Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Still Trying to Get Rid of the Ice?

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Our day time temperatures have been warm enough recently that ice and snow are starting to melt off driveways and sidewalks.  However, if your house, like mine, has a north facing driveway, there is still a thick layer of ice that won’t come off without much more time and heat.  So, if you want to get that ice off quicker, what are your options? 

According to Extension sources, careless use of deicing products can damage both the home and the environment.  For example, overuse of some deicers can accelerate the freeze-and-thaw cycles that damage concrete, taking years off the life of a sidewalk or driveway.  Some deicers corrode metal, causing damage to cars and aluminum siding.  Chemicals in many deicers can damage plants and shrubs near where the deicer is used if applied in large quantities.  To prevent damage to your home and the environment, choose a deicer carefully.  Damage to yard plants and trees can be manifested later as poor or stunted growth in the spring which commonly occurs with grass next to walks, driveways, and streets; dieback on evergreens; and marginal leaf browning or leaf scorch on deciduous trees and shrubs.
The best deicer for landscapes that is readily available to homeowners is calcium chloride.  It works at lower temperatures than other products and won’t harm plants, if excessive amounts are not applied.  Calcium chloride has a low temperature threshold, working to -25 degrees F.  It generates its own heat as it is mixing with water and dividing into calcium and chloride, so it can be effective at lower temperatures.

Excessive amounts of deicers on driveways can harm more plants and
 your driveway.  Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin Extension.
Sodium chloride, commonly known as rock salt, is sometimes mixed with sand or other materials.  It is the most widely available and often the least expensive.  Sodium chloride is only effective at melting ice when temperatures are 12 degrees F or higher.  When temperatures get lower than that sodium chloride products will not be able to do the job.
Magnesium chloride products are effective to 5 degrees F, while potassium chloride salts are the least effective, melting only to 20 degrees F.  Regardless of the product, use just enough deicer to get the job done because all of the chloride-based products can be toxic to plants and animals.

If you need to remove thin layers of ice on small areas such as the house steps consider a couple possible ideas such as applying warm water mixed with table salt, water conditioner salt, or the brine backwash from a water conditioner.  Alternatively, use sand, ashes, or kitty litter to improve traction on icy areas.  These don’t necessarily remove the ice but they will make it easier and safer to walk on.

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