Are liquid deicers environmentally friendly? That is a great question and the answer is “yes and no.” That’s a helpful answer, right? So here is the scoop, liquid deicers are friendlier than bulk dry salt in the right application, especially anti-icing applications. Let us break it down for you.
Liquid Deicers Are the Same Chemicals As Bulk Spread Materials
You use the same primary chemicals in liquid solutions as you would use in a dry spreader. Since you are using the same materials, you are not using a more environmentally friendly material. Generally, the liquid deicers are a salt-water solution that is 30% salt with the majority of salt coming from plain old rock salt (which is the same as table salt, only in bigger pieces).
Two other chemicals (salts) commonly used in liquid deicers and liquid anti-icers are magnesium chloride and calcium chloride. These are generally more environmentally friendly and work in colder temperatures, but are cost prohibitive to use in every case.
If you are using the same material, why would it be more environmentally friendly? Great question and the answer is…
Liquid Deicers use less Material.
Liquid deicers generally use less pounds of salt per square foot of pavement than bulk salt applications. It normally takes 2 pounds of salt in a brine solution where you would need 3 pounds of salt when spread dry.
Using less is especially true when we talk about anti-icing applications (when you put material down BEFORE the ice or snow comes). A proper application of anti-ice brine keeps the ice from forming or snow from sticking to the pavement and today’s tools allow for pinpoint accuracy of solution application. With a dry application, you have to put more down to make sure the salt is spread evenly around, and it just takes more dry salt to ensure you have adequate coverage over your entire target area.
Liquid Deicers Aren’t Always a Good Fit
Liquid Deicers work well for anti-icing or against a thin to moderate ice accumulation on your pavement. You can also use liquid deicers as a pavement pre-treatment before a snow fall. On the other hand, it will not cut through over an inch of snow or through heavy ice very well.
In order to get the benefits of both rock and liquid deicers, some equipment will mix the brine solution with the dry salt while the salt is being spread to get the best of both worlds, but if you spread brine where it won’t do the job, you are just wasting the material and wasting material is NOT environmentally friendly.
It’s Still Salt
While there is a lot less material used, it is still salt, which is not a problem in small quantities, but in excess quantities, it hurts roads and the environment. There is currently no perfect deicer but using 1/3 less with a brine solution while still keeping people safe is a good start. Using a brine solution is a good idea because not only do we protect the environment, we can also save a significant amount of money by the significant reduction in salt use.
Two of the best loved tools to fight winter are Calcium Chloride and Sodium Chloride/Rock Salt. When we compare the two, you will quickly find, there is no “winner.” Instead, it is a matter of using the right tool for the job, and sometimes it is a blend of the two materials that provides the maximum benefit.
If you are located in Maryland like we are, or in any of the northern states, you know you have to have something on hand for melting ice and snow BEFORE winter starts. So we wanted to help you get to know the two materials so you can make a wise choice.
Sodium Chloride is Cheaper than Calcium Chloride (okay, a LOT cheaper).
Rock Salt is relatively easy to find throughout the world and it is easy/inexpensive to extract for use. You can’t get any cheaper than sodium chloride for cutting through ice and snow.
Calcium Chloride penetrates ice quicker at lower temperatures.
Calcium chloride is able to melt ice at the low low temperature of -20°F, which is lower than any other ice melt products. Rock salt only melts down to 20°F, or a full 40°F difference. Most of the northern states of the US easily dip below 20°F during the winter. There are times when sodium chloride just won’t cut it. Now our super hero Calcium Chloride can melt at temperatures that most of the US will never see.
Calcium Chloride Melts Faster
Calcium Chloride is the Nascar of ice melts while Rock Salt is just “Driving Miss Daisy.” Calcium Chloride works fast to pull water in and change the melting point of the water, and so when speed is necessary, Calcium Chloride is hands down your best option.
It takes less Calcium Chloride than Rock Salt to Melt the Same Amount of Ice
Sometimes it feels like you need to dump 5 lbs of rock salt on a small patch of ice just to see it melt. Calcium Chloride can melt the water in lower concentrations meaning you will have to spread a lot less on to get rid of that same patch of ice.
Calcium Chloride is Friendlier to the Environment.
Not only do you use less of it, but Calcium Chloride does not negatively impact plant life as drastically as Sodium Chloride. Sodium Chloride is one of the most caustic ice melts out there not only on plants, but on concrete as well.
Did We Mention Sodium Chloride is Cheap?
