To Use Salt or Ice Melter, that is the Question…

19 Jan 2017

While it’s true that most of us rely on salt or ice melter in the winter to manage and prevent ice on driveways, steps, sidewalks and the like, very few of us understand the differences between the two. To begin to understand the difference, and to help ensure the effective use of each, let’s start by considering three simple questions which are easily remembered by using the “EAT” acronym (we couldn’t help ourselves given the time of year and the holiday meals still fresh in our mind/stomach):

  1. ENVIRONMENT – What’s the surface type and temperature?
  2. ANIMALS – Are there any animals that could be exposed to the product?
  3. TOTAL COST – How much do I want to spend?

ENVIRONMENT – Surface Type & Temperature
The surface type and external temperature are two significant factors when determining the product right for you. Most surfaces, however, will be susceptible to damage from salt, and to a lesser extent, ice melter. Surfaces susceptible to damage include concrete, asphalt, brick, stone … the list goes on. The one thing all these surfaces have in common is that they’re porous, which means they have small ‘pores’ which permit liquid such as a salt-water solution to enter. In salt’s case, because salt only works to prevent the formation of ice above -9.4 degrees Celsius, your driveway or walkway may continually freeze and de-thaw all winter long if exposed to temperatures which continually fluctuate below and above the -9.4 degrees Celsius threshold. This constant freezing and de-thawing increases the likelihood of damaging the surface, beginning with microscopic chips and cracks. On the other hand, ice melter is known to be a lot gentler to these surfaces and has a working temperature of -28.8 degrees Celsius. If your environment is one that is prone to excessively cold winters and one where the temperature regularly swings from freezing to mild to freezing again, ice melter is likely the product for you.

Animals – Potential Harm and Risks
Since simply not using salt or ice melter isn’t an option with our Canadian winters, it’s important to take extra preventative steps to ensure the safety of your pet this season. Both salt and ice melter can be harmful – even lethal – to animals once ingested, and can also be damaging to their paws. Remember to always clean off your pet’s paws after being outside in order to remove any salt or ice melter found in its paws and fur. Better still, you can buy your pet boots (or “booties” to some), a product which is now readily available at almost any pet store and which is relatively inexpensive and usually machine washable.

While outside, take great care to ensure your pet isn’t drinking from any melted snow or ice. Melted snow or ice can contain traces of salt or ice melter, which, as noted, can be harmful.

Perhaps the best option, though, to ensure the safety of your pet is to buy and use pet-friendly ice melter, which can be found at almost any retail store that sells regular salt or ice melter.

Total Cost – Because Everything Comes at a Cost
Generally speaking, salt is the cheaper option. Typically, a bag of salt which is approximately 50 lbs can be purchased for around $10. While ice melter isn’t too much more expensive, there are several different types (for instance, pet-friendly as noted earlier) and a number of different brands that cause the pricing to vary.

Whatever you decide to go with this season, be sure to carefully follow all directions and warning labels on the packaging – they’re there for a reason! If you are unsure about application, you can try to contact the manufacturer or, perhaps easier, you can try contacting your local salt or ice melter retailer – we at Peel would certainly be happy to answer all of your questions or to put you in contact with someone who can (1-888-290-1216).

Wishing everyone a warm a safe winter season!