What you need to know before purchasing winter salt or ice melter

It’s winter. And with it comes snow and ice. Which I happen to like because it helps recharge my home, the aquifer.

But I understand for you, snow and ice can bring its own challenges. Along with the shovel, ice chopper and sand, salt is a tool you might reach for.

If you’ve ever purchased salt or another de-icing product, I’m sure you have discovered there isn’t just one cure-all, but several products that promise different things. And if you want to help protect the environment, product labels can be confusing.

Many different ice melting products available to purchase.

Did you know currently there are no labelling laws when it comes to de-icers? The product might say environmentally friendly, 100 per cent natural, or salt free. But is it?

Salt and most ice melting products contain chloride but how much? And it is the chloride that is damaging to me, groundwater – your drinking water.

So what to do? Before reaching for any product, read the Region of Waterloo’s snow and ice clearing tips.

Reading the labels of the different brands is important. Some products are more corrosive, whereas others are specifically designed to be safe around pets. Some products have finer grains to allow for a more even spread so it works faster and is more effective. The working temperature for these products can also vary making it crucial to follow package directions carefully.

Here’s a list of common active ingredients and the lowest melting temperature they are most effective. Keep in mind the melting temperature is for the pavement temperature and not the air temperature.

  • Urea (NH2)2CO : 0 to -7 Celsius
  • Sodium Chloride (NaCl) : 0 to -10 Celsius
  • Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2) : 0 to -23 Celsius
  • Potassium Acetate (KCH3COO) : 0 to -26 Celsius
  • Calcium Chloride (CaCl2) : 0 to -29 Celsius
  • Sand : provides traction but does not melt ice

What to consider when buying your ice melter:

  • Read the product packaging to understand what temperature your product works best
  • The finer the grain the better – it will work faster and spread more evenly
  • Whatever product you buy remember to use it sparingly to limit its damaging impact on me, groundwater
  • When using traction sand, look for a product with little – less than 5 per cent – or no salt

Make sure to read the product instructions for your salt or ice melter carefully. Using too much salt, or using it when the product doesn’t work at all, will not only waste your salt and money, it will also negatively impact me, plant life and infrastructure.

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