The Best Ice Melts for Slip-Free Hardscaping

When snow falls and ice forms, banishing the slippery stuff is a priority. Here’s how to find the best ice melt for your surfaces, climate, and budget.

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Best Ice Melt Options

Photo: amazon.com

Every year as the weather turns chilly, most people pull out the heavy coats, rugged boots, and of course, ice melt—the first defense against slick, dangerous conditions on driveways, sidewalks, and other surfaces. Ice melt is a chemical product that is sprinkled on surfaces to melt ice and snow. There are several different types; some are suited to specific surfaces, while some are more environmentally friendly, and therefore, safer for plants and pets than others. So read on to learn what features to look for and why the following products are considered among the best ice melts in their respective categories.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt Fast Acting Treatment
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Snow Joe AZ-25-CCP Melt-2-Go Pellet Ice Melter
  3. BEST FOR CONCRETE: Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Pellets
  4. BEST FOR ASPHALT: HARRIS Safe Melt Pet Friendly Ice and Snow Melter
  5. BEST WITH COLOR: Snow Joe AZ-50-EB Melt-2-Go Nature Friendly Ice Melter
  6. BEST LIQUID: Branch Creek Chloride-Free Liquid Ice Melt
Best Ice Melt Options

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Ice Melt 

Ice melt can be applied to a surface before or after snow or ice has fallen to lower the freezing point for water and allow the snow or ice to melt into a slush that’s easier to clear. Each type of ice melt product will perform differently depending on its form and the chemicals used. Conditions such as temperature, ground type, melting time, and environmental impact are essential to consider before purchasing an ice melt product.

Form

Ice melt is available in both solid and liquid formulations, each with pros and cons. Solid ice melt comes in pellets and granules. It works well for many applications and is typically the go-to solution for road crews dealing with icy and snowy weather. Less expensive and easier to store than liquid formulas, pellets and granules also make for a “crunchy” texture on surfaces that adds traction for walking and driving on, if slush is not removed. On the downside, solid ice melt can scatter more easily and could be displaced from the desired location with car or foot traffic. It tends to be slower acting and can get clumped together and therefore be less effective.

Liquid ice melt is a wise choice for lower temperature situations and when faster results are desired. When applied, liquid is less likely to scatter and miss its mark; it stays in place for longer-lasting results. Liquid de-icers, which tend to cost more, can be more challenging to transport and store because of their weight. Plus, if heavy rain ensues, the product can get washed away.

Self-heating ice melt, which comes in pellet and granular form, generates its own heat when in contact with ice and snow—a process known as an exothermic reaction. Unlike other products that must absorb moisture to create a brine to melt the ice, self-heating ice melt can get right to work.

Type

An ice melt works by absorbing the moisture on the top of the ice, creating what’s called brine, and working its way down to break the bond between the ice and the surface. This creates cracks and flakes that are safer to walk on and easier to remove. All of these products have a temperature limit: If temperatures plummet beyond that limit, the chemicals will no longer melt ice. Here’s what to expect from the various types available:

Calcium Chloride 

  • Less expensive than sodium acetate, but pricier than most other forms
  • Available as pellets, flakes, powder, and liquid
  • Forms a brine to lower freezing point and produces heat to melt ice
  • Good choice for concrete
  • Melting temperature of -25 degrees
  • Can kill plant life if applied too heavy
  • If it leaks into waterways it reduces oxygen levels and can kill aquatic life

Magnesium Chloride

  • Slow melting
  • Available in pellets or granules
  • More expensive than other ice melt
  • Releases its heat to melt ice
  • Less corrosive than calcium chloride or sodium chloride
  • Somewhat safer for plant life
  • Has a melting temperature of 0 degrees

Calcium Magnesium Acetate

  • Less corrosive than rock salt (sodium chloride)
  • Available in pellets or granules
  • Requires larger applications to be effective
  • Pet-friendly option
  • Easier to clean up than others
  • Melting temperature of 20 degrees

Potassium Chloride 

  • Comes in pellets or granules
  • Pricier and less effective as other forms so not used much anymore
  • Safe for plants
  • Melting temperature of 25 degrees