Holy Guacamole, rock salt is cheap. When the temperature is 20°F or higher, our pocket books say you ought spread only rock salt. It is cheap, cheap, cheap. This is the reason why rock salt is the primary ice fighting product at homes and on highways, it is the most cost effective way to prevent accidents and injuries during winter events when temperatures stay above 20°F.
What About Both Calcium Chloride and Sodium Chloride Combined Together?
We are glad you asked. Yes, blending both together gives you some of the benefits of both! Our ComboTherm(Calcium Chloride mixed with Sodium Chloride) is way less expensive than Calcium Chloride on its own, yet it melts in much colder temperatures than rock salt by itself.
Which One should I Get?
Generally, we would recommend getting the ComboTherm blend, because it is not much more expensive than rock salt, but it is going to melt at those lower temperatures.
If you are very concerned about the environment, first, make sure you are ONLY spreading enough ice melt product to melt the ice (over-salting is generally a bigger problem than which product you choose). Beyond that, choosing Calcium Chloride will be friendlier than rock salt, but definitely review our article on which is the most environmentally friendly ice melt product so you can make the right choice.
If you want the best ice melting product out there, definitely choose calcium chloride, you can’t do better.
And if you just want cheap, yup, sodium chloride (rock salt) is for you my friend.
Did We Mention We Sell Ice Melt Products?
We buy and sell in bulk and we try to offer you the best prices in the area. If you are in Maryland, the DC area, or would like a shipment, feel free to give us a call!
Which one is better? The answer depends on what you are trying to achieve. Both are environmentally friendly, but one is gentler and the other melts at lower temperatures. Let’s start off with a brief list of what the two ice melts have in common.
What do Magnesium Chloride and Calcium Magnesium Acetate have in Common?
They are both much friendlier to concrete and asphalt than rock salt
They are both pet friendly
They are both plant friendly
They make an excellent pre-treatment, adhering to pavement and preventing snow or ice from bonding to the pavement.
They both can be mixed with rock salt or sand for spreading.
They both can be mixed with water to treat surfaces with a brine solution (a salt water solution sprayed on instead of spreading the product on dry)
What is So Great About Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)?
There is absolutely no chlorine in CMA. Chlorine is the primary reason why deicers eat away at pavement and structures they come in contact with. CMA is about as corrosive as tap water, so very low corrosive properties.
CMA has low toxicity to plants and animals and is completely biodegradable.
CMA does not create a “runoff brine.” It tends to sit in place therefore you need to make less applications during a big storm and one application may cover you for multiple periods of freezing moisture.
What Are the Cons of Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)?
CMA only melts down to about 15°, the same temperature as rock salt.
It is not great at melting snow (rock salt works much better for this purpose). CMA works better as a pretreatment on pavement to keep snow from sticking.
What is So Great About Magnesium Chloride?
Magnesium Chloride melts ice down to a frigid -13°.
Magnesium Chloride works fast.
Magnesium Chloride tends not to leave residue, so it is great to use in front of building entryways to help limit the mess you often see during winter events. In other words, when the snow tracked in dries, you do not get a whole bunch of grey film sitting on top of the flooring like with rock salt.
Magnesium Chloride helps make dirt roads more compact.
Magnesium Chloride is great for keeping dust down and is even used as a dust treatment on roads, at construction sites, and in horse arenas.
What Are the Cons of Magnesium Chloride?
There is only about 1/3 the chloride in Magnesium Chloride compared to rock salt, but it still contains chlorine. The small amount of Choride means Magnesium Chloride has a slightly caustic effect on pavement and other surfaces. While it is much less caustic than rock salt, it is still harder on surfaces than CMA.
Which One Do I Use?
If you need the more environmentally friendly ice melt of the two options, then you will want to stick with CMA. If you need the best performance for your money, Magnesium Chloride is going to be your best bet.
To be sure, we love both products. They are both environmentally friendly when used properly and they both have a good value for the money you spend when they are used as intended.
Keeping Dust Down for Health and Environmental Reasons
We once viewed dust as just an annoyance, but now we know that constantly kicking up dust is bad for people, machines, and the environment. It wasn’t that long-ago we gave dust little attention, and now, larger construction companies are requiring their people to wear breathing protection where there isn’t dust control because we are beginning to realize constantly introducing people to large amounts of air born particulates creates negative long-term health consequences. Dust control helps people (and machines) breathe easier preventing problems further down the road.
