Salt, IceMelt, and other De-Icing Agents

The following information was adapted from an article by KATU-2, the ABC affiliate in Portland, Oregon.

The late December and early January snowstorms prompted the wide-spread use of de-icing agents. A commonly used term for such agents is “Ice Melt” which actually denotes a family of chemical products. These products can be a quick fix for the perils of winter ice, but they also have a downside. Consumer Reports says there are plenty of reasons to take care with how much ice melt you use –– and exactly how you use it.

Regardless of brand, all ice melts are basically one of three compounds: sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, or calcium chloride. They work slightly differently but they’re all salts, which are highly corrosive and can cause considerable damage if not used carefully. For example, salt can seep into porous pavement, damaging walkways, driveways, and roadways. Plus, it can damage other things such as your car(s), your grass and plants, and your pet’s paws – to name just a few.

So, what is the best way to minimize potential damage? Start by using less. Mixing in an abrasive such as sand means you’ll use less salt without losing traction. Layering also helps. A thin layer before a storm and then another thin layer during the storm can be effective while using less overall.

Be cautious about ice melts that claim to be less damaging, environmentally friendly, or safe for pets. Many such products are coated, but once applied the coating will wear or wash off, and you’re left with just salt anyway. One way to mitigate the pet problem is to set up a “rinse tray” at your entrance, so that after a walk you can wash any salt from your pet’s paws.

Consumer Reports also says it’s equally important to scoop up the salt and dispose of it properly once the ice melts so it cannot continue to harm your property, your pets, or your ecosystem. This means that you should not leave the salty mush on your driveway or walkway. But do not scrape or wash it onto your lawn or into the gutters from which it will wash into the storm drains and ultimately into the ecosystem. Scrape it up and dispose of it properly.

BOTTOM LINE: We suggest that you avoid using these chemicals. If you must, please use them sparingly and clean up properly afterward.

Thanks for your attention to this matter.

/S/ MFHOA Board of Directors