Rock Salt (Sodium Chloride)

  • One of the least expensive
  • Comes in granules
  • Less effective in colder temps
  • Corrosive to metals
  • Leaves white residue on surfaces
  • May kill plants if overused
  • Melting temperature of 20 degrees

Urea/Carbonyl Diamide

  • Typically used as a fertilizer
  • Comes in pellets or granules
  • Contains nitrogen that can burn plants when used in excess
  • Rarely used anymore
  • Not effective in lower temps
  • Melting temperature of 25 degrees

Surface Type

Many of the chemicals in ice melts can potentially damage surfaces, so it’s important to think about where you’ll be using a product. The most common areas are driveways, sidewalks, decks, and porches—all composed of a few different materials, such as concrete, asphalt, wood, and metal. Packaging and product descriptions of the best ice melts will reveal what materials they can be used on safely, so be sure to read this information prior to purchase. It would be unwise to apply a product that could corrode concrete, rust metal, or damage wood on those surfaces around your home.

Temperature

The quest for comfort and convenience in frigid weather has led to the invention of such products as heated jackets, heated gloves, and electric snow shovels. Similarly, certain ice melts have been developed to work in colder climates. Some products won’t work in temperatures lower than 20 degrees. This is acceptable if the temperature in your area seldom gets that low, but if you’re in a colder spot, these products won’t get the job done. If your location can reach less than 20 degrees, purchase a product made for lower temperatures.

Melting Time

The time it takes a product to melt ice and snow depends on several factors. Liquid ice melters and self-heating ice melters act fairly quickly. Unlike solid melters that take time to absorb moisture and create the brine, liquid products are already a brine. Self-heating ice melters have a similar advantage: Instead of absorbing moisture, the pellets will heat up quicker and melt the ice and snow faster than other ice melters. Tip: No matter what form you choose, you’ll still have some down time—put it to good use with one of the best ice scrapers to clean the windows of your car.

Longevity

Longevity in regard to ice melters refers to the products’ ability to keep working beyond the initial application period. A long-lasting ice melter is especially helpful when snowstorms or icy rain continues throughout the day—and you don’t want to come home to a skating rink in your carport. Although long-lasting ice melt tends to be more expensive, the cost can even out since you may be able to use less.

Safety and Environmental Impact

The chemicals in some ice melters can be hazardous to pets and plants. Plus, certain elements in ice melters can do environmental damage, such as killing wildlife that may ingest the pellets and aquatic life if it reaches waterways. Many people are concerned about the impact of using large amounts of these products outdoors, so it’s important to read product information carefully to understand the risks.

Our Top Picks

While they may not be quite as diverse as snowflakes, ice melters do have a variety of forms and features. This list of quality products will help you choose the best ice melt for your situation.

Best Overall

Best Ice Melt Options: Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt Fast Acting Treatment
Photo: amazon.com

Driveways and other properly cured concrete surfaces won’t be corroded by Green Gobbler, which comes in small, round, easy-to-spread pellets that can work with many ice melt spreaders. The product performs in temperatures as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit and generates exothermic heat to help melt ice and snow quickly.

Harvested from the dead sea, the ingredients in this ice melt are less toxic than many others on the market. The deicer won’t harm plants, and it’s unlikely for pets’ paws to be irritated by it. The Green Gobbler ice melt comes in a pail with the choice between four sizes up to 35 pounds.

Best Bang For the Buck

Best Ice Melt Options: Snow Joe AZ-25-CCP Melt-2-Go
Photo: amazon.com

This professional-strength ice melt comes in a convenient pellet shape that allows for quick and easy application with a spreader. Composed of 94 percent calcium chloride, it heats up quickly to melt snow and ice on contact, in temperatures down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.

This Snow Joe ice melt is formulated to last up to 24 hours to protect against refreezing. Snow Joe comes in four different sizes (a jug, bucket, or bags), with 50 pounds being the largest—at a price that matches other products for half the amount.

