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Can a deicer damage my driveway and harm my plants?

Consumer Reports News: February 06, 2009 12:09 AM

We've been slammed by several nasty winter storms recently. I don't want my driveway and walks to turn into dangerous skating rinks, but can snow-melt products and deicers damage those surfaces or harm my grass and yard?

Snow-melt products and deicers are designed to weaken the bond between the ice or snow and the surface and not to completely melt all the wintertime stuff that Mother Nature drops on your property. After snow melt/deicer loosens the bond, you should shovel off or sweep away the snow or ice to prevent it from bonding to the surface again.

Snowy Path Deicer Snow MeltAs for damage to your asphalt or concrete driveway and walks, snow melts/deicers usually aren't the culprits. Those surfaces usually are damaged by freeze-thaw cycles and not directly by chemical reactions between them and snow melts/deicers. Still, these products do contribute to freeze-thaw cycles by creating water from frozen precipitation. When snow or ice melts, water can penetrate into the pores of asphalt or concrete. When that water refreezes, it expands and exerts pressure on the walls of the pores, causing pieces to spall, or flake off. You can reduce this problem by applying a sealer to asphalt and concrete surfaces in the fall.

When it comes to the vegetation surrounding your driveway and walks, applying snow melts/deicers too frequently or too heavily will increase the likelihood you'll damage plants and grass. To minimize the harm, in early spring if seasonal rains don't arrive, flush the soil around the areas you treated this winter with a good dose of water.

Use snow melt/deicers sparingly and according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Essential information: Find out which snow blowers have stood out from the pack during our preliminary tests.

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