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

By Chris Gass
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Ice is here: choose your salt carefully

The Green Guy


December 12, 2019

Well, I guess we’ll jump right into the February season with all this snow dumped on us. Talk about dramatic weather sweeping through. Hopefully everyone’s snowblowers were ready to tackle the job or the cache of shovels were easy to dig out when duty called. I’m sure there are some, like me, who are pondering where the next snow can be piled up in their yard and off their driveways.

Speaking of which, though maybe not on everyone’s minds, when weather like that visits, I’m often considering the threat of ice and what I should use to tackle it. Now, I’m partial to a light spread of sand or grit to give traction and not worry about melting anything away, but that’s not to say that’s the best route in all situations. In turn, I wanted to shed a little light on the options out there for dealing with ice on your pavement and provide a sort of buyer’s guide. Hence, when looking for your next bag of sidewalk salt, use this list to help in the choice.

• 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. As all compounds for melting ice damage our water resources, and 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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