What are the correct application rates for the different types of ice melt products? This question is very common among first time users of ice melting products each winter season. This article gives the specific recommended application rates for ice melt products consisting of the commonly used salts. In addition, the article explains in greater detail the best application practices.
Some ice melting products provide the recommended application rates on the box/bag, so this would be the first place to look for the ice melt product that will be used. If a user has yet to purchase a product, contacting a potential vendor would be the next best approach to get the recommended application rates. The writer of this article has received many such phone calls and emails, which is why this article is being published:
There are five salts and two non-salts most commonly used to melt ice and snow. The salts are calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). The non-salts are urea and glycol. The writer of this article has published many articles describing in detail the advantages/disadvantages of the different salts/non-salts. You may want to Google the word “ice melt products” along with the author’s name to learn more.
For products primarily containing calcium chloride and magnesium chloride such as the brand names “Excel” and “Road Runner”, respectively, it is recommended to use 2 – 4 ounces per square yard. For the more economical blended products using both sodium chloride and magnesium chloride, such as the brand names “Green Scapes” and “Traction Melt”, it is recommended to use 4 – 5 ounces per square yard. For rock salt which is 100% uncoated sodium chloride, it is recommended to use 6 – 7 ounces per square yard. CMA is an expensive organic salt used primarily at airports. Liquid CMA is replacing glycol as the product of choice for de-icing airplanes because it is better for the environment. Many ice melting blends use small amounts of CMA to coat the salt crystals. The use of CMA coatings does not change the recommended application rates.
For ice melting products which primarily contain urea and/or potassium chloride, the recommended application rates vary considerably and are often based more on marketing than real world experiences. These products can easily be over applied in an effort to melt the ice since they have a +25 F “effective melting temperature” meaning the solution will become re-frozen when the air temperatures drop below +25 F. Over applications of urea and potassium chloride products are known to cause fish kill in our water ways.
It is very important to note that the above recommended application rates are best used for planning purposes to estimate the user’s costs for an overall job. When it comes to the actual application of the ice melt product, the user needs to also consider the following best practices.
- Apply the product before large snow storms arrive. Ice melt products work best when used only to break the bond of the ice/snow with pavement. This allows easy and thorough removal with shovel/plows. Many, if not all, of the product benefits will be wasted if applied on top of several inches of snow. If the large snow storm is missed, shovel/plow first and then apply the ice melting product.
- Apply the product using an adjustable rate spreader instead of just tossing it around by hand or shovel. Avoid overlapping large areas since as the product goes into solution it will expand the coverage area.
- Apply the product according to severity of each storm. If freezing rain will fall prior to the snow arriving, the upper end of application range will be necessary. This is why the recommended application rates are listed with a range low to high.
- Apply the product that will be most economical yet effective for the weather forecast. Rock salt solutions will become re-frozen when the temperature drops below +25 F overnight. Know the “Effective Melting Temperature” of the products you apply. Examples by brand name: “Excel” is minus 25 F, “Roadrunner” is minus 15 F, “Green Scapes” is minus 10 F and “Traction Melt” is 0 degree F.
“Be aware of vegetation” is the final comment that applies to recommended application rates. Higher than needed application rates and spreading the salts too close to vegetation will risk damage or loss of vegetation. This includes an awareness of the salt solution run off and the location where the large piles of snow are plowed. Repetitive plowing ice/snow off pavement to the same location will also result in accumulating a large amount of salt in the soil.