SNOW and ICE MELTING MATERIALS – Characteristics and Uses

 ROCK SALT (Sodium Chloride)

  • Easy to use
  • Melts to 12 degrees F
  • Harsh on concrete and landscape plants
  • Inexpensive
  • Salt is a must for 2 reasons: it is inexpensive and it works
  • Major drawbacks include poor melting performance in cold weather and the sodium is deadly to plants
  • Good tractions ability


  • Widely used fertilizer
  • Melts to 20-25 degrees F
  • Safe on plant as a fertilizer
  • Little to no residue
  • High salt index
  • Economical melter
  • Can cause plant damage



  • Fast acting
  • Melts to -20 degrees F
  • Safer on concrete than calcium and potassium chloride
  • More expensive
  • Very similar to calcium chloride, but is only 48% active
  • When comparing magnesium chloride to calcium chloride, you need to double the amount for a cost comparison



  • Fertilizer
  • Melts only to 20-25 degrees F
  • Ok on concrete and landscape plants
  • Economical ice melter
  • Does not contain any plant harming chlorides
  • It can cause fertilizer burn to plants


  • Fastest acting ice melter
  • Melts to -25 to 30 degrees F
  • Safe on concrete
  • More expensive than most ice melters
  • Attracts moisture from the atmosphere
  • When it turns into a solution it give off heat
  • Can leave an oily residue


  • Ice melter that does not attack rebar
  • 4 to 5 times the cost of calcium chloride
  • Less harmful to concrete and vegetation
  • Creates a bond between the surface and elements to protect against corrosion
  • More expensive than most ice melters
  • Minimizes tracking no floors
  • This product does not melt, but turns the snow into an oatmeal texture
  • OK product for driven area, but not sidewalks
  • Does not have the melting power of salt


  • Much better ice melter than CMA
  • Mets to -15 degrees F
  • Can be used as a pre or post application
  • Major drawback is the cost (4 to 5 times the cost of calcium chloride)
  • Available in liquid form only


 Various ice melters have significantly different performance levels, but they all work in much the same way.  NO ice melter is capable of melting snow and ice in its solid state.  Ice melters must first come into contact with sufficient moisture to dissolve and form brine.  The brine lowers the freezing point of water and melts ice and snow on contact.

 To be effective, ice melters must melt their way downward through the snow or ice until they reach the pavement.  There the accumulating brine fans out, breaking the bond between the surface and the ice.  Once sufficient undercutting has occurred, the remaining snow and ice can be removed easily by mechanical means.


Improved performance can be obtained by combining ice melters to produce a blend product.  By adding calcium chloride or some other product to salt increases its ability to work at lower temperatures.  The other product will help the salt dissolve into brine, which improves it melting temperature and ability. 

From Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA)

Print Friendly
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks