The Best Ice Melts for Slip-Free Hardscaping, Tested

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.

By Zach Lazzari | Updated Feb 5, 2024 4:44 AM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more.

A group of the 10 best ice melts on a snowy and icy outdoor cement surface before testing.

Photo: Zach Lazzari for Bob Vila

When the weather turns chilly, most people pull out the heavy coats, rugged boots, and, of course, ice melts—the first defense against slick, dangerous conditions on driveways, sidewalks, and other surfaces. Without using these products, drip lines and low spots can turn into serious safety hazards.

We researched and tested 10 different ice melt products to see which ones delivered the best results. Nearly every brand improved walking conditions and had a positive impact on overall traction and safety. Some were safer for pets and the environment than others, making them great for home use. Others were more capable of handling the heavy-duty demands of high-traffic residential and commercial areas.

No matter what your specific needs are, there’s likely an ice melt formula that can make a big difference this winter. 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: Natural Rapport The Only Pet-Safe Ice Melt You Need
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Snow Joe MELT25EB Premium Enviro Blend Ice Melter
  3. BEST FOR CONCRETE: Green Gobbler Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt
  4. BEST FOR PETS: Green Gobbler Pet-Safe Ice Melt Magnesium Chloride
  5. BEST WITH COLOR: Snow Joe MELT20PET Pet-Safer Blend Premium Ice Melt
  6. BEST LIQUID: Branch Creek Entry Fast-Acting Liquid Ice Melt
  7. BEST SALT-FREE: Safe Paw Pet-Safe Salt-Free Nontoxic Ice Melt
  8. BEST ALL-NATURAL FORMULA: Redmond Ice Slicer Nature’s Blend Ice Melt
  9. BEST FOR ROOFS: Roof Melt RM-65S Ice Melt Tablets
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: PlaySafe Ice Blocker
A jug of Natural Rapport The Only Pet-Safe Ice Melt You Need on a snowy and icy cement walkway.

Photo: Zach Lazzari for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Ice Melts 

Determining how effectively each ice melt would perform required a full test of each product. During the tests, we used several different types of ice melts on gravel, pavement, and even grass. We began our testing in the aftermath of a Montana snowstorm that turned bitter cold. We used different ice melt products in temperatures down to -6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The snow then went through several melt/freeze cycles that formed icy spots under our rooflines and in several low spots. We tested the ice melts in freezing temperatures in water drips to the ground and freezes each night, creating a walking hazard by morning. We analyzed the duration of each application, the speed at which it melted, pet friendliness with our dogs, and a number of other hands-on factors. Lastly, we compared pricing, packaging, and ease of application.

Our Top Picks

While they may not be quite as diverse as snowflakes, ice melts do come in a variety of forms, each with its own distinct features. This list of our favorites, all of which we tested ourselves, will help shoppers choose the best ice melts for their particular needs.

Best Overall

The Natural Rapport The Only Pet-Safe Ice Melt You Need on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Granules
  • Ingredient(s): calcium magnesium acetate; dolomite; proprietary organic compound (ProtectRX); sodium, magnesium, and potassium chloride
  • Compatible surface types: Porches, walkways, driveways

Pros

  • Safe to use around pets and children, plants, and vegetation
  • Will not corrode metal, wood, and concrete surfaces
  • Fast-acting, long-lasting formula; works on contact and keeps melting ice and snow over time

Cons

  • May wear off or wash away, requiring reapplication after every snowfall

One of the safest ice melt for pets, plants, and the environment that we were able to find, this pick boasts a proprietary formula designed with safety as a top priority. This Natural Rapport product is less corrosive on metal, wood, and concrete than conventional rock salt, and it is also safer on carpet and other flooring materials, should our furry friends or kids track it into the house.

The crystals are green in color so that users can see where they’ve applied them. This helps to prevent waste. While the brand touts this feature as being unique, a number of the other brands have similar colorings. Nonetheless, the fast-acting, long-lasting formula is time released to help prevent sidewalks and driveways from refreezing, so users won’t need to work hard with an ice scraper. Though it’s hard to say which of the many ice melts on the market is the safest ice melt for people, animals, and the environment, this biodegradable product may lend peace of mind while de-icing.

Many of the environmentally friendly products melt slower because they use mild formulas. But we were pleasantly surprised with the melt times and durations of this product. It was fast acting, and our dogs walked over the ice melt repeatedly with no adverse reactions. The larger granules also minimized our need to reapply the ice melt as well. We really loved the shaker container for easy spreading as well.

Ultimately, this ice melt took the top award because it offers a combination of performance and environmental friendliness. It even has organic compounds to help it break down quickly—in fact, it may even enrich the soil to a small degree thanks to the inclusion of soil-supporting compounds. During testing, we spread some over a patch of grass, so we’re interested to see what happens over time. Currently, the snow has melted and the grass looks unaffected.

Read our full review: Natural Rapport The Only Pet-Safe Ice Melt You Need

Get the Natural Rapport ice melt at Amazon, Chewy, or Natural Rapport.

Best Bang For The Buck

A bag of Snow Joe MELT25EB Premium Enviro Blend Ice Melter on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Granules
  • Ingredient(s): Sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate (CMA)
  • Compatible surface types: Concrete, asphalt, gravel, grass

Pros

  • Large quantity for a great price
  • Melts ice quickly and is easy to identify with green coloration
  • Organic compounds minimize impact on soil and environment

Cons

  • Green dye can leave some temporary staining
  • Does contain sodium chloride, which can cause corrosion

During long winters, it’s nice to have a big bag of ice melt on hand. Snow Joe is a leader in snow removal products, and it has formulated a fantastic ice melt product with the Premium Enviro Blend Ice Melter. It’s made for extreme cold and has a chemical composition designed with the environment in mind.

This blend has an anti-corrosion agent that helps it break down more easily. This minimizes damage to concrete, asphalt, and yards. It also results in a formula that’s more pet- and people-friendly than some ice melts. Like the Natural Rapport ice melt featured above, this one also has a green dye that makes it easy to monitor performance and its presence on the ground. When the green coloring fades, it’s time to add more.

We didn’t mind the bag-style packaging as it’s a durable bag that won’t break open. It’s also easy to reach in and scoop a bunch without fussing over difficult bucket lids. Users will want to keep it inside after opening because if the open bag gets wet, the contents will bind together and consolidate into a giant rock. We suggest keeping it in the garage or somewhere similar, and it’ll be fine.

This formulation did an excellent job melting ice and maintaining clear walkways. We had a property management company test it as well, and they were impressed with the performance. With a 50-pound bag costing under $30, the value is excellent with this pick. This will get many users through the entire winter.

Get the Snow Joe MELT25EB ice melt at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Snow Joe.

Best For Concrete

A 5-gallon bucket of Green Gobbler Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Pellets
  • Ingredient(s): 93 percent calcium chloride
  • Compatible surface types: Driveways, sidewalks, pathways, patios, parking lots, porches, roofs

Pros

  • Noncorrosive formula unlikely to damage surfaces
  • Easy-to-spread pellets; works faster than comparable ice melts
  • Creates exothermic heat to continue melting ice and snow over time
  • Can melt ice in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit

Cons

  • Pricey compared to similar snow and ice melts on the market
  • Calcium chloride is soluble in water, so pellets may dissolve quickly when temperatures spike

Those concerned about protecting their concrete from corrosive chemicals may want to give this Green Gobbler ice melt a go. Calcium chloride is less corrosive to concrete than similar chemicals used in competing ice melts. As a result, it can melt ice without creating potholes in driveways, pathways, and porches. It comes in easy-to-spread pellets that, as the company claims, work up to four times faster than traditional rock salt by creating exothermic heat to immediately start melting snow and ice.

We can’t speak to the formulation working four times faster than other products, but it did melt ice a little faster than other products we tested. The really nice thing about this product is that it works in extremely low temperatures. During the storm in which we did our testing, temperatures dropped to -6 degrees Fahrenheit, but temperatures at -20 or -30 degrees Fahrenheit aren’t uncommon here. Knowing this product will still perform at those extreme lows is nice.

