Rock Salt vs Ice Melt? And the Winner is…

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Bucks Country Gardens

As a kid, a snowfall at my house required two things: a shovel and rock salt. It was pretty much a no-brainer. My dad would head outside, never really seeming to wear enough warm layers, and shovel the driveway, the sidewalk and a few walkways around the house. As my brothers and I got older, we gladly went out to assist my dad (let’s be honest, we were “required”). It was all about “technique” he said. You shovel down to the asphalt or cement, dump the snow along side the driveway (watch out for the plants!) and then sprinkle generous helpings of rock salt. Made sense to me.

In the many years since the ‘70’s, a lot has been learned from the use of rock salt for treating snow and ice conditions. Rock salt (sodium chloride) is still widely used today. It is cheap, easy to apply and conveniently available in hardware stores, grocery stores, warehouse stores, Wawa… For an average winter, it does a good job. That we all know. What you might not know is that it is corrosive. Very corrosive. Not only can it wreak havoc on your car’s paint job, but it can also cause major problems for your plants, animals and waterways. Although salt is a naturally occurring mineral, when you put a large amount of salt into an ecosystem that is not equipped to deal with it, it can upset the balance and cause some serious problems for plants and animals.

Rock salt melts and mingles with water, then flows along ground surfaces until it gets absorbed or pools flat somewhere. This is where we need to pay attention. If this salt/water mixture ends up in your lawn, it gets absorbed into the soil, which lowers the pH, making the soil more acidic, which thereby suppresses nutrient and clean water transfer to the plants that grow there. When excess salt is present, plants need more water to make up for what they can get naturally.

Additionally, excess salt water runoff from your driveway into the street can eventually find itself in a storm drain, retention basin, culvert or water feature. This can eventually feed into local freshwater streams, rivers and lakes. You know where I’m going with this: rock salt has a big effect on water quality. It just takes a pinch to degrade the water quality causing it to be unsafe for consumption. That affects a lot of plants and wildlife.

Don’t forget about animals. Whether it’s your favorite four-legged buddy or Patches, the neighborhood bunny rabbit, they have to deal with the unpleasant effects of rock salt as well. The salt is an irritant which means if it becomes lodged in an animal’s pads, it can create superficial burns. And if the food eaten by many animals becomes high in salt, this can cause health problems including salt poisoning.

So, what do you do? Although snow seems to have become an almost daily occurrence in our area this winter, we still need to be mindful and proactive about proper and responsible treatment of walkable surfaces. Ice melt is the way to go. It is pure and natural magnesium chloride. MAG® Ice Melt pellets are extracted from the Dead Sea by natural evaporation of seawater and a simple refinement process. It starts to work immediately, leaves no residue, is far less damaging to concrete and is very safe to use not only for you but also for your most cherished pets and our environment. And an added bonus: it works effectively at temperatures as low as -13° F, well below most ice melters. Being one of the coldest winters that I can remember, this should work perfectly for our frigid conditions. And hopefully Mother Nature won’t put MAG® Ice Melt to that challenge.

If you like convenience, by all means stick with rock salt. If you are thinking long term, be kind to your home, your pets and your plants and pick up a bag or two (judging by this way this winter is going, you might need a few more) and reap the benefits of MAG® ice melt. The student now becomes the teacher: Dad, I’ll be picking up a few bags for you!

Adriene Vesci | Graphic Designer & Advertising Coordinator