Watch Out For These Things When Using Ice Melt Compounds

This winter weíve had our share of freezing rain and freeze thaw cycles. Icicles and patches of ice are everywhere in residential neighbourhoods. Itís important to get rid of ice build-ups on driveways, walkways and stairs to avoid slip and fall accidents.

Whenever the sun comes out and weíre in a thaw cycle itís great to take advantage of the natural ice melt and carefully remove any ice build-ups on your driveway. You can boost that process with ice melt products to get rid of it faster.

Ice melt compounds are widely available and used by homeowners, but is there anything you should watch out when using them?

1. Not using it early enough: Often before a snow storm, youíll see the city de-icer trucks on major roads. Putting down the de-icer compound before the snow will help prevent the slippery conditions that occur when snow accumulates on top of a thin layer of ice. The same applies to your driveway. Spreading out some ice melt compounds on your driveway before the storm can help prevent that dangerous condition. Ice melts need to work on the ground. Sprinkling the top of 15 cm of snow will not be that helpful. The compound will have to work itís way down the snow to the base to be effective.

2. Using too much ice melt compounds. Did you know that in many cases, using more de-icing salts doesnít proportionately speed up ice melting. According to some manufacturers, less is more. Too much compound is not only a waste of money but it can burn vegetation and cause a mess when tracked into homes. The best thing to do is read the packaging because the ideal quantity per placement area will be given. The idea is to get a reasonably even spread of the compound. Some containers have lids that allow you to shake out the compound and that can provide more even distribution compared to using a scoop.

3. Using it wrong. Again, reading the directions is important because not all de-icer compounds are composed of the same materials. Some products like calcium or magnesium chloride can irritate your skin, so gloves are in order. Other compounds may not be recommended for certain types of surfaces such as brick or concrete. There are many different products on the market: calcium chloride, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride and urea. Some are exothermic (releases heat with contact to moisture), or endothermic (absorbs heat from the sun to activate). Exothermic de-icers, such as calcium chloride, work the quickest, but may be more expensive.

4. Cleaning up tracked in de-icers. Remember that de-icers are chemicals and can damage floors or finishes. For example calcium chloride can leave a residue on urethane or wax finishes on hardwood floors. Residues can be slippery or can be tracked further into the house onto carpet. Keep your entrance landing areas clean from meltwater from boots and tracked in materials.

Keeping your driveway free from ice is essential to reduce the risk of slip and fall injuries. Fortunately there are many products on the market that are safe to use and will not damage your asphalt driveway.

By: Chris Ferreri

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