We also like that it doesn’t corrode and beat up concrete the way other ice-melting agents can. One of our testers will be pouring a new slab in the next year and will really be focused on finding products that will help preserve the integrity of the concrete, and this might do it. Overall, this is an excellent option for concrete driveways and sidewalks.

Get the Green Gobbler calcium chloride ice melt at Amazon,  Walmart, or Green Gobbler.

Best For Pets

A 5-gallon bucket of Green Gobbler Pet-Safe Ice Melt Magnesium Chloride on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Pellets
  • Ingredient(s): Magnesium chloride
  • Compatible surface types: Sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, patios

Pros

  • Easy-to-spread pellets can be applied by hand, with a shovel, or with a household cup
  • Works in frigid temperatures, reaching as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Generates exothermic heat to keep melting snow and ice over time
  • Safe for pets; less likely to irritate paws or cause gastrointestinal problems if ingested

Cons

  • Container lid is sometimes hard to open and close without a pry tool

Anyone seeking a fast and effective ice melt that’s safe to use around pets and plants will want to consider this option from Green Gobbler. Perhaps one of the best ice melt for pets’ paws, this pick gets our vote for the best pet-safe formula for a number of reasons. It’s worth noting that comparable liquid formulas are also great for use around pets—they just don’t cover the same square footage with ease of use as these pellets.

Offered in Green Gobbler’s signature pellet form, its pet-safe ice melt uses magnesium chloride rather than the calcium chloride in the company’s standard formula. The magnesium is still excellent at melting ice, and it’s also much easier on pets and people. Overall, we appreciate the mild ingredients as they are easy on the environment, less corrosive on concrete, and don’t stain.

Personally, we like the pellets because they aren’t abrasive. Normal rock-salt formulas do have jagged edges and can embed in pet paws. This is where the irritation can become problematic. Users who have dogs and cats with paw sensitivity might want to give this product a shot. It has smooth edges and is easy to walk over without poking or sticking to soft paws.

Keep in mind that this one doesn’t melt as quickly as the company’s calcium chloride formula. It did work well, however, and we wouldn’t hesitate to use this product in harsh winter environments. The melt rate was comparable to other rock salts used in the tests. Personally, waiting an extra half hour for melting to complete is worth the trade-off of knowing our pets are safer.

Get the Green Gobbler magnesium chloride ice melt at Amazon, Walmart, or Green Gobbler.

Best With Color

A bag of Snow Joe MELT20PET Pet-Safer Blend Premium Ice Melt on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Crystals
  • Ingredient(s): Sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, CMA
  • Compatible surface types: Walkways, driveways, parking lots, and steps

Pros

  • Can be safely distributed without need for protective clothing
  • Made from a combination of organic compounds and sodium chloride for performance and safety
  • Works immediately upon contact; time-release formula makes it more effective

Cons

  • May require several uses for continued protection against ice and snow
  • Green dye can leave temporary staining

Color-coated crystals are this ice melt’s secret weapon for visibility. The coloration makes it easy to see where the product has already been spread, a visual cue that helps reduce wasteful reapplication. As the crystals dissolve with ice, they will slowly lose their color and disintegrate. This really helps the user know when it’s time to add another round.

Several other options on our list also use dyes for this same purpose. This one seemed to stand out a little better against the crowd; perhaps Snow Joe uses a little more dye in this formula. It’s worth noting that it can leave some temporary staining on concrete. Some users mentioned using pressure washers or an alcohol-based cleaning agent to completely remove dyes after winter.

We found that this product worked very well for its intended purpose. It does use sodium chloride, which is the traditional salt compound used in ice melts. The formula also includes the milder magnesium chloride and the organic compound CMA, which is about as corrosive as tap water. This blend ultimately delivers great performance and scores high marks in terms of pet safety and environmental friendliness.

Get the Snow Joe MELT20PET ice melt at Amazon.

