What is the best ice melt chemical to prevent spalling?

spalling concrete

It’s not uncommon in the mid-Atlantic region to have snowstorm after snowstorm all winter long, along with sub-freezing temperatures throughout the entire winter. These are ideal conditions for spalling from ice melt when professionals aren’t involved. First, the roads get wet, then they get iced over, and all we can focus on is snow & ice management strategies and the fastest way to do deicing. That means we head over to whatever ice melt chemicals supplier around and buy the first things in front of us. Yet rock salt, road salt, bulk salt, and ice melt are all different types of composition and not always the best option for specific surfaces.

What is spalling?

First, let’s take a look at what spalling is and why it’s something we want to prevent. Spalling is just a fancy way of stating that something is peeling off, and in this area, we’re talking about concrete spalling. Whether it’s the sidewalk of a business or municipality, or the highway that you take to work every day, no one wants concrete surfaces to be spalling, peeling, or falling apart in any way.

When spalling occurs, the road will start to look pitted or like has very small holes across it, degrading the composition of the road and thus eventually causing permanent damage that needs to be reviewed and repaired. Eventually, spalling can cause much larger holes and cracks. One factor that causes spalling is when certain types of ice melt are overused or improperly used, then they start to get into the pores and cracks of the concrete already there to break down the concrete further.

Once in there, the chemicals begin to cause even more spalling and really start to break down concrete causing larger cracks and potholes. The surface weaknesses caused by spalling are exasperated by heavy vehicles breaking up the concrete quickly.

Which ice melt chemicals reduce the risk of spalling?

There are a few ice melt options available that are less corrosive to concrete, but when it comes to using ice melt chemicals, first, it’s essential to know that less is more. It’s not about covering the ground with rock salt but placing and dispersing only enough ice melt chemicals that the snow and ice meltdown completely into water.

Here is a breakdown of the most common ice melt products and their specs:

Calcium Chloride Ice Melt

Calcium chloride may be the most common ice melt product used today. It is utilized by snow contractors when the temperatures are below freezing, as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. This product is tough, fast-acting, and gets the job done.

It’s one of the best products out there because it works fast, sometimes as quickly as 20 minutes in, to really work on melting that snow and it is also mixed to make a liquid brine deicer. Calcium chloride is a reliable, fast-acting ice melt product commonly used to make roads and hard surfaces safe.

But what about the concrete spalling? Well, that’s the best part. It is a harsher ice melt chemical than others on the list, but it’s also the one you end up using sparingly.

As long as you’re dispensing Calcium Chloride with the appropriate snow removal tools, then you’ll be able to melt away the snow and ice and also have the calcium chloride disappear along with it, instead of falling in between the cracks to cause spalling.

Calcium chloride from SISCU comes in pellets (Peladow), flakes (Dowflake), and blended (ComboTherm).

Magnesium Chloride Ice Melt

This is the preferred option to consider when you want to have a top-quality ice melt chemicals product while at the same time knowing you won’t cause any spalling.

As a supplier for municipalities and government facilities, we know that getting work orders to repair the broken sidewalks due to spalling can take time, so that’s why you should go ahead and get Magnesium Chloride. It’s up to 26 times safer than most other ice melt chemicals, especially the standard ones such as rock salt, road salt, and bulk salt.

Magnesium chloride is a less harsh acting product than Calcium Chloride and actually even less dangerous than common table salt. This makes it not only ideal in locations that may be prone to concrete spalling but also on unfinished roads and vegetation.

Not that you should feed it to your dog, but this is also less toxic to dogs and other animals than some of the stronger options used for major roadways and highways.

Remember that it’s not always possible to use Magnesium Chloride as your ice melt chemical of choice. Although it’s one of the best options for extremely cold temperatures, it will start to lose its effectiveness if it gets too cold, around 13 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

That means that Magnesium Chloride should be the best option until the mid-Atlantic weather forces you to use something even stronger, which would be Calcium Chloride.

Magnesium chloride from SISCU is available in pellets and flakes.

Other spalling concrete issues to consider

Keep in mind, as your local Calcium Chloride supplier and Magnesium Chloride supplier, as well as many ice melt chemicals, we recommend not always rushing when it comes to choosing your ice melt products.

Yes, we want to make those roadways safe, but we also want to make sure after the snow is gone, we can still use those roads and sidewalks without always having to do extensive repairs or cause traffic issues due to road construction.

Always have that strategy and understand the major differences between your arsenal of ice melt chemicals. As a responsible snow and ice management contractor, you need to consider the long-term effects of your business and be environmentally conscious. It’s not just about throwing anything but prepping everything, such as using liquid brine before a storm hits as a way to prep the roads and walkways to help melt the ice faster and cause more minor damage in the long run.

In the end, make sure always to have ample supplies of Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride, not only because of them being stronger options for locations that are susceptible to spalling but also because they’re going to be your only options if the weather ends up getting that cold.

If you have any questions about the corrosiveness of specific ice melt products, please don’t hesitiate to contact our team by filling out the quick form below.


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