So, what are effective methods of keeping dust down? The primary way is to use environmentally friendly “hygroscopic” salts. Hygroscopic is just a fancy word meaning the material attracts moisture from the air and its surroundings. If you have ever left table salt out on a humid day and then you notice the salt wants to clump together, you have already experienced hygroscopic salts in action. With environmental dust, hygroscopic salts help the loose dirt essentially stays moister with the hygroscopic salts pulling moisture into the dirt and therefore dirt stays on the ground better when the wind is blowing. After a while, the hygroscopic salts will help the dirt bind together and become compact. As the salts seep down, they actually create a stabilizing effect which is great for roads because you see lower maintenance costs and less damage from frost and ice.
What Should I use for Dust Control?
The two most popular, environmentally friendly salts are Magnesium Chloride and Calcium Chloride. You can apply them as a brine solution (salt water) or spread them as flakes. Brine solution is usually the method of choice for road crews and large construction sites because it is quick and easy, but you need a brine sprayer. A brine sprayer is nothing more than a big tank on a big truck to hold the brine solution plus sprayers on the back to deliver the product onto the ground. Usually the brine is 33-35% salt but be sure to read the directions of the specific product you will use.
For smaller areas or for those who do not want to buy expensive equipment, we like to recommend getting Magnesium Chloride Flakes. Flakes are great because the surface area helps it stick to the ground and it won’t roll like pellets do. To apply flakes, you want to spray down the area with water until it is damp, then spread about 2 lbs of magnesium chloride per square yard immediately afterward while the ground is still damp. Once the ground dries, add another pound of magnesium chloride per square yard. That means one 50 lb. bag of magnesium chloride flakes should treat about 150 sq. ft. the first time around.
After that, you can usually apply one pound per square yard as necessary which will be more often in an open area that gets more rain and less often in something like an enclosed horse arena. With something like a horse arena, you may need to apply more to entryways and less in the center of the arena.
What will my Dust Control do to my Plants?
Treat Magnesium Chloride and Calcium Chloride like fertilizer around your plants. Magnesium Chloride and Calcium Chloride are non-toxic and will not hurt plants if you get a little near your plants, but too much of anything will kill your plants. Too much water, too much fertilizer, or too much magnesium or calcium chloride will hurt your plants if you go overboard, but if you get a little on the ground near your plants, it will have no negative affects unless you are dealing with a super sensitive species.
Do You Need Dust Control Hygroscopic Salts?
If you need Magnesium Chloride or Calcium Chloride, we are happy to help you out. Just give us a call and we can tell you how much money you will save when you buy in bulk from us.
If you are looking for information on the Best Ice Melt, you have come to the right place since ice melt is what we know! We not only sell it by the ton, we use it in our own snow and ice removal business!
Unfortunately, the telling you “best ice melt” is not an easy straightforward answer. The variety of ice melts are more like the variety of tools in your toolbox. You don’t use a hammer to take out a screw and you don’t use rock salt on glare ice at night when the temp has fallen to -10°.
So rather than telling you “the best ice melt,” we will tell you which one is best for which situations.
Best All-Around Ice Melt
If you are looking for a jack-of-all trades ice melt that will work in most situations without breaking the bank, we recommend Safe N’ Sure Ice Melt. Safe N’ Sure is primarily rock-salt which keeps the price down, yet it mixes in some of the other ice melt chemicals to allow ice melting down to -25°. If you only wanted to buy one ice melt, this is the one to choose.
Best Cold Weather Ice Melt
Calcium Chloride like in Peladow Calcium Chloride Pelletspenetrates ice 3 times faster than other ice melts because of its exothermic action (it creates heat when interacting with the ice). While Safe N’ Sure has a little calcium chloride in it, Peladow is 90% calcium chloride.
Nothing comes close to straight up calcium chloride when it comes to knocking out ice at really cold temperatures. A bonus of calcium chloride is it likes to stay in place to keep ice and snow from freezing on payment during the next storm
Best Low Corrosion Ice Melt
One of the least corrosive ice melts would be Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA). If you have concrete or iron surfaces you would like to preserve from the harsh effects of chloride-based ice melts, this is a great option. It works down to -15°and cuts through ice really well.
CMA is generally considered safe for plants and petsunless it is overused. Like calcium chloride, it also likes to stay in place and acts like a pre-treatment for your next storm.
Best Pet Friendly Ice Melt
Many pet owners love PESTELL Paw Thaw Ice Melt, which is made of a sugar based, non-toxic anti-freeze called propylene glycol. It cuts through the ice yet is no more harmful than if your pet stepped in glycerin.
