2014 Winter is here and so is the snow. Tis the season for frozen fingers and hours of back breaking shoveling. Which is why most of us revert to spreading salt. But how many of us out there realize how damaging this quick solution can be to our sidewalks, driveways and landscape?
Yes, its true- this truly time saving chemical may actually be doing us more harm than good. The chemicals in the salt weakens the integrity of the masonry and jeopardizes the vegetation in our yards by seeping into our soil.
But its not all bad. Lets review our salt options:
There are actually a few different types of common spreading salts.
Sodium Chloride or “Rock Salt” : Rock salt is the most commonly used deicer-mostly because of how inexpensive it is and simply put, it melts snow. What many do not know is rock salt releases the highest amount of chloride as it dissolves. The harmful chemical can damage any metal or concrete it comes in contact with, such as your sidewalks or railings. This product should be avoided
Calcium Chloride: This product can be identified by the form its in. It comes in tiny round pellets and is known in some cases to damage concrete when in concentrated clusters. This product can also be harmful to your pets and other animals.A step up from Rock salt but if possible, should also be avoided.
Potassium Chloride: It’s a good choice when used at temperatures above 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit but if mixed with other chemicals, seems to be effective at lower temperatures. It is less corrosive than other salts as well. Although relatively safe, this product can cause damage to plants if over-applied.
Magnesium Chloride: It’s de-icing abilities seem to continue well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. This product isn’t as dusty as some of the other products leaving fewer health risks for people and animals. Although over-applying may cause harm to nearby water supplies, it’s the safer alternative when it comes to your homes vegetation, metal or concrete. However, the benefits from this product doesn’t come without a heftier price tag.
If you have fresh concrete sidewalks aging less that 6 months, stay away from ANY of these products. The chemicals can break down even the most durable masonry products that haven’t had enough time to cure. In this case, shovel as much as you can from the walks and instead of salt, think of using sand for increased traction.
Bottom line is de-icing salts, if used properly, can be a back saver. If not, down the road you may come across bigger problems with your concrete walks than snow.