There are 4 common types of ice melt available to consumers. These are potassium chloride, rock salt, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride. Each of them has their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at what sets them apart, and why there are so many types in the first place.
Sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt or rock salt, is the most widely used ice melt chemical. It’s also fairly cheap and easy to transport. Have you ever seen one of those hanger sized garages filled to the top with salt? Unfortunately, your precious table salt has a litany of dangerous side effects. It corrodes metal, damages surfaces like concrete and asphalt, leaches into soil killing plants, can be deadly to pets, and alters the composition of groundwater rendering it undrinkable.
Magnesium chloride and Calcium chloride are very similar. Calcium chloride is unique because it actually gives off heat as it melts, which makes it work fast. Magnesium chloride doesn’t act like this, but it does work faster than salt does. Neither one is very bad for the environment in low amounts. Likewise, they both can rust metal and damage tile and carpet.
Potassium chloride contains one of the three nutrients needed for plant growth. Yes, we’re talking about potassium (phosphorous and nitrogen are the other two but that’s a topic for another blog). Potassium is commonly found in fertilizer, so depending on your soil composition this can feed plants while it melts ice! It’s also safer than rock salt for animals that may come in contact with it. High levels of potassium can cause kidney problems in animals. If that’s an issue for your pet, be careful.
Potassium acetate is less harmful than standard rock salt in two ways. First, it easily biodegrades. This means it poses less long-term harm to your property and the environment. Since its also non-corrosive it is good for buildings and properties with exposed steel structures. Although it poses little threat on land, in water it reduces dissolved oxygen which can harm small bodies of water.
There are many other chemicals used, but these few represent the most common ones consumers come in contact with. DeCarlo Landscaping uses the best ice melt for the job depending on several factors listed above. Whichever we use, we make sure that as much ice risk is mitigated as possible.