Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Chris Gass
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

The great winter battle: salt v. ice


November 28, 2019

Brrrrr…. We are jumping right into early winter I guess. Forget the rest of fall and let’s welcome the gusty artic chill right on in. If you were lagging behind on your prep for the season change, unlike the very fat squirrels, well now you’re likely operating on full blast (just like the heat in your car). Welcome the rotation of the dresser, giving fresh air to the currently stuffy and creased winter wear stored away last spring. Welcome back to the routine of warming up the car. Welcome back scraping the windshield. And welcome back the threat of ice on the sidewalk…

Although maybe not on everyone’s minds, when the weather brings on the freeze, I often consider ice buildup on the roads and pavement. I imagine there are others like me and even some in turn who are proactive enough to buy a bag or two of winter de-icing compound well ahead of snow flying, ready to have it on hand for when the situation arises. However, how many of us know what de-icing substance is suitable in what conditions? I’ve taken the time to review what to use when, making a sort of buyers guide. Keep this in mind if you apply de-icing materials during winter.

• Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) – melting point to 20°F and offers less damage to metals along with your yard and vegetation. Although, tough on concrete.

• Sodium Chloride (NaCl) (rock salt) – The same stuff you put on your meals at the dinner table. This cheap compound is suitable for melting ice down to temps of 15°F. As temperatures dip, it takes a little longer for the reaction to happen so be patient. More salt will not make it go faster.

• Magnesium Chloride (MgCl) – Similar properties as rock salt but preforms to lower temps reaching -10°F at max melting tolerance. Just as corrosive and damaging as we know rock salt to be.

• Potassium Acetate (KAc) – melting point to -15°F while offering lower impact to your pavement and yard much like CMA above.

• Calcium Chloride (CaCl) – offers the lowest melting tolerance of -20°F but with all the same high impact that the chloride (salt) group of compounds have in corrosion and harm to vegetation and soil.

• Sand and Abrasives – Does not melt ice but instead provides traction. Works at all temps but needs to be on top of the snow or ice so keep this in mind when we cycle between freezes and thaws. This is a good alternative to throwing out salt especially when it’s really cold. Collecting it in spring minimizes harm to our waterways too!

With all the products available, know what you buy. Look at the label to see what is in each bag. Some might offer blends while others just one compound. Don’t fall for advertised claims as none of these products are “environmentally friendly” or “work faster” than the rest. If you use any compound within its temperature tolerance (keeping 3 inches of spacing between each grain) and wait a few minutes, you’ll see the results you’re after. Keep this in mind as you prep for the change of season.


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