Step 1: Get rid of the snow
Clear any snow accumulations using a shovel or snow blower.
Step 2: Apply it right
If you have one, use a wheeled or handheld spreader to ensure that you apply ice melt ice melt in a thin, even layer. (Rinse the spreader between uses.) Otherwise, sprinkle it on using a cup or by hand. Always wear gloves if applying by hand. If you apply too much in an area, spread it out with a broom or flush it with water.
Ice melts work by breaking the pavement-ice bond so the ice can easily be removed. Some experts recommend that you apply the ice melt before a storm.
Step 3: Protect surfaces
Most of the damage to paved surfaces is caused by using too much ice melt and, especially for concrete, the freeze/thaw cycle that they’re subjected to. So follow the application amount on product packaging. If you're concerned about surface damage and want to increase traction on your driveway or walkways, consider other options, such as kitty litter, sand, or sawdust.
Some ice melts can truly damage paved surfaces, says T. Carter Ross, vice president for communications at the National Asphalt Pavement Association.
Magnesium in any form (PDF), especially magnesium chloride, is very damaging to concrete, and concrete can become unstable after the corrosiveness in chloride-based ice melts eats away at the rebar. Similarly, acetate ice melts can cause asphalt pavements to strip easily, breaking the bond between the aggregate and the asphalt binder.
- Never use an ice melt on concrete that’s less than 12 months old because newly poured concrete needs time to cure and settle. Applying an ice melt can weaken the concrete and make it more susceptible to future damage. Opt for sand or gravel to add traction.
- Avoid spreading ice melt around plants and getting it on your lawn. You can try to save plants or grass by soaking the affected area with 1-inch applications of water three to four times in the spring or replacing the soil in a small bed, adcording to Margaret Hagen, agricultural field specialist at the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension.