How to Properly De-Ice Driveways

In these cold winter months, icy walkways and driveways can become a hazard, but did you know some methods of ice removal can cause long-term problems to your properties’ hard surfaces? Some properties develop moderate to severe surface deterioration at walkways and driveways. This can be caused by use of products applied to control/reduce icing in the winter.

To help prevent surface deterioration and other environmental and health issues, follow these commonly accepted guidelines:

  • Don’t apply de-icing products on concrete that is less than 6 months old
  • Sodium chloride (aka rock salt) can damage masonry, concrete and metal and is a surface waterway pollutant; rock salt causes damage to vegetation, landscaping, and is harmful to fish. This is the least environmentally friendly de-icing product.
  • Magnesium chloride melts ice down to – 13° F but creates an acid that severely corrodes metal when it gets wet; it is also reported to be very damaging to concrete.
  • Ammonium nitrate and/or ammonium sulfate should never be used due to the risk for severe damage to masonry/concrete
  • Calcium chloride can cause skin irritation if skin is moist at time of contact. In concentration, it can damage concrete.
  • Potassium chloride is not a skin irritant, nor does it harm vegetation, however, it only melts ice at temperatures above 15 °F unless combined with other chemicals.
  • Fertilizers sold as de-icers and traction agents should be avoided. If they contain nitrate and ammonium sulfate, that can cause rapid deterioration.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) works as a de- icer down to – 17° F, but becomes less effective below 20° F. CMA is environmentally benign and does not harm masonry or concrete (no more damaging than tap water). CMA is specified for de-icing concrete by many engineers. Its production cost of $650 per ton is much greater than the cost of road salt, however, some municipal studies show that reduced damage to surfaces and vehicles along with reduced volume of deicer required balances costs in favor of CMA. CMA also has a residual action which continues to inhibit ice formation after application.
  • Adding sand to de-icing products can increase coverage, improves traction, and reduces damage to surfaces.

Early application is the key to effective performance of all deicers, including CMA. At the beginning of a snow event, a heavier application of CMA may be appropriate depending on local conditions.

To reduce or prevent ice buildup, plan to clear walkways and driveways during a snowstorm, rather than waiting for the full accumulation, before beginning. Always use ergonomically designed snow shovels within your physical fitness limits.