Best Cheap Ice Melt
You can’t beat rock salt for being cheap! You can normally buy rock salt for a small fraction of the cost of the other deicers. Yet, you get what you pay for.
Rock salt is corrosive to your concrete and asphalt, harmful in larger quantities to your plants and animals, and only works to about +15°. You often have to use more rock salt than the other ice melt products, so in the end, you are saving less money than you may hope, but it is still extremely inexpensive.
There are a lot of blog posts out there that tell you they have the “silver bullet” deicer that will melt snow and ice at low temperatures while at the same time be healthy for the environment. Sorry to tell you, there are no perfect deicers. Every single type of deicer currently on the market in large enough quantities will negatively impact the environment in one way or another.
Beyond the environmental impact, they all have the potential to corrode our roads (more so with the chloride-based products and not so much with the carbohydrate deicers) and they also don’t all work the same in very cold temperatures (sorry, but nothing beats out Calcium Chloride for breaking up ice in frigid weather).
There are three basic types of deicers out there, and each type has their own strengths and weaknesses. The three categories we will cover are chloride-based deicers, acetate-based deicers, and carbohydrate-based deicers.
Before we cover those, we should stress that the best way to protect the environment is to not over-salt. By reducing the amount of salt, you reduce how much of the deicer gets into our soil and into our waterways. You want to put down just enough deicer (or preventative anti-icing agent) to keep people safe without an ounce more.
Chloride based deicers are the most common deicers used in the United States and throughout the world with rock salt leading the way. Rock salt is the same thing as table salt, only in larger grains. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are also popular chloride-based deicers.
All chloride-based products are highly corrosive to metals and moderately corrosive to concrete. More importantly, chloride-based deicers are harmful to plants, moderately harmful to soil and waterways, yet they at least have little impact on air quality.
In other words, if you put enough salt on your plants, they are going to die. A little salt in the river won’t hurt anything, but after years of use, salinity starts adding up which can be toxic for aquatic life.
We can say that calcium chloride and magnesium chloride appear to be less harmful to the environment because they can help soil in lower doses by improving soil structure plus you need less of these two than rock salt to break-up ice. So we can say they are more “environmentally friendly” than other deicers to your soil and they introduce less chlorine into the environment because it takes less volume of either of these two deicers to do the same work as others, allowing you to use less deicing product overall.
Generally, most people do not spread calcium chloride or magnesium chloride by themselves because of the cost as compared to rock salt. Instead, most people will use them in blends with rock salt allowing for maximum impact while keeping costs reasonable.
Acetate-based deicers do not poison the ground and waterways with chlorine and in small amounts they can act as fertilizer. The key point is “small amounts.” Deicers like Calcium Magnesium Acetate (one of our favorites), Potassium Acetate, and Sodium Acetate are moderately corrosive, don’t hurt soil or the air in moderation, but in larger quantities they can be devastating to plants and aquatic life.
What happens is they create osmotic stress (water is pulled out of the cells) when found in larger concentrations in plants and they set off microscopic organism growth which steals oxygen and other resources from affected plant and aquatic life. This second issue is a similar to what happens when too much farm runoff gets into streams where you see a lot of algae growth, yet the fish may be oxygen starved.
Carbohydrate-based deicers are friendlier to metals and concrete but they do not have a whole lot of power to melt ice in cold temperatures. Carbohydrate-based deicers are made from beets or other fruits or vegetables and can be pricey for how little work they actually do to remove ice. Because these deicers have not yet shown a lot of value in cost versus the benefit, most people just avoid them altogether (which is also why we do not stock them). You are more likely to see these types of deicers as part of a blend then by themselves if you see them in the stores.
Carbohydrate-based deicers have a similar effect upon plants and aquatic life as acetate-based deicers. The sugars are going to spur the growth of micro-organisms which steal necessary resource for growth from plant and aquatic life. If you have every mixed in compost into your soil without having let the compost “cook thoroughly” or break down all the way, you may have seen plants you put in that soil struggle or even die. These carbohydrate deicers can have the same effect in larger concentrations. While bacteria break down the deicer, they use up nitrogen and oxygen, and if there is too much carb-based deicer in an area, plant or aquatic life can be killed.
You Wonder “What Deicer Should I Choose?”