Best Liquid

A jug of Branch Creek Entry Chloride-Free Liquid Ice Melt on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Liquid
  • Ingredient(s): Inhibited potassium formate, proprietary adjuvant formulation
  • Compatible surface types: Walkways, driveways, parking lots, and steps

Pros

  • Safe to apply with a garden sprayer for easy application
  • Works in frigid temperatures as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Gentle on any surface it is applied to; will not erode or corrode any concrete
  • Safe for use around pets and children as well as vegetation

Cons

  • Must be applied before a snowfall for maximum clearing and melting
  • Pricey compared to similar liquid ice melts on the market
  • Will not penetrate existing ice and snow formations

When a snowstorm is approaching, shoppers may want to reach for this liquid ice melt. Apply it to pathways and driveways with a garden sprayer prior to the weather event and ice and snow won’t build up. It can even be used the night before a storm to deliver ice-free walkways in the morning. Capable of working in temperatures all the way down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit, this de-icer works hard even in frigid temperatures.

A chloride-free formula makes this product gentle on surfaces, minimally corrosive, and safe for use around pets and plants. With no expiration date and a resealable package, this liquid ice melt can be used against snow and ice year after year. It also won’t chip away at an electric snow shovel or blower the way that hard salt formulas tend to do.

This was our first time using a liquid ice melt, and we were skeptical at first. We also didn’t have a garden sprayer handy and had to run out to buy one. With the sprayer ready, it was fast and easy to apply; the fine mist allowed us to apply the formula quickly and precisely. The 1-gallon bottle lasts a lot longer than we expected and can cover reasonably large areas.

In terms of performance, we think this is a different type of product than many other ice melts. With this one, it’s best to clear all snow and ice first, then apply it to the cleared surface. When done properly, this method does a good job of preventing ice from forming on the applied area. If it is sprayed over existing snow and ice, however, it doesn’t make a big impact. Granular ice melts will penetrate through existing ice in many cases.

The thing we love about this product is the fact that it’s chloride-free. Present in most ice melt products, chlorides are minerals that are quite taxing on the environment. Every chloride-based product is corrosive to some degree; this chloride-free alternative is not. Used on a new concrete driveway, for example, this liquid ice melt can prevent damage to its surface.

Get the Branch Creek ice melt at Amazon, Ace Hardware (2.5 gallons), or Walmart (2.5 gallons).

Best Salt-Free

A 5-gallon bucket of Safe Paw Pet-Safe Salt-Free Nontoxic Ice Melt on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Granules
  • Ingredient(s): Modified carbonyl diamide crystals, special glycols, nonionic surfactants accelerants
  • Compatible surface types: Best on hard surfaces such as driveways, walkways, steps

Pros

  • Noncorrosive and nonconductive formulation makes it very safe to use
  • Pet-, people-, and planet-friendly formula
  • Large quantity lasts for a long time
  • Easy to spread and cover a large area

Cons

  • Doesn’t work well at extremely low temperatures
    Doesn’t melt as rapidly as salt-based products

Almost all ice melt formulations contain salt or chlorides, making this salt-free option from Safe Paw unique. If a household’s occupants are especially sensitive to salts, this product is a great option. It’s also a good choice when using anything corrosive is not viable. For example, users who need to be absolutely certain their ice melt doesn’t damage their property—whether that be a classic car, a newly paved surface, or expensive equipment—will want to consider this salt-free formula. It’s also nonconductive, making it safe to use around electrical components.

This formulation comes in a granular form and doesn’t have sharp edges like rock salt. It works at low temperatures, although not quite as low as other brands. In our tests, it was capable of melting ice when the temperature was as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but it struggled below those temperatures. The label claims it works down to -2 degrees Fahrenheit, and the manufacturer guarantees it down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. We think 10 degrees is accurate—any lower than that and we’d say all bets are off.

We really liked testing this product because it spread quite easily. Using an old cup to scoop and spread, we didn’t have to worry about making contact with our skin, and it spread nicely, even when using our hands instead of the cup. And thanks to the nonabrasive texture, our dogs had zero issues walking through the ice melt. They were even playing directly over the section where we tested this product, and they showed no adverse effects.

