When snow is in the forecast, spread a wood and concrete-safe deicer on driveways, outdoor steps, and pathways. This will melt the snow as it lands, creating a slurry of melted water that melts more snow and stops ice from forming. If snowfall piles up to a depth of more than 4 inches (10 cm), spread more ice melt on the snow as it is falling. If there is heavy snow and ice accumulation, you can add ice melt on top of these problem areas to eat through the snow. Finally, spread ice melt right after you shovel so you’re ready for the next snowstorm.
Why Should You Use Ice Melt Before it Snows?
Spreading ice melt before snow arrives is a great idea because it boosts the effectiveness of your deicer. Ice melt is more effective when it is spread before snow because it can melt snow as it lands. This creates a layer of “brine” with the deicer mixed with water from the melted snow. This briny water melts new snowflakes as they land. So, sometimes you can avoid shoveling entirely if you spread ice melt in advance.
- Spreading ice melt in advance melts snow as it lands.
- Ice melt works faster when it is spread before snow falls.
- Shoveling is easier if you spread ice melt before snow arrives.
One of the best reasons to spread ice melt before it snows is to make shoveling easier. When there is a layer of ice melt granules below the snow, the snow is less likely to “stick” to the surface and freeze there. Instead, you can easily shovel the snow and reveal a clean, ice-free surface beneath.
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4 Steps to Use Ice Melt to Cut Your Shoveling in Half
If you’re sick of slow-working ice melt and shoveling large volumes of snow, start using ice melt preemptively. Here’s how to reduce your winter workload with the right deicer techniques:
Spread Ice Melt Before it Snows
If there is snow in the forecast for the day, spread these ice melt granules on your driveway, pathways, deck, outdoor steps, and any other areas you want to remain ice-free. Use a spreader, a scoop, or your hand to distribute the granules. Spread the ice melt evenly, until the entire area is covered with granules that are as close together as the salt on a pretzel. You can do this job the day before it snows or just minutes before the snowfall begins.
- Melts snow and ice in frigid cold temperatures (as low as -10°F).
- Safe for pets and the environment and won't harm paws or plants.
- Small, round pellets make for easy dispersal on driveways and steps.
Add More Ice Melt During Excessive Snowfall
Pre-treating outdoor surfaces with ice melt helps to melt snow as it falls, but large snowfalls can overpower even the best deicer. If the snow piles up faster than your ice melt can work, it’s a good idea to add more as the snow is coming down. Once the snow reaches a depth of 4 inches (10 cm), spread another layer of deicer on top of the snow. It will help to melt snow from the top down as the first application melts through snow from the bottom.
Treat Stubborn Snow
If a big winter storm left some snow on your driveway and deck, even after your previous ice melt applications, add some more on top. The ice melt may take a little longer to work, but because you treated the outdoor surfaces with ice melt earlier, the snow layer should be a lot thinner in these areas. In a few hours, the ice melt on top of the snow will do the job. By applying ice melt before, during, and after a big storm, you may not have to shovel at all!
Spread Ice Melt After Shoveling
To remain prepared for snowfall at all times, it’s a good idea to apply fresh ice melt right after you shovel. Even if the shoveling job is light due to your previous ice melt applications, re-treat your outdoor surfaces with deicer. This way, you’ll never be caught off guard by snow. It’s always a great idea to spread ice melt as the final step of your shoveling routine.
Will Ice Melt Damage Your Driveway?
Harsh ice melt products, such as rock salt, will damage your driveway. Gentle ice melts made from magnesium chloride or calcium chloride are safe for driveways. Using ice melt that contains rock salt or any other form of sodium chloride will cause your driveway to discolor, crack, and crumble over time. In addition, salt-based deicers damage wood decks, harm your pets’ paws, and can kill the plants and grasses in your yard.
- Ice melt made from sodium chloride (salt) can discolor, crack, and destroy your driveway.
- Salt ice melt also destroys wood decks and is harmful to plants and animals.
- Use a magnesium chloride ice melt is safe for concrete, wood, pets, and plants.
- Ice melt products made from magnesium chloride or calcium chloride are more effective at melting snow than salt.
The right ice melt won’t harm your driveway or other outdoor surfaces. Magnesium chloride is safe for concrete, wood, and pets. Plus, the runoff from snow melt won’t kill plants. Calcium chloride and potassium chloride ice melt products are also safe when you need to prevent snow from sticking to your driveway. As an added benefit, all of these deicers work at low temperatures where rock salt stops being effective as a snow melter.
Does it Help to Put Ice Melt on Top of Snow?
Ice melt works slowly when it is spread on top of deep snow. The ice melt has to eat through stubborn snow. This can take hours. In comparison, snow that lands on a surface that already has ice melt granules may disappear in minutes. So, using ice melt on top of snow can be somewhat helpful, but it is less effective than pre-treating surfaces with granular deicers.
- Ice melt does work on top of snow, but it works slowly when used this way.
- Your ice melt will work faster beneath the snow than on top of it.
- Using additional ice melt on top of snow is a good idea if you’ve already spread ice melt before it snowed.
- If you didn’t pre-treat outdoor surfaces with ice melt, begin snow removal instead of just spreading deicer on top of snow.
The best time to spread ice melt on top of snow is if you have already pre-treated the surface with ice melt. This way, you can melt away the snow from the top and bottom at the same time. This works great when you have received a layer of deep snow that buried your ice melt.
Is it Better to Put Ice Melt Down Before or After Snow?
Your ice melt will be much more effective if you put it down before the first snowflake falls. Here’s what you need to know:
- Ice melt is most effective at melting snow if you spread it on a surface before snow lands.
- Using ice melt in advance melts away snow and makes shoveling easier.
- Spread an ice melt product made from magnesium chloride up to 24 hours before snow begins.
- If snow piles up deeper than 4 inches (10 cm), spread more ice melt on top of the snow as it falls.
- After a very heavy snow, spread additional ice melt on top of the snow.
- Always spread fresh ice melt after you finish shoveling snow.
These tips will make snow and ice removal far easier. Spreading ice melt earlier prevents ice buildup, so you’ll be left with slip-free surfaces once you’re done shoveling.