ice melt

Ice Melt and Your Yard

“Will ice melt hurt my yard?”

We get this question frequently around this time of year, and we want to weigh-in here on the blog.

First, let’s explain: Ice melts, rock salts and road salts are all basically the same thing – they melt ice and snow by lowering the freezing temperature of water. The difference between these products is that they are made of different things.

The most commonly used product is rock salt (sodium chloride), but there is also urea (pure nitrogen fertilizer), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium chloride – and these all range in operating temperatures from 25 degrees down to -20 degrees.

Let’s use rock salt as an example to see the impact on your yard. Rock salt’s direct effect on the environment is altering the soil pH level, which makes it more difficult for plants to obtain the nutrients needed to survive and be healthy. In extreme cases it can kill a tree, but most commonly it kills grass, and the only way to get the grass back is a soil amendment by adjusting the pH level fallowed by overseeding.

Not only can these products hurt your yard, they aren’t good for concrete.

Think of your concrete as a hard sponge. This hard sponge absorbs water, and when it freezes it expands creating micro cracks, or fractures, in the concrete. By introducing an ice melt product or salt, melting the ice, you speed up the process by thawing and freezing repeatedly. Each time this happens these cracks get bigger and eventually the top layer of concrete starts popping off.

Some products can even create chemical reactions, including magnesium chloride or potassium chloride.

The main issue with any of these products is that you’re prematurely aging the surface of the concrete. Expensive concrete jobs, like stamping, will want to steer clear of all of this.

Across the board we’re not a fan of these methods. They aren’t good for the environment and should stay away from soil and out of waterways as much as possible. The only way that can happen is by lowering the use of them.

Our alternative method to salting or ice melting is shoveling snow before it freezes and using sand for traction, or finer, crushed rock for extreme cases like steep driveways. This is safest for the environment and surrounding wildlife.

Now that we’ve established our stance on the topic, there are areas where salts or ice melts are needed, including high traffic public areas like post offices, banks, and hospitals.

If you decide you need to use any of these, Hart Property Maintenance recommends:

  • Use the product sparingly.
  • After the storm passes make sure to clean up any granules leftover; sweep or blow into a pile and get it in a garbage can.
  • Don’t let the product seep into the ground or water system.
  • Read the instructions – application rates vary depending on the product you choose
  • If you’re going to take a pet outside where they are using a product like this, or if you use one of these, clean the animal’s paws when you come back and never let them drink from puddles around these products.

And now it’s your turn – what do you think of ice melts or rock salts? Have you noticed them impacting your yard? Share your experience in the comments below!