This blog post will cover some important information about ice melting salts: how they work, what they do, and their pros and cons. This way you can decide which one might work best for you this year!
Snow removal is tough task for many of us. Shoveling can be exhausting plus, its really difficult to prevent some icy spots from forming on the sidewalk or in the driveway. Ice scraping tools are available, and they do work, but with great effort.
Chemical ice melters are a good alternative to the backbreaking labor associated with keeping sidewalks clear of ice, and safe for pedestrians. There are many different options, and there are trade offs for all of them.
Most Ice melts are based in salts of some sort. There are other, more complex formulas available, but this discussion will focus on only the different salts used as ice melters.
Traditionally, just rock salt, or coarse crystals of Sodium Chloride (NaCl), ice melting salts work by, on some level, combining with water forming a brine which has a much lower freezing point than water, thus making solid water back into liquid. The resulting brine quickly penetrates below the ice sheet and breaks the contact between the ice and the ground. There is a big downside though: the resulting runoff can have detrimental effects on plants, the soil food web, and local waterways. Other salt based ice melters are calcium chloride (CaCl) and magnesium chloride (MgCl). Runoff liquids from most ice melting products are dangerous to pets and children. They are also highly corrosive to metals, and can eat away at the rebar in concrete, and the undercarriage of cars.
One of the best solutions to this problem is to use an ice melting chemical that may be beneficial to the soils where runoff occurs. Potassium Chloride (KCl) is a halide salt of potassium and chlorine. Potassium is the third most needed nutrient for plants, and KCl is a common input for organic farmers as a soil amendment. Since potassium is a much needed nutrient for plants, KCl does not lead to an increase in soil salinity. Other ice melting salts, like calcium and magnesium chloride, are not nearly as needed by plants, so they are not consumed and lead to an increase in soil salinity over time. KCl is safe for pets and children when used as directed.
Of course there are downsides, as with all good things. KCl is a relatively slow acting ice melter, it takes about twice as long for KCl to melt ice than it takes CaCl. The reaction of KCl melting ice does not generate its own heat so works best at temperatures only slightly below freezing, down to about 12℉.
One of the best ways to mitigate the potential harmful side effects of using an ice melter in the winter, is to develop and maintain healthy soil microbes. Quantum Growth Organic Total is a microbial inoculant that provides a consortium of beneficial microorganisms. Included are heterotrophic bacteria capable of sequestering harmful buildups in soil.
When it comes to ice melt, some chloride salts have more harmful side effects than others. Potassium chloride is the safest alternative because plants crave it and can even thrive on KCl as the only potassium input. Grab some safe ice melter at Rocky Mountain Bio Ag today!