Driveways, walkways, and porches can get slippery during the winter. Learn how to use ice melt to get rid of icy surfaces. When winter weather hits, the temperatures drop, rain turns to snow, and ice forms wherever there is standing water. To get through the colder months without injury, staying on top of home maintenance tasks, like shoveling the driveway or using ice melt to remedy slippery surfaces leading up to the home, is essential.
To help prevent this, homeowners should keep the walkways clear and use a small amount of ice melt to stop ice from forming. Use this guide to learn more about ice melt, how it works, and how to use it to clear your home’s walkways safely.
What Is Ice Melt and How Does It Work?
Ice melt is essentially a type of chemical compound designed to melt ice. This can be accomplished in two ways: By lowering the freezing point of water, causing it to melt at a lower temperature, or by absorbing the sun’s heat and using it to melt ice into a liquid brine. The ice melt method depends on whether the chemical composition is intended for an exothermic or endothermic reaction.
Ice melt products typically contain sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, or urea. As long as ice melt is used correctly and safely, it is an effective solution for melting icy surfaces. However, if this product is not used correctly, it could damage nearby vegetation, seep into the local groundwater, or put kids and pets at risk. Make sure to read and follow the directions provided by the manufacturer to ensure you use the product correctly.
Types of Ice Melt
There are several types of ice melt, which can be differentiated based on the type of chemical reaction and the ice melt’s form. Standard options include pellets, flakes, liquids, and exothermic and endothermic ice melts.
- Pellets are among the most popular ice melt forms because they are easy to apply over a broad area with a lawn fertilizer spreader or a simple scoop.
- Flakes are similar to pellets in that they are easy to apply but smaller and don’t generally increase traction on the icy surface.
- Liquids typically come in a ready-to-use spray bottle, allowing homeowners to spray the icy surface. This method of deicing the walkway doesn’t increase traction on the ice, but it does spread quickly over the affected area to melt the ice rapidly.
- Exothermic ice melt products work faster and more effectively at a broader range of temperatures than endothermic deicers. This type of ice melt lowers the freezing point of water, causing the ice to melt at lower temperatures.
- Endothermic ice melt products are better for mild winter conditions because they rely on the heat from the sun to melt the surrounding ice. The ice melt pellets or flakes absorb the sun’s heat, then release the heat to melt the nearby ice.
Before using an ice melt product to get rid of the ice around the home, it’s essential to understand the potential risks to the home, pets, and kids. Ice melt products are unsafe for ingestion, so storing them safely away from kids and pets is necessary. When walking pets, try to keep them away from areas treated with ice melt.
If pets encounter ice melts, it can get embedded in their paws, causing mild pain and irritation. When pets attempt to lick away the ice melt, they can ingest this chemical compound, leading to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Similar symptoms can be seen in children who have consumed small amounts of ice melt products. If you believe someone in the household has swallowed ice melt, contact the Poison Control Center immediately.
Additionally, ice melt products may get tracked into the home, where they can make indoor surfaces dangerously slippery and cause damage to the floors. At least one thick mat at the door is recommended for residents and guests to wipe their feet before entering. Homeowners with pets may also want a simple rinse basin near the door so that they can rinse off pets’ feet before entering the home.
How to Use Ice Melt
Using ice melt to clear the home’s walkways safely is relatively easy, but preparing the area before applying the ice melt product is essential. Additionally, the homeowner or DIYer should wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, a long shirt, and gloves to ensure their safety while they work.
- Start shoveling the area to remove any snow or ice from the surface. This will improve the effectiveness of the ice melt.
- Check the directions provided by the manufacturer to find the correct amount of ice melts necessary per application.
- Measure out the ice melt product, then sprinkle pellets or flakes evenly across the icy surface to melt the ice. If you are using a liquid ice melt product, spray the icy surface to apply an even coat of ice melt.
- Wait for the ice to melt, then use a shovel to remove slush, water, and loose bits of ice. It will typically take several hours for the ice melts to work, and it may even need to sit overnight before the icy surface can be cleared.
For the best results, apply ice melt before it snows. After snowfall, shovel the driveway and walkways, then reapply a thin layer of ice melt to prevent ice from forming. Use a broad shovel or a broom to remove slush and standing water.
Ice melt products aren’t just a hazard for people and pets. These chemical compounds can also burn the vegetation beneath or around where the product is applied. Excessive use of ice melt products can even contribute to long-lasting environmental damage when the runoff from the ice melt flows down through the soil and into the local groundwater.
Before purchasing ice melt, consider investing in products designed to reduce the environmental impact while effectively melting icy surfaces. Regardless of the product, be sure to read and follow the directions provided by the manufacturer to determine the proper way to apply the ice melt and the correct amount to use on your outdoor surfaces.