When de-icing concrete, it’s important to use a non-corrosive substance, such as magnesium chloride. This will protect your concrete from damage, won’t harm nearby plants, and will not cause injury to your pet’s paws. Avoid using rock salt. It is corrosive to concrete, poisonous to plants, and is ineffective at low temperatures.
What to Use to Melt Ice on Concrete
When melting ice on concrete, it’s important to choose a product that is effective down to a low temperature, not harmful to the environment, and gets the job done fast. The products and methods below are the best for de-icing concrete.
Look for products that use magnesium chloride as the de-icing agent. This compound is effective down to -10 ℉ (-23℃), the runoff won’t kill plants, and unlike traditional salt, it won’t cause injury to your pets’ paws if they happen to walk in it.
- Use this magnesium chloride de-icer.
- Works down to -10 ℉ (-23℃).
- Not corrosive to concrete.
- Won’t kill nearby plant life.
- Safe for pets.
Magnesium chloride is the number one choice because it checks all the boxes for a high-quality de-icer. Whenever possible, deal with icy concrete using this product.
- 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.
If you live in a region with extreme winter conditions, calcium chloride de-icers are your best option. This is because calcium chloride is effective at temperatures down to -40℉ (-40℃), meaning it will continue to melt ice even during the worst winter storms.
- This calcium chloride product is readily available.
- Works down to -40℉ (-40℃)
- Less safe for plants, pets, and concrete than magnesium chloride, but much safer than rock salt.
Calcium chloride is a big step up from rock salt in all departments. It is slightly harsher than magnesium chloride but won’t cause the extreme concrete pitting that traditional sodium chloride (rock salt) de-icers incur.
Potassium Formate is a liquid alternative to granular de-icers. This formula is commonly used as an airplane runway de-icer, is non-toxic, and does not corrode concrete. However, it is often more expensive than competitor products.
- Non-toxic, plant and animal safe de-icer.
- Effective down to -63℉ (-52℃)
- The price point is higher than other de-icers.
If you have stubborn ice problems and want to avoid damage to concrete, Potassium Formate is a good option.
- Melts ice without chlorine while being non-conductive.
- Fully biodegradable.
- Non-toxic and safe around pets and plants.
While not a de-icer, cat litter serves as an alternative to de-icers by providing a layer of traction on top of the ice. Even better, it’s completely non-corrosive to concrete, does not harm the environment, and provides instant results as soon as it is spread.
- Does not melt ice but provides traction, eliminating the need for ice melt.
- Results are instant—no need to wait for the melting process to take place.
- Completely concrete-safe and biodegradable.
For best results, use a granular kitty litter. Avoid clay cat litters, as these do not biodegrade and provide poor traction.
Much like cat litter, coarse sand can be spread atop ice to instantly provide traction for vehicles and pedestrians. It won’t melt the ice on your concrete driveway, but sand is an all-natural way to turn a slick icy surface into a safe one. It’s inexpensive, effective, and environmentally sound.
Avoid these Methods for Melting Ice on Concrete
Not all ice-melting methods are created equal. Some ice melters even have the potential to damage your paved surfaces. Avoid these common mistakes when trying to melt ice on concrete.
Rock salt is a poor de-icer. It becomes ineffective at temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6℃). This means that when the weather takes a turn for the worse, it won’t be helpful at all. Not only that, but salt corrodes and pits concrete. Spreading rock salt on your driveway or concrete steps can ruin them over time.
- Only melts ice down to temperatures of 20℉ (-6℃).
- Corrosive to concrete.
- Salt runoff kills plants.
- Harmful to pets.
As rock salt is carried off your concrete and into your lawn and garden, it enters the soil. Once there, it can kill plants and prevent regrowth. Additionally, it causes injury to your pets’ paws if they walk on rock salt. Don’t bother with this archaic de-icer.
Applying Ice Melt Before Shoveling
De-icers must be applied to ice to begin working, and are more effective when applied before the snow begins to fall. Ice melt sprinkled on top of snow will have little to no effect. Make sure to clear as much snow and ice off your concrete as possible using a shovel or snow blower before spreading de-icer.
- When possible, apply de-icer before snowfall.
- De-icer spread across snow will be ineffective.
- Clear away as much snow and ice as you can before you spread de-icer.
De-icer works by drawing heat from the ice and creating a salt brine solution that thaws the ice. This is most effective on thin layers of ice. Work to maintain a snow and ice-free driveway by clearing snowfall as soon as possible.
Over-Reliance on De-Icers
All de-icers are chemical compounds and all of them carry some risk of corroding concrete. Rather than continually battling with de-icers and waiting for them to thaw the ice, use them sparingly. When possible, use more concrete-friendly solutions, such as spreading cat litter and sand on ice for traction.
- All de-icers can be corrosive to concrete if overused.
- When possible, spread sand or cat litter on ice for traction instead of relying on de-icers.
- Think of de-icers as preventative measures. If ice has already formed, use a traction-adding product instead.
You’ll save money by using cheap de-icer alternatives. Substances that add traction to ice provide faster results than de-icer. A good rule of thumb is to treat your concrete surfaces with a gentle de-icer before winter weather, to prevent ice formation. If ice has already formed, spread sand or cat litter to make the surface usable. This is more efficient than spreading de-icer and waiting patiently for ice to thaw.
Do You Put Ice Melt Down Before or After it Snows?
De-icers work best as preventative measures. If there is snow incoming, spread your ice melt product on your concrete surfaces before the snow arrives. This will allow your de-icer to melt snow as it lands, preventing ice formation. Although de-icer can melt ice after the fact, this can take time. Start with prevention, then use ice control products after a snowfall as necessary.
At What Temperature Does Ice Melt Not Work on Concrete?
The effective de-icing temperature of ice melt products depends on the compound it is made of. Here is the breakdown of the lowest effective temperature for common de-icers.
- Rock Salt (Sodium Chloride): 20℉ (-6℃)
- Magnesium Chloride: -10 ℉ (-23℃)
- Calcium Chloride: -40℉ (-40℃)
- Potassium Formate: -63℉ (-52℃)
It’s important to note that substances you spread atop ice to add traction, such as sand, work at all temperatures. Even if your ice melt isn’t working, you can still transform your concrete surfaces from an ice rink into a usable area.
What Can You Use to Melt Ice on Concrete?
Prevent or melt ice on concrete by applying a non-corrosive de-icer, such as magnesium chloride. If ice has formed on your concrete surfaces, spread coarse sand or cat litter over the ice to make the surface usable by pedestrians and vehicles. Rock salt is a poor de-icer for concrete surfaces. It causes concrete pitting, kills nearby plants, and it stops working when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When possible, spread a high-quality de-icer on concrete before inclement weather, to prevent ice formation.