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Safe Ice Melters

There are safe ice melters and other products that are good for melting iceor snow off a patio. Sand, fertilizer and some chemicals work well. Most chemicals when used in high enough concentration can damage concrete. Spread a light even coat on the slippery areas, just enough to melt the ice.

Do not leave piles of ice melter on the cement. Less is more, as long as safety is not a concern. Less is also more environmentally correct considering runoff eventually makes its way to the lake. Here is a short list of popular products used to reduce the dangers of slippery ice:

SAND, the anti-slip product that is by far the safest for cement. Enough sand can make those icy spots safe without any damage to your new concrete. Its drawback is that it can be messy and it does not have any melting properties.

FERTILIZER (ammonium sulfate) is a high nitrogen fertilizer. It is one of the harshest ice melters for concrete. Its benefit is fertilizing the lawn and adjacent greenery rather than killing it. However, due to the damage it has caused to concrete, we quit selling it as an ice melter.

MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE is less corrosive to concrete and other areas such as carpeting and auto interiors. Yet, it will melt ice down to -25F degrees or so. It is moderately priced and is packaged by many different manufactures.

POTASSIUM CHLORIDE is excellent and non-corrosive, but has become too expensive because it is a fertilizer used in agriculture.

CALCIUM CHLORIDE is by far one of the best of the ice melters. It melts ice down to -25 degrees and is more gentle to cement and carpeting. However, it is one of the most expensive of all the products available.

SALT (sodium chloride) is the cheapest of the ice melters and moderately use will provide the best bang for the buck that will melt ice down to 15 degrees. Its main drawback is its damage to plants and grass.

Occasionally some of my customers have experienced some concrete “scaling.” Scaling is when chips flake off the finish of the cement. They vary from the size of a raisin to the size of a quarter. This damage is usually due to the freeze thaw cycle of water during the winter. The water penetrates into voids and cracks in the cement. Then when it freezes, it expands pushing the particles of the cement apart.

This process of scaling is enhanced when an ice melter is used because water (with a chemical dissolved in it) expands up to twice as much as pure water. The best way to prevent this is to make sure any concrete you have installed, is air-entrained. This cement has air pockets trapped in it allowing it to absorb some expansion of freezing moisture without flaking.

Most of us do not have the luxury to change our cement. Just weigh the cost of the melter, against the liability of someone falling. Then the damage done to the concrete verses the harm to the adjacent plant life.

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