Living in an environment where the harsh winter climate impacts our day to day lives, de-icing agents play a crucial role. They are the saving grace to our commute. Commercial and residential properties use de-icing agents to prevent the winter elements from creating icy surfaces and assisting with snow removal. De-icing salt is commonly used; however, many other agents and a bit of science behind the compounds. De-icing agents are not all equal. Some have additives, some are more chemical-based, and some are a combination of ingredients. All perform the same task, which leads us to wonder about the differences between them and what is best to use for different surfaces.
Salt or the technical term sodium chloride comes in a variety of forms. The types include sea salt, rock salt, and vacuum salt. The main difference between all three is the mining process. Road salt (rock salt), the kind we see on our paved surfaces, can be a combination of minerals such as sodium chloride, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The are many pros of using de-icing salt. De-icing salt is readily available. It is rare to experience a shortage of supply. De-icing salt is cost-effective and can be found at your local landscape supply retailer. When buying in bulk, salt can be easily stored until the next winter season. Lastly, it is safe to use not only for handling the salt; it is also safe for the environment. The amount used is dependent upon the amount of ice and expected snowfall.
When salt is not enough, sand is also an option. The sand on its own is not necessarily for melting snow/ice, more so for creating traction. Sand is usually mixed with salt to prevent the sand from caking the machinery and assisting the icy conditions.
Other de-icing agents include calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, a combination of the two (calcium chloride and magnesium chloride).
Calcium chloride- melts ice and snow quicker in comparison to other agents. Calcium chloride produces heat, which makes it practical for melting and forming brine on contact. Best used in -30 degree weather.
Magnesium Chloride is mainly used as a pre-wetting agent to speed the performance of road salt. It is a more concentrated agent; therefore, the amount used is not as much. Magnesium chloride is best for entrances and walkways. Tracking salt into your home or into a building is not ideal. However, magnesium chloride has corrosive capabilities. Magnesium chloride is commonly used in combination with other de-icing agents. Potassium chloride is also an alternative; however, along with magnesium chloride is costly. Salt and sand with a few extra safe additives (calcium chloride) are the best to use.
Jill McIntosh wrote an article in 2016 explaining how Toronto has used vegetable juice made from beet sugar mixed with salt to help with icy conditions. Who knew!
When choosing a de-icing agent, keep in mind the five key components: effectiveness, usability, availability, safety, and environment friendly. Ask landscaping professionals at FSI Landscape Supply to guide you for all your de-icing needs.