Best For Concrete

Best Ice Melt Options: Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride
Photo: amazon.com

Those concerned about protecting their concrete from corrosive chemicals may want to give this Green Gobbler ice melt a go. Calcium chloride is non-corrosive on concrete and can melt ice while helping to prevent potholes in driveways, pathways, and porches. It comes in easy-to-spread pellets and works up to four times faster than traditional rock salt by creating exothermic heat to immediately start melting snow and ice.

The company touts its formula as being as safe around plants as it is on pavement. Though it can perform in temperatures reaching as low as -40 degrees, it has a low-range formula that can’t keep up as temperatures rise and fall. The ice melt is available in pails up to 35 pounds.

Best For Asphalt

Best Ice Melt Options: HARRIS Safe Melt Pet Friendly Ice and Snow Melter
Photo: amazon.com

Folks who want a smooth asphalt driveway to come through the cold months unscathed may want to check out this HARRIS product. It effectively melts ice and snow at temperatures reaching -13 degrees via a 100 percent magnesium chloride formula that gets to work immediately upon contact. It’s also safe for pet paws and vegetation.

Packaged in durable buckets (10 or 15 pounds), this ice melt can be saved for next year without the risk of clumping. The pellet shape of this de-icer makes it well suited to use with a spreader, and it comes with a handy scoop for quick application if needed.

Best With Color

Best Ice Melt Options: Snow Joe AZ-50-EB Melt-2-Go Nature
Photo: amazon.com

Color-coated crystals are this ice melt’s secret weapon. This makes it easy to see where the product has already been spread, a visual cue that helps reduce wasteful reapplication. Although the color is helpful outdoors, the calcium magnesium acetate won’t stain or otherwise damage carpeting and other flooring.

This Snow Joe formula is safe to use on metal and concrete, as well as being pet- and plant-friendly. It boasts a long-lasting, time-released formula that works in temperatures down to -7.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This nature-friendly deicer is available in four sizes up to 50 pounds in a jug, bucket, or bags.



Best Liquid

Best Ice Melt Options: Branch Creek Entry Chloride-Free
Photo: amazon.com

When you hear about an approaching snowstorm, you may want to reach for this liquid ice melt. Apply to pathways and driveways with a garden sprayer prior to the weather event and ice and snow won’t build up. You can even use it the night before a storm for ice-free surfaces in the morning. With a working temperature of -19 degrees Fahrenheit, this de-icer works hard even in frigid temperatures.

A chloride-free formula makes this de-icer gentle on surfaces, virtually non-corrosive, and safe for use around pets and plants. With no expiration date and resealable, this liquid ice melt can be used against snow and ice from one year to the next. It’s available in 0.5- and 2.5-gallon jugs.

Tips for Using Ice Melt 

To ensure you get the best performance out of your purchase, employ these de-icing tips and tricks.

  • Adding sand to your ice melt can reduce the amount of product you use. This will also reduce potential damage to surfaces and improve traction.
  • Applying ice melts in layers will allow the product to work at its best. Adding a thin layer before, during (if possible), and after a weather event will yield the best results.
  • Even when products are safe for specific surfaces and considered better for plants, it’s still a good practice to scoop and remove any remaining product after it’s done its job. This will decrease the risk of damage to surfaces, pets, and plants.
  • Remove boots and wipe pets’ paws to avoid bringing chemicals into your home that could damage indoor surfaces.
  • All ice melters are most effective on surfaces already cleared of snow. This way, the product can immediately tackle the dangerous slippery layer rather than working through all the snow on top.

FAQs About Your New Ice Melt 

If you want further information about ice melts, consider the answers to these commonly asked questions.

Q. How does ice melt work?

Ice melters absorb moisture and create a brine that then melts snow and ice. This eventually breaks the bond between the ice and the surface creating a slush.

Q. Should you put ice melt down before or after it snows?

Both. Applying ice melt before—and after—it snows allows the product to work at its best.

Q. Does ice melt ruin concrete?

A solid, non-corrosive choice for concrete is Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride.

Q. Can you put ice melt on wood?

It depends. Some but not all ice melt products are formulated to avoid damaging wood, so read product descriptions carefully.