Ah, the joys of landscaping in winter time – getting rid of the ice on our walkways and driveways. The most effective way to remove ice is to melt it with salt. Did you know, that like snowflakes, no two salt grains are alike?
There are actually a number of salt mixtures to choose from. Let’s learn some basics about the various ice melt products.
Actually, table salt will melt ice, but it has the highest melting point of all sodium varieties. It is very low in cost, but it is highly caustic to the dormant turf grasses adjacent to paved areas. And, once the ambient temperature dips to about 20 degrees, it becomes less effective.
Calcium chloride is the hottest of the choices; it will definitely leave you with a dead zone of turf adjacent to walkways where you use it. You can even hear the ice pop and crackle as you apply it. In fact, it is actually caustic, and you can even rust nearby iron structures. It promotes rapid cycles of freeze and thaw that wreak havoc on paved surfaces. As ice melts, it trickles down into tiny cracks, then as it re-freezes, it forces cracks in asphalt and concrete pavements. If it is applied too heavily, it forms a goo that is easily tracked indoors by pedestrians. It will continue to melt ice even when temperatures dip down toward zero, and it is also the most expensive product.
Potassium chloride is far friendlier to vegetation than calcium chloride. It’s low in cost, but its melting ability is the weakest of the choices. Being the least effective on the list, Signature does not use this product.
The happy medium, magnesium chloride offers the best of all worlds. It is less caustic on concrete and metal in comparison to calcium chloride, and it has a good melting point and is kinder to plants and turf grass. It is a more expensive product, but we have found that we can use less to achieve the necessary result, making it an economical option.
So, what does Signature Landscape use?
We use a variety of products depending on a number of factors:
For parking lots, we actually use a sodium chloride product that is coated with magnesium chloride on large parking lot areas. Many times you will see it mixed with sand to add traction. We don’t do that. We just spread it on heavy enough to eliminate the ice.
When the temperatures drop really low and the ice is really thick, we will use calcium chloride on sidewalks. Magnesium chloride is the product of choice for sidewalks under milder conditions. Because is is the least harmful to the pavement and landscapes, it is primarily what we use.