There is no one right answer since there are pros and cons to every product. Again, the first step in protecting our environment is generally to just use less deicer. Apply only as much deicer as is necessary for safety. If you can, one option is to prevent traffic from certain areas, so you don’t have to apply deicer in those spots at all. Another option is to use deicer that has a bright color to it, so you will be able to accurately see how much salt you have actually spread.
In the end, the deicer for you will be what fits your personal choice and yet still removes the ice. One of our personal favorites is Calcium Magnesium Acetate for when temperatures are above 15 degrees. It is one of the friendliest deicing products available that is commonly found in the market.
When you have colder weather, then Calcium Chloride or a Calcium Chloride blend like Hot Melt are your best options because they can work in very cold temperatures yet it takes a lot less to get the job done (like 2-7 times less depending on the product you are comparing it to).
Commercial Ice Melt is essential for any serious contractor. You know that rock salt is great, but it just does not do the trick in all situations. Like when you get an ice storm followed by really cold temperatures, you need something that can cut through the ice today, not when the weather warms back up. This is where a large arsenal of commercial ice melts come in really handy.
Some of the best ice-melts are considered “hot melt.” The difference with hot melt is that it is exothermic, rather than needing heat to melt ice, it creates its own energy. This means that the hot melt works at much lower temperatures and can be really effective against ice.
Rock salt is not going away any time soon. The inexpensive cost to get rock-salt in bulk makes rock salt the primary weapon of choice for melting ice and helping tackle snow. When the temperatures get really cold, most ice melts use a blend that is about 80% rock salt and 20% something else like magnesium chloride. The blend helps keep the cost down while the magnesium chloride starts the melting process and the rock salt finishes off the job.
If you are a contractor, you likely already knew all that. The problem becomes, where do you get commercial quantities of ice melt? Should you pay way too much at a big box store? Should you get it from a chemical supply company that primary sells cleaning agents and knows little about which ice melt to use when?
How would you like to buy your commercial ice melt from guys who started a company dedicated to commercial ice melt, guys that have experience pushing snow themselves?
At Snow and Ice Salt and Chemicals, Unlimited, you get the price you need and support from people who have experience doing your job. We always keep plenty of inventory in stock and during winter weather events, we keep the doors open and the lights on so you can keep serving your customers. We have several locations in Maryland and we ship to your location as well.
So if you need commercial ice melt or any other snow and ice removal products, give us a call or stop by today. We would be happy to serve your needs.
It is hard to think of winter in the Northeast without thinking of our friends: snow, ice, salt. Snow falls on a regular basis. Ice comes from ice storms or from melting snow. Salt follows the other two to keep us safe. The frustration for some people is, with other alternatives, why is spreading rock salt still the primary method for attacking snow and ice. We are glad you asked.
Rock Salt is “Dirt Cheap”
At about $50/ton for bulk rock salt for deicing, it is hard to come close to the cost of rock salt when it comes to fighting ice and snow. Some other products costs more than 10 times as much to produce compared to what it costs to mine and prepare rock salt for spreading. Don’t get us wrong, many contractors would be happy to spread the more environmentally friendly products, but their customers want the cheaper product. So in the end, it is the clients that say price is an important factor in which deicing product is chosen.
Brine Doesn’t “Cut-It”
Brine is great as a pre-treatment or on ice, but when you are dealing with a lot of snow, brine solutions and even some of the dry rock salt alternatives don’t seem to cut through the snow like a good spread of rock salt. When you have to load your salt spreader with one ingredient to work in the changing situations of a large winter weather event, rock salt continues to be a great, versatile product.
What About Rock Salt’s Bad Reputation?
Rock Salt gets a bad reputation not because it is evil, but usually because it is over-applied. Contractors that learn to apply the proper amount of salt save money, the environment, roadways, and the properties of clients when they use just the right amount of salt instead of going with the “more is better” theory. Rock Salt can be combined with other products to be less corrosive and to work in lower temperatures than it does when applied with no treatments. Leveraging the strengths of rock salt while adding the strengths of other products creates a real benefit where everyone can win.
SIMA has been doing a lot in the industry in order to help contractors know the best spreading methods to minimize use of deicing products, but also to explore how we can do even better in reducing any negative effects of rock salt. You can learn more about SIMA’s sustainable salt initiative here!
ComboTherm Calcium Chloride does an excellent job of quickly making snowy and icy areas accessible by generating heat even under severe winter weather conditions. It’s a great alternative to more expensive commercial products, and our clients that choose ComboTherm calcium chloride ice melt are consistently pleased with its ice melting power. Read More