A Safer Ice Melt

In the liquid versus salt showdown, which is the best option?

Ice Melt Photo 1
Theresa Smith

Preparing for winter weather can prove to be a real challenge without the right products and techniques. Finding an option that works best for the situation is the ticket to a safer and more profitable winter. Below, find the key differences between liquid de-icer versus traditional salt products to help decide which option to go for.Liquid SpreaderKaren Hartung

Liquid De-icer

In the last couple of years, there has been an influx of people turning to a liquid de-icer when inclement weather rolls around. Liquid de-icer, although newer to the scene, is proving to have strong melting powers while also improving sustainability. The primary purpose of a liquid de-icer is to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the surface, making it easier to remove. Liquid de-icer often sticks to roads and pavement more so than rock salt, which ultimately results in less bounce and scatter, making for a more precise application.

While many facilities use rock salt de-icer, it’s important to note a liquid agent is less likely to track chalky white residue into your business or home. Using a liquid de-icer is recommended for people who experience a harsher winter because it can work effectively down to about -25 degrees F (depending on the solution), whereas a salt de-icer won’t start working until it’s about 14 degrees F to 18 degrees F. Additionally, there is less waste when the agent is being applied. The liquid de-icer dries to the surface and won’t blow away or scatter with the passing of traffic.

Although liquid de-icers offer many benefits, there are some tradeoffs:

  • Compared to a granule de-icer, liquid agents do not work nearly as quickly and should primarily be used as a preventive anti-icing product versus a de-icing product.
  • The timing of application because if applied too soon before a snowfall, you run the risk of the product being worn or washed away.
  • Liquid dei-cers require skilled drivers and expensive equipment that must be maintained. If it breaks down during an application, it’s not as easily replaced or repaired as a salt spreader.  Be prepared to have a more difficult time finding liquid de-icer and paying more as it has a higher price point than traditional rock salt.

Salt De-icerIce Melt Photo5Theresa Smith

Salt de-icing agents are what most people are familiar with when it comes to treating inclement weather. Its ease of application and effectiveness in breaking down thick layers of ice and snow often make it the No. 1 choice for homeowners and businesses alike. Salting roadways, parking lots and walkways plays a huge part in building maintenance by reducing accidents. This saves the property managers from liability on slip and fall accidents because of its fast-acting nature and ground coverage.

Another benefit to using a granular salt product is its ability to be used prior to and after a storm. Sodium chloride can be mixed with other ice melting agents to get lower melting temperatures, and many offer enhanced performance characteristics to initiate melting at lower temperatures, making them more effective than traditional rock salt. Angular pellets can stay where they are applied versus round pellets which will roll and have less control. Among the other benefits of using a rock salt or blended product, it can be stored in a noncorrosive container in mild to low humidity when not being used, allowing you to keep it after the season ends.

Of course, nothing is perfect, so here are a few downsides to using a salt de-icer this winter:

  • Salt isn’t always the cleanest when it comes to application and can oftentimes hit cars and leave a white residue on vehicles.
  • When being applied, salt de-icers tend to bounce and scatter, making it hard to apply before a storm as cars will displace it before accumulation even starts. Rock salt cakes and is easily tracked onto flooring and degrades wax finishes, leaving floors dull and depositing a white film that requires cleaning.
  • Salt inventories can go quickly when an early winter occurs. Low availability can increase prices so if you notice it’s becoming hard to find, expect to pay a premium.
  • The effect that salt has on pavement and other materials: Salt is corrosive and can cause damage to concrete, plants and vegetation if not applied correctly.  

When preparing for the onslaught of wintry weather, it’s wise to prepare yourself for any and all conditions. Using a liquid de-icer should generally remain as a preemptive attack on snow and ice to ensure that the bases of surfaces stay protected and are less likely to become slick and icy. Liquid de-icers can quickly cover a large amount of surface area in a short amount of time. Granular ice melts can break down thicker layers of snow and ice before, during and after a winter storm.

If you’re thinking about which option is best, it’s likely that using a combination of both is the answer. When paired together, liquid and salt de-icers form a powerhouse team to combat the snow and ice,  ensuring everyone stays safe. Using liquid de-icers as a preventive measure followed by a solid ice melt will help tackle the already established sheets of ice and compacted snow, ensuring walkways remain clear. It’s also important to keep in mind what kind of product you’re purchasing and whether it is safe for pets too. Communication and education are key.

Both liquid and solid de-icers have benefits and drawbacks to maintaining safe sidewalks, streets and roadways this winter. Regardless of what type of ice melt works best for your situation, when Mother Nature calls, the best defense is having a solid snow and ice melting plan in place.