From cities trying to manage the highway systems to homeowners using it on their front door steps and walkways, ice melt is an important product for several months out of the year across many different regions. As such, ice melt has become a very popular and competitive industry, but not every product is created equal. Here’s a breakdown of the most common forms of ice melt.
Often referred to as “halite”, rock salt is the most popular type of ice melt used all over the place. NaCI is the active ingredient. NaCI is mined in many different places in the world, but when administered to your property in large and concentrated doses, it can actually harm your plants.
Both magnesium chloride and calcium chloride are used to melt ice at very low temperatures. As exothermic materials, they release heat as they dissolve. However, they’re hazardous to both animals and humans. Another chloride (salt) that may be used to melt ice is potassium chloride, or potash, which is often a nutrient for plants when it is administered in moderation.
If you are using ice melt in your yard, potash is probably the safest option for your plants’ sake, but keep in mind that it’s not as effective in extremely low temps so you may want to mix it with another chloride for the best effect.
Often used at airports, the reason why Urea is so popular is that it’s noncorrosive and therefore won’t harm the delicate airplane components. Similar to potassium chloride, this is a nutrient found in many plant fertilizers but it can harm concrete in its purest state. That puts it in the same group as ammonium sulfate and calcium and magnesium chloride.
Although dangerous to humans and animals, Ethylene glycol is a popular and effective solution for melting ice. It can harm your plants and animals, and it’s popularly combined with urea in the liquid deicer used at airports when staff are spraying down planes before takeoff.
This liquid deicer is biodegradable and typically consists of potassium acetate. It’s often combined with urea for use at airports. CMA, or calcium magnesium acetate, was specifically developed as a road salt alternative and it’s more environmentally friendly. Of all the ice melts, it is the safest because it’s non-corrosive and won’t harm plants, animals, or water sources when in its non-concentrated state. However, CMA is much more expensive than your average ice melt, so most people aren’t willing to pay the price.
The best ice melts you can buy actually combine multiple ingredients in order to balance the effects out. This is one of those ingredients that’s usually combined with other chemicals, helping them work at lower temperatures and also making the melting process go by a lot faster.