Milwaukee Snow Removal Company on Rock Salt & De-Icers
What You Need To Know About De-Icers and Snow Removal This Winter
This is the time of year ice melting products and rock salt start showing up in the aisles of your local hardware store and big box home improvement center. Around here, even grocery stores have 20 lb. bags of the stuff piled up on pallets out front.
Rock salt (sodium chloride) is the cheapest way to melt ice and is available just about everywhere. Most snow removal contractors use rock salt (including us!), but it does have its drawbacks:
- It’s only effective to about 15 degrees (Fahrenheit). If it gets colder, it won’t melt snow or ice.
- It will inevitably end up in the grass on the side of your sidewalk, and if enough of it gets there it will kill the grass and any plants it comes into contact with.
- It will corrode any metal products it comes into contact with.
- Rock salt on concrete sidewalks and driveways will be absorbed by the concrete. Once in the concrete, it will continue to attract water. With the usual freeze-thaw cycle of Wisconsin’s winter weather, the concrete will inevitably crack.
- Rock salt gets stuck on the paws of pets, causing a burning sensation and, in some cases, skin ulcers. Rock salt is also toxic for any pets who ingest it.
- If you’re going to put rock salt down on concrete sidewalk or steps (or hire us to salt your walkways), the concrete should be at least six months old or the rock salt can cause severe damage to the concrete.
Are There Any Alternatives To Rock Salt for De-Icing?
Yes, as a matter of fact there are. One of the more popular commercially available ice melters is Safe Paw. It is 100% salt-free and is safe for pets, children and plants, as well as concrete, asphalt and shrubs. The manufacture says it’s a “patented dual-effect compound made from a modified crystalline amide core infused with special glycol admixture and traction agents.” The product gets mostly glowing reviews, but proceed with caution if you’re concerned about damage to your masonry.
A Less Expensive and Pet-Safe Alternative to Rock Salt: Water Softener Salt
If you’ve priced the pet-friendly rock salt, you already know it’s a bit pricey. Here’s a tip: Buy Water softener salt. Yes, the stuff you put in your water softener to reduce those crusty deposits caused by hard water is the same mineral (sodium or potassium chloride) as pet-safe rock salt!
Water softener salt is also much less expensive than the rock salt sold for deicing. A 30 lb. bag of deicing salt runs costs around $15. A 50 lb. bag of water softener salt runs about $6. That’s a pretty huge difference. Plus, when there's a run on rock salt and the stores have sold out, chances are they still have plenty of water softener salt on hand.
If you’re going to give it a try, look for a water softener salt with smaller sized pellets than the “Extra Coarse” variety. Smaller pieces of salt tend to spread out better than larger pieces. Also, avoid getting the salt in any landscaped areas where plants or shrubs are (or will be).
Beet Juice and Epsom Salts?
Beet juice might sound ridiculous, but many highway departments actually put down a beet juice and cheese brine concoction to de-ice public roads. There are even some commercially available de-icers derived from beets (Organic Melt comes to mind.) If you're looking for another natural alternative, consider Epsom salt. Believe it or not, it actually melts snow and ice and poses no threat to plants or animals. And if you want to keep it simple, just put down sand or fine gravel. This actually is better for traction than melting the ice with a de-icer.
How To Use A De-Icer
It seems obvious, of course. Just toss some de-icer granules all over your sidewalk, right? Well, not quite.
Putting de-icer on a dry, powdery snow is a waste of the de-icer. Just sweep or shovel the snow away so it doesn’t get packed down from people walking on it. If it’s a wet, heavy snow, though, start putting down de-icer as soon as possible. Don’t put it down if the snow is deeper than 2-inches because it won’t melt enough to do any good. You have to shovel first. Once you get down to the bottom layer of snow, put down the de-icer.
Rock Salt Still The Most Practical Solution For Office Parks, Malls and Other Large Areas
The home-brew de-icers are worth a try if you’re just trying to put something down on a small run of sidewalk. Ditto for the pet-friendly de-icers. But if you manage a large property with a lot of sidewalk and parking lot area, it’s just not cost-effective or realistic. Which is why rock salt is still commonly used.
If you’re concerned about the use of rock salt on your commercial property, our recommendation is to put down a mix of sand and fine gravel. It doesn’t melt the snow or ice, but it provides excellent traction. At worse, you’ll have some accumulations of fine gravel on the sides of your sidewalk after winter is over.
Residential and Commercial Snow Removal Service Throughout Greater Milwaukee
When a major snowstorm hits, rock salt isn't going to make a foot of snow go away. In the winter months, Brennan Landscaping provides prompt, thorough snow removal for homes and business all over the Milwaukee area. Since we never know what we’re in for one winter to the next, the best way to ensure you have someone lined up to clear your driveway or parking lot is with a winter snow removal contract.
Procrastinators, take heed: If you wait until the day you wake up to 5-inches of snow blanketing your parking lot, you'll probably be waiting 'til the end of the day before anyone can come out to clear your lot. That's because customers on contract with the snow removal service get first priority.
If you haven’t already lined up a snow removal company for this winter, give Brennan Landscaping a call for more information and a free quote. You can reach us at 414-645-5477.
Contact us online for information on our snow removal contracts.
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