First Snow, and Proper De-icing

Happy First Snow day of 2012! I cannot believe that we have made it all the way to January 13 before we had our first measurable snowfall this winter.  In honor of this snowfall I thought I would give some pointers on de-icing.

In the case of de-icing your driveway and sidewalks, not all products are recommended for each surface type or personal needs. Below I have broken down some of the most frequent types of de-icing products and safe surfaces for application.
Quick Tips:
  • More is not better. No matter what you use make sure you use the correct amount. Even safe products for surface types can cause damage to the surface or surround plants.
  • If you hire someone to de-ice your home please check what product they are using . Just because they have a snowplow on their truck does not mean they know what they are doing or care about the effect on your plants.


Product: Rock Salt
Safe Surfaces: Asphalt

This is the most commonly used product for de-icing because of its cost and quick melting properties.  This can be applied both before and after ice and is typically used on Highways and roads. However, this is also one of the most environmentally damaging products you can use.  Rock salt can kill evergreens or other plants around your drive and walkways. Rock Salt will stay on your driveway and grass until it leaches through the soil (and then into streams, etc). Also, Rock Salt can cause damage to interior surfaces such as hardwood and natural stone.
Key Takeaway – Use as last resort.

Product: Calcium Chloride or Magnesium Chloride (my recommendation).
Safe Surfaces: Pavers (Brick), Concrete, and Asphalt.
Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride are both safer methods of de-icing because they are less damaging to the surface and surrounding plants. I prefer to use Magnesium Chloride because it is the safest on Evergreens and is an active ingredient in pet safe de-icers. Still with all products, follow the correct application amount because too much could damage your sidewalk/driveway.
Key Takeaway – Best for de-icing and plant/pet safe (Magnesium Chloride)
Product: Chicken or Turkey Girt or Sand.
Safe Surfaces: Natural Stones (Such as limestone and Bluestone), Pavers ,Concrete and Asphalt.
Natural Stone surfaces are very porous you want to stay away from any salt or chemical. Chicken or Turkey Grit will not provide any de-icing properties¸ but will provide grit for walking. Chicken/Turkey grit is also safe for plants and pets. Sand is a bit messier (think the beach and sand), but is safe for pets and surfaces. To find Chicken/Turkey grit you will need to visit a Feed Supply store.
Key Takeaway – Most environmental/pet  friendly options
Product: Brine
Safe Surfaces: Depends on the active ingredient.
Brine is a combination of a de-icing product with water to coat a surface. This can be made with Rock Salt, Sugar Beets or a number of other products and is typically used by cities and municipalities. This mixture works best when applied prior to the icing event. Also, this is not typically used for private residences (however I have seen kits at the home improvement store) and is more expensive than the other options listed above.
Key Takeaway – Make sure you read the active ingredient.

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