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Closeup of the center and partial petals of a deep yellow sunflower.

Ice Melts vary wildly

Rock salt is the cheapest and most basic of ice melting materials but it has many drawbacks for the price.  Everyone knows the damage rock salt does to turf, tree & shrubs, concrete, brick, patios, steel and so many more materials.  Rock salt is the cheapest ice melt but generally functions in the upper teens to lower 20’s F.  Rock salt will do plenty of damage to concrete, patios, grass, trees, and shrubs when exposed to the briny solution as it soaks into the soil.
Once spring arrives the moist, salty soil actually creates a drought condition around root systems resulting from the use of rock salt.  Although rock salt is a cheap ice melting product, the replacement damage of beloved tree and shrubs far outweigh its regular use.  Surprisingly enough, many folks still buy rock salt by the ton due to its “perceived” value as it relates to the price per bag.  For a few dollars more, many other ice melting products are available with much less impact to the environment and landscaping materials such as brick, slate, and concrete.
Calcium chloride is a serious ice melting product that works at extreme low temperatures (-25 f), only found in New England on rare occasions.  Unfortunately, calcium chloride is a very harsh chemical that requires the use of protective equipment such as gloves to protect against burning exposed skin.  Calcium chloride is also very expensive, which brings into question why it would be used over other available products.
Storage is important because unless the bags are sealed and kept dry, calcium chloride “melts” into itself by absorbing moisture in the air- thereby coming unusable. Calcium chloride will corrode steel so makes it a poor choice for use on concrete sidewalks.  Most calcium chloride pellets are round and therefore roll on inclines unlike crystalline ice melters.  While other ice melts can provide physical traction after use, the round pellets of calcium chloride cannot provide any such benefit.  Calcium chloride is labeled on the bag as a severe irritant to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.
There are many environmentally friendly ice melting materials on the market.  Unfortunately, because ice melts are not regulated by the Federal government, an associated MSDS sheet can be most vague without exhaustive research.  After much research ourselves, we have decided to offer Natural Ice Melt as an alternative to the aforementioned products.  Performance must be balanced with cost and benefits depending upon the planned use such as on a driveway, near a valuable landscape or around pets.  So the next time you are staring at a pallet of ice melt at the Home Depot, maybe you will think twice before reaching for the lowest price bag because… are you really saving any money?

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