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It’s a balancing act — balancing performance against cost. Salt is the least expensive and most effective deicer in most cases. However, it’s not without adverse consequences: negative impact on vegetation, corrosion to infrastructure and vehicles, and elevated sodium levels in water.

The Problem with Salt for Melting Ice

Salt is frequently mixed with inexpensive abrasives, such as sand, cinders, and grit. Abrasives offer no deicing benefits — only traction. Studies have proven that sand is a false economy.  While it is inexpensive and abundantly available, it quickly plugs stormwater catch basins and drains and creates toxic clouds of silica dust.

The runoff in brooks and streams inhibits flow and chokes vegetation. In other words, it interferes with the delicate balance of the ecosystem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted legislation called the Stormwater Management Act. This act attempts to address a variety of stormwater related issues stemming from stormwater runoff, oil/water separators, and sand interceptors.

Since the law requires us to abandon abrasives, we will, within 10 years, manage snow and ice exclusively by chemicals alone. This means that we need to make those chemicals much more efficient, use them more intelligently, and find ways to control their applications. We work toward this goal every day.

How Our DeIcing Products Can Enhance Salt

Consider this: 300 lbs per lane mile (10′ X 5280′) of salt is generally accepted as the application rate for highway deicing starting point in most situations. By adding only 8 to 12 gallons (per ton of salt) of our liquid pre wet agent, we can reduce the application to only 200 lbs. per lane mile AND still maintain the exact same level of performance. This technique was first documented by the “Marquette Study” nearly 40 years ago. and Deicing

We offer a complete line of liquid ice melt and pre-wet agents, such as liquid calcium chloride, liquid magnesium chloride, liquid salt (salt brine), Magic liquid, and our SOLUTIONS  line of environmentally certified liquids, to low-corrosion products, such as IceBan, Caliber, Ice’B Gone, Magic-0. In addition to these well known and proven liquid performers, we stock and offer specialty products like liquid Acetates for applications that demand environmentally safe and bridge-safe deicers.

Our dry deicing products range from traditional deicers, such as bulk rock salt and packaged halite to high performance deicers like MAG Pellets®, Peladow®, MAG Flakes®, DowFlake®, Calso98®, Freezeguard®, MagicSalt®, Thermocal®, and a range of specialty blended products as well as custom blends to your specifications. We have unique specialty products such as our new calcium chloride nuggets, which are an innovation that only we offer.

With the calcium chloride nuggets, you get the boring and penetration properties of a pellet, but you don’t get the “bounce and roll” problems since the egg-shaped nuggets stay where you put them, going right to work. Sometimes a spherical-shaped deicer is what you want, and, in some cases, bounce and roll is advantageous — we stock those products, too (such as Peladow®, potassium chloride, and MAG® product lines).

What You Need to Know About Deicers and Surrounding Vegetation

Most de-icing chemicals are technically “salts” that work by lowering the freezing point of water below 32° F. Salts can damage plants in two ways:

  • First, plants are harmed by direct contact with snow melt containing deicers or in salt spray from roadways. Repeated shoveling or blowing snow that contains deicers onto nearby landscape plants will also increase the likelihood of contact injury. Direct contact can cause bud death and twig dieback resulting in the growth of twig clusters known as “witches’ brooms.” Evergreens exposed to salts can show symptoms as early as February or March, including needle flecking, yellowing or browning, and twig dieback.
  • Second, by repeated yearly applications, the resulting buildup in adjacent soil may damage plant roots so they are unable to take up water. Plants’ symptoms include wilting (even when soils are moist), an abnormal blue-green cast in the foliage, marginal leaf burn or needle-tip burn, and general stunting or lack of vigor. Over time, some clay soils may have their structure changed by extremely high salt levels and become unable to support plant life. You can water well-drained soils heavily to leach some of the excess salts out, but this will not work with fine-textured clay soils or soils with inadequate drainage. De-icing chemicals vary in their effectiveness as deicers and their potential for damage.

Deicer Comparison

Common chemicals for
Lowest effective temperature Damage to plants Soil damage Water pollutant Damage to concrete/metals
Common salt +15°F High High Yes Yes
Calcium chloride -20°F Medium Medium Yes Yes
Calcium magnesium acetate +15°F Low Low No No
Urea +15°F Medium Low Yes Yes

One Of The Best De-Icing Products To Use

Calcium chloride is the chemical most effective at extreme low temperatures. It’s also less likely to cause corrosion or plant damage when applied correctly. Avoid using rock salt whenever possible. Urea (lawn fertilizer) can burn plants and lawns if you apply too much. Urea is also likely to cause pollution in run-off waters during the spring melt.

Using Deicers Correctly

Don’t use deicers to simply melt snow or ice. Use them as an aid to mechanical removal. All deicers need to be used after shoveling and sweeping has removed as much snow and ice as possible and after the threat of additional snowfall has ended. The deicer will melt down to the surface and allow manual removal of the final layer of snow or ice. Avoid shoveling snow that contains deicers directly onto plants. Whenever possible, remove snow and ice manually and then spread an abrasive. Always use deicers sparingly.

Protecting Your Landscape from Deicers

Advance landscape planning can minimize plant damage from deicers. Landscape plants differ in their tolerance to salt exposure. Some are highly sensitive while others are more tolerant. When planning new landscapes or redesigning existing ones, use relatively salt-tolerant plant species in areas adjacent to de-icing locations.

Sensitive More Tolerant
Pinus strobus – (Eastern White Pine) Gleditsia triacanthos – (Honeylocust)
Taxus spp. – (Yew) Juniperus chinensis ‘Pfitzerana’ – (Pfitzer Juniper)
Thuja occidentalis – (American Arborvitae)
Berberis thunbergii – (Japanese Barberry) Ribes alpinum – (Alpine Currant)
Cornus spp. – (Dogwood) Philadelphus spp. – (Mock Orange)
Spirea spp. – (Spirea) Potentilla fruticosa – (Bush Cinquefoil)
Rhododendron spp. – (Rhododendron/Azalea) Symphoricarpos – (Common Snowberry)


Make sure areas receiving snow and deicer have good drainage so a thorough watering in the spring can help flush the excess salts. Plant tolerance increases if the soil is rich in organic matter. Amend soils with organic matter, such as compost or peat moss. Incorporating Gypsum into the soil may also help offset some of the negative effects of de-icing salts. Incorporate 10 to 20 pounds of gypsum per hundred square feet prior to planting in salt exposure areas.

Well-maintained landscape plants that are properly pruned, fertilized, and watered will be better equipped to withstand the stresses associated with exposure to deicing chemicals, but your goal should be to minimize the use of deicing chemicals always. That’s where’s know-how of performance deicers can help you achieve your objectives.

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