It’s winter- which means cold weather, snow and ice. To avoid slipping and seriously hurting you or your family, it is necessary to melt that ice. Although all salts and de-icers work in the same way, they are not created or contain the same materials. Some of which, are harmful to the environment and pets. So what is the best rock salt/de-icer to use?
Sodium Chloride- This is the cheapest rock salt you will find available. However, it is also the worst kind you can purchase. It has the ability to kill plants and trees, corrode cars, crack concrete and asphalt, and poison wildlife (this means your pets too!)
Calcium Chloride- This is a better option compared to Sodium Chloride, but it still isn’t the best. It is effective in cold temperatures, and usually is sold as “pet safe.” However, being deemed as pet safe, isn’t all it should be. It can still irritate the paws of your four legged friends. If you use this, be sure to rinse and wipe off their paws after trekking over it outside. Protect your own hands as well by wearing gloves while handling.
Potassium Chloride- This is exactly what you think- its the component of all those balanced fertilizers (its the K in the N-P-K ratio.) At amounts high enough to melt ice, it can also harm or even kill plants.
Magnesium Chloride- This works well in colder temperatures (about 10 degrees below.) It dissolves to coat and melt ice quickly, and as a plus it isn’t as likely to hurt your pet’s paws. The only downside is that it can cost up to twice as much as Calcium Chloride.
Always apply the least effective amount of any Chloride product when melting ice. All of them have the potential to damage driveways and sidewalks. Over the summer, apply a waterproof seal to the drive and walk ways can offer protection from ice cracks for a few years.
Natural Products- A method that seems a little unorthodox is by using products that can be found in your cabinets. Mixing sugar, beet juice and molasses with smaller amounts of any of the rock salts listed above can be effective in even lower temperatures. The syrup mix is supposed to lower the salts melting point farther then listed on the packaging! Since the mixture is sticky, it adheres to the ground- which eliminates any kick back. Sure it may not be the best option for your driveway, but its worth a shot.
Kitty Litter/Sand- This is the most environment-friendly/green option. Its the best for plants, pets and groundwater. Buy the non-clumping clay litter or buy sand. It wont melt your ice, but it will provide that necessary traction to minimize slippage.
Thank you to Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.