In order to prevent anyone from being injured by slipping and falling on your sidewalks, some form of de-icer and/or ice melt is essential. There are many types available. Some are completely natural and found in your home; others are commercial products readily available online and at hardware stores and other retailers. However, many products, although they make sidewalks, driveways, and walkways safe, are harmful to the environment. Not only does this include animals and the living landscape, but also a home’s hardscape – the asphalt, brick, and concrete of the surrounding structures.

The truth about ice melts and other de-icers

The primary ingredient to melt ice is salt. The issue with salt is that it can be damaging to concrete. Sodium chloride, or rock salt, is the classic choice for de-icing. The reason people like it is because of the speed with which it works and its cost since rock salt is very affordable. This is the main factor as to why it has been used by public and private snow removal services for decades.

However, rock salt can also be harmful to the environment as it can pollute lakes and rivers. It also harms plant life, therefore damaging your soft landscape. In addition, rock salt releases the highest percentage of chloride into the environment. This can damage concrete sidewalks and it creates visible pockmarks.

If rock salt is not a good option, then what is? There are at least three other materials used in producing ice melts. They all have different effects on your hardscape.

  1. Calcium chloride: This ice melt is available in pellet forms. It is white and may cause irritation if it comes into contact with human skin and animal paws. One of the main benefits is that it is highly effective at very low temperatures (-50 degrees F). However, it can be damaging to landscapes and hardscapes. But don’t worry – it is less harmful than rock salt. The harmful effects of calcium chloride can be decreased if it is used in lower concentrations and less frequently. If you want to apply it to concrete or asphalt, do so in moderation.
  • Potassium chloride: This ice melt does not irritate the skin. Yet, while it does not damage soft scape, it can be hard on concrete. It also has other drawbacks. It is only effective at temperatures above 15 degrees F. It can also be an expensive choice.
  • Magnesium chloride: This is one of the latest de-icers/ice melts.  It is an effective ice melt at -13 degrees F. Magnesium chloride also releases significantly less into the environment that does either sodium chloride or calcium chloride. What is also behind its increase in popularity is it exhibits less harm to plants.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate: Of all the commercial ice melt products available on the market, this one has the least environmental impact. This applies to both soft and hardscape. CMA also has the capability of keeping ice from forming longer than other products.

When considering ice melts and deicers, always look at the ingredients. They tell you how much of the above materials are included in the contents. Remember that while magnesium chloride may be the better option, it is still not without its issues. To decrease the effects of ice melts, to prevent flaking and scaling of the masonry, and pockmarks on the driveway or sidewalks, use sparingly.

Making the right choice

When it comes time to choose the right ice melt for the task, do not emphasize price. While rock salt is the cheapest de-icer available, it is the most harmful to plants, animals, concrete, and asphalt. It is important to consider such factors as environmental impacts. This includes your hardscape. Does it seem reasonable to use a cheaper product only to have to spend time later making repairs on or replacing a driveway, sidewalk, steps, or walkways?

Always consider the impact the product you plan to use has on the surroundings. Follow instructions on the label. Dilute its negative effects by combining it with sand. A half-and-half solution can be very effective. If this seems too complicated, you can always leave it to the pros to handle. Use a third-party service such as the Edenapp through the Apple or Android app store, or find us at and hire an ice and snow removal agency, one that can de-ice your hardscape without harming it or any other part of the environment.