While this blend’s chemical composition isn’t aggressive, and it doesn’t melt ice as quickly as some of the heavier hitters, it’s still effective. The 35-pound bucket will last for a long time, and it’s shelf-stable for multiple seasons of use. For anyone who has salt sensitivities or who wants to ensure the integrity of their equipment and surfaces, this is a great ice melt option. It’s not for everyone, but we really like the salt-free formula.

Get the Safe Paw ice melt at Amazon (35 pounds), The Home Depot (8 pounds), or Chewy (8 pounds).

Best All-Natural Formula

A bag of Redmond Ice Slicer Nature’s Blend Ice Melt on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Granules
  • Ingredient(s): Sodium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, trace minerals
  • Compatible surface types: Sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots

Pros

  • Dye-free, urea-free, and polymer-free; safe to use around pets and children
  • 10-pound bag can be used to treat up to 400 square feet
  • Lower price point compared to similar ice melts on the market

Cons

  • Reddish residue may be left behind if this ice melt is overapplied

Concentrated and effective, Redmond’s Nature’s Blend is packed with dye-free, urea-free, and polymer-free chloride ingredients to bust ice and slush. This affordable ice melt comes in a 10-pound bag that can treat 400 square feet. Because it’s an all-natural blend certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), we believe this is one of the best snow melts for those seeking a formulation that can be used around children, pets, vegetation, and waterways. It can be easily applied by hand, shovel, or cup.

This pick’s unique blend of ingredients can melt snow quickly. However, overapplication can lead to red spots and smears on driveways and walkways. Personally, we didn’t notice any spotting or staining during testing.

The performance was satisfactory—it rapidly melted snow in temperatures approaching 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Performance slowed in the most extreme temperatures, but the overall melting abilities were adequate.

Redmond makes commercial- and industrial-grade ice melts with different formulas and applications. We think for residential use, however, they really knocked this formula out of the park. It’s very mild and easy to have around special equipment, vehicles, and other sensitive items. It’s also great for households with pets. It’s easy to handle and serves the purposes needed by most residential homeowners and occupants. People living in extreme environments might want a more aggressive product, but the Redmond Ice Slicer works well in climates with the occasional storm and freeze.

Get the Redmond ice melt at Amazon or Ice Slicer.

Best for Roofs

A square bucket of Roof Melt RM-65S Ice Melt Tablets on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Tablets
  • Ingredient(s): Calcium chloride
  • Compatible surface types: Primarily intended to work on roofs

Pros

  • Helps mitigate ice dams on roofs
  • Tablets are lightweight and easy to throw on roofs
  • Throwing does minimize accuracy and ability to target exact areas

Cons

  • Doesn’t spread to cover larger surface areas
  • Tablets can break and crumble in the container

Within an already unique product category, this is a very specialized product. When people think about removing snow from roofs, they often imagine doing so manually, such as with a rake. That’s because few ice melt products are made to address ice buildup on roofs. But problem spots on a roof can wreak havoc on the gutters, and ice buildup adds weight to vulnerable areas. For shoppers who live in an area with heavy snowfall where ice dams often form on the roof, these tablets are a worthy investment.

Made from calcium chloride, these tablets are designed for users to simply throw on the roof. Aim for areas where ice dams form and toss them up. It’s simple and seems to work fairly well. We threw a few on a metal roof, and the areas melted and sloughed off snow reasonably fast. That said, the metal roof we were using during testing has a steep pitch, so snow slides off naturally.

The Roof Melt tablets are not granular or spreadable, and they will not be suitable for use with larger surface areas, such as a driveway. They could serve a purpose on the ground where drainage is constricted and problematic, but that is not the intended purpose.

We think anyone dealing with problematic ice dams on roofs can benefit from throwing a few of these tablets up top. After testing, we can’t verify that these tablets melt ice at any specific rate because it’s difficult to observe from the ground. But the primary compounds are known to melt ice rapidly, and from what we could tell, they’re worth using to resolve ice dam issues.

