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Ice melt, what you don’t know can hurt your walkway or lawn

Ice melting products were designed with safety in mind, they are meant to keep surfaces clear of ice and help reduce slips and falls.  Ice melting products are commonly used on roads before, during, and after ice or snow storms in northern climates.  However, these products come in a confusing array of types and sizes with claims that may seem to require a college education.  You have seen the bags claiming melting power down to thirty below while others tout being pet friendly or even safe for tree and lawn areas.  What is one to believe among all the hype and advertising?  Let’s break it down.
First, ice melts come in a variety of sizes from 5 to 50lb bags, shakers for ease of application, and even liquids for professional use at airports or municipal highways.  Ice melts have one primary purpose, to reduce slippery and unsafe surfaces on walkways, driveways, runways, or sidewalks. This is done by keeping water from freezing and/or melting ice already present.  These products are able to achieve this amazing task by lowering the freezing point of water at a known temperature.  For instance, some inexpensive ice melts work well only to 15 or 20 degrees compared to a high-end material that can melt ice down to -70 degrees.  You need to look at the temperature range you plan on using your ice melt in as well as the application, such as use near plants, pets, trees, concrete, and brick patios to name just a few.  Remember, no ice melt is 100% perfect, but each type has its advantage as it relates to use and temperature range.
There are two main classes of ice melts, the chlorides (salts), and the acetates also known as (CMA).  The chlorides range from the cheapest ice melt, known as rock salt or halite, all the way up to Potassium chloride.  In terms of performance the chlorides’ melting power ranges from 20 to -50 below zero but are generally the most corrosive in terms of steel and concrete.  As you may imagine, the chlorides dry out pet paws and pose the most risk of damage to surrounding lawns or trees under heavy use.  The chlorides are generally the most widely used and affordable under normal winter temperatures in northern climates.  There are about four ice melt types in the chloride class but each can be mixed to various percentages to enhance performance while staying affordable.  Most ice melts you find in the hardware store are a blend of chloride salts giving them generally good performance, affordability, with the highest risk in terms of corrosion and not being plant or pet friendly.
The second type of ice melts are the acetates. When blended or used alone, CMA has the least corrosive characteristic of any ice melt product, but are significantly more expensive than chlorides ice melts.  Acetates also have an active melting characteristic down to -70 below zero that makes them ideal for airports and cold climates.   When acetates are blended with the chlorides the result is superior performance, lower corrosive characteristics and lower price. The more CMA blended into your ice melt, the more expensive it will be.
Certain ice melts have dye in them for ease of application while others pull water out of the air and become hard and unusable if not stored properly.  Regardless of the type of ice melt you purchase, improper use can cause undesirable side effects such as damaging your lawn or pitting concrete walkways.  Inevitably, your ice melt will track into the house as a consequence of extended use but the safety gained from avoiding a fall seems well worth the necessary clean up.
A closing word of wisdom and caution before you begin buying up ice melt by the bag or bucket this winter.  The cheapest bag is not necessarily going to be the best buy or deal since it will likely be rock salt, an ice melt with the highest melting point only in the twenties to high teens and is the most corrosive.  If you value your walkway, patio or concrete garage floor, think twice before going with the cheapest bag.  If you have pets, make sure you try and use a pet friendly ice melt blended with some CMA or potassium chloride.  Even with a pet friendly ice melt, try and stick to the recommended amount of product and wash off or clean your pets paws if out for an extended period of time before he or she licks them and potentially has an adverse reaction.  And as a final note, ice melts prevent accidents and can create a safer outdoor environment during winter months, so be sure and do some research and pick the product that best suits your needs for ice reduction.
Chippers does offer ice melt in 12lb shakers for refilling or in a 50lb bag delivered to your home or business.  Chippers offers ice melts blended with CMA and natural based chloride ice melts for a variety of uses.  For bulk pricing by the pallet, send me an email or respond to this blog post.  Thank you and stay upright this winter, no falling!

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