium Acetate) can save a crew time and energy when winter is fiercest.

Arctic Blue Ice & Snow Melt from Weiss Bros. uses a blend of Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, and Calcium Chlorides to maximize effectiveness and provide a multitude of benefits. Click the link to stock up and make sure you’re not caught slippin’ this winter!