Get the Roof Melt ice melt at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Also Consider

A jug of PlaySafe Ice Blocker on a white background.
Photo: amazon.com

Product Specs

  • Form: Liquid
  • Ingredient(s): Calcium magnesium acetate solution, potassium acetate, water
  • Compatible surface types: Concrete, tile, stone, wood, asphalt

Pros

  • Applies evenly and easily with a sprayer
  • Eco-friendly formula safe for pets, people, and yards
  • Works well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit

Cons

  • Must be reapplied every couple of days and even sooner
  • Application requires a dry surface to be effective

When we selected Branch Creek’s formulation (#6 on our list) as our favorite liquid formulation, it was a close call between that option and this one. That’s why we would be remiss not to include PlaySafe’s Ice Blocker. Like Branch Creek’s ice melt, this one is best applied on a clean surface with a sprayer. It also touts an eco-friendly formula. Pets and children won’t have any issues, and it’s easy on vegetation in the yard.

The 1-gallon bottle can cover 2,000 square feet and is effective on decks, concrete, tile, stone, and asphalt. The only downside is that it needs to be applied ahead of any icing to work most effectively. With appropriate planning, it can help keep surfaces clear and free of ice.

During testing, we applied the liquid to concrete beneath a drip line, and it helped mitigate ice formation for a few days. Plan on reapplying every couple of days for very problematic spots. Overall, it’s a mild chemical formula that works well. We think it’s a great choice for places with moderate storms and freezing issues. For constant freeze-melt cycles, something a little more powerful might be better.

Get the PlaySafe ice melt at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.

Jump to Our Top Picks 

The Natural Rapport The Only Pet-Safe Ice Melt You Need spread out over a snowy and icy driveway.

Photo: Zach Lazzari for Bob Vila

What to Consider When Choosing an Ice Melt

Ice melt products can be applied to a surface either before or after snow or ice has fallen. Doing this can prevent ice from forming, allowing the snow or sleet to melt into a slush that’s easier to clear. Various types of ice melts will perform differently depending on their form and the chemicals used. Other variables, 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 its pros and cons. Solid ice melt typically 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 grip for walking and driving on. 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

Ice melts work 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 Fahrenheit
  • 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
  • Melting temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit

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 Fahrenheit

Potassium Chloride 

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

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 Fahrenheit

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 Fahrenheit

Surface Type

Many of the chemicals in ice melts can potentially damage surfaces, so it’s important to think about where the product will be used. 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 the 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 Fahrenheit. This is acceptable if the temperature in an area seldom gets that low, but for those who live in a colder spot, these products won’t get the job done. For locations where temperatures can reach less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, shoppers will want to 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 more quickly and melt the ice and snow faster than other ice melters. Tip: No matter what form shoppers choose, there will still be some downtime, which can be put to good use with one of the best ice scrapers to clean the windows of the car.

Longevity

Longevity refers to an ice melt’s 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 users don’t want to come home to a skating rink in the carport. Although long-lasting ice melt tends to be more expensive, the cost can even out since using less is possible to get the job done.

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 or aquatic life if the chemicals reach 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.

Tips for Using Ice Melt 

To ensure users get the best performance out of their purchase, below are some de-icing tips and tricks.

  • Adding sand to ice melt can reduce the amount of product used. 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 the 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 

For those who would like further information about ice melts, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions.

Q. What is the best ice melt for driveways?

To ensure your driveway is ice-free, we recommend the Green Gobbler magnesium chloride ice melt highlighted above at #4 on our list. It’s safe to use near pets, children, and vegetation. Plus, this pick is easy to spread and works in temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit.

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 I 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. What ice melt won’t hurt concrete?

A solid, noncorrosive choice for concrete is the Natural Rapport ice melt. This ice melt is made with calcium chloride, which will not corrode concrete no matter how many times it is applied to outdoor surfaces.

Q. Can I 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.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Meet the Tester

Zach Lazzari is a freelance writer splitting time between the great outdoors, travel, and DIY projects ranging from camper builds to home renovations and maintenance. His home base in Montana is the perfect testing grounds for winter products and snow equipment. With over a decade of professional writing experience, he also covers a variety of other projects and maintenance topics for Bobvila.com.

Additional research provided by Rebecca Wolken.