Today the temps in the twin cities may reach double digits for the first time in a few days. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get up to 11 degrees and we’re supposed to get another couple inches of snow. This snow will add to the 1-2 inches of compacted ice and snow that covers the streets and sidewalks around town. What’s a Minnesotan to do, hide indoors or fight back? I say fight back because there’s only so much time you can spend inside before you go nuts. Remember it’s only January 5th, we’ve got months of this stuff to come.
So what’s the weapons of choice to protect yourself from yet another tailbone injury. Ice melt, sand and a good quality ice scraper/chopper for starts.
Ice melt is usually a mix of magnesium chloride calcium chloride and sodium chloride. It is not just salt. When temperatures reach the below zero point ice melts tend to loose a bit of their potency. Most ice melts are only effective to about 5-10 degrees below zero. When you apply ice melt it changes the freezing point of water. As the ice melts further and further down it dilutes the salt causing it to loose it’s effectiveness. Add salt to your driveway or sidewalk and after it starts to melt the ice away scrape up what’s there. If left alone ice that has melted from putting ice melt on it can refreeze.
Make sure to follow the manufacturers directions on the product you use. Using too much ice melt can cause damage to vegetation in your yard and can cause environmental harm. Also do not apply deicer to concrete driveways and walkways that are less than 1 year old. Avoid using rock salt to de-ice your driveway. Rock salt causes metal to corrode and pollutes streams, rivers and lakes. Also avoid de-icers that have a high quantity of calcium chloride. Calcium chloride is an effective ice melter at temps well below freezing but it also cause the most damage to concrete. Look for a higher quantity of magnesium chloride (like in the product icenomor made by Ec Grow).
Do not use water softener salt to de-ice your driveway. Like I mentioned above, the driveway de-icers used today when used properly do not contain chemicals that would harm plants or ruin your driveway. If you where to use a rock salt or water softener salt you will run the risk of killing grass and plants as well as harming your driveway and sidewalk surface.
Sand should be used as a topical treatment for ice. Sand itself has no ice melting powers but it will aid in traction on the ice. Sand should be used if the temps are well below freezing and the ice melters are rendered ineffective. It can also be used in conjunction with an ice melt. The downfall to sand is the fact that you track it in to the house.
Ice scrapers and choppers are used to scrape and chop ice. Seems obvious. However the effectiveness of removing depends partly on the scraper being used. There are a number of different scrapers and choppers out there. A quality ice chopper is usually heavier steel with a narrower blade. It is meant to chop downward into thicker ice deposits. Let the weight of the chopper do most of the work breaking the ice into smaller pieces. (It is also an effective tool to use for ice fishing holes)
Ice scrapers are meant to travel under the surface of the ice and pry it up. Most can also be used to also chop but aren’t always as effective with really thick ice. The product that we’ve found to be very effective at ice removal is called the “Ultimate Scraper” http://ultimatescraper.com/. It is very effective at removing ice and despite it’s thin blade it is incredibly durable. It is made from spring steel and even has a spot to kick the scraper with your foot. We highly recommend this product.
This option is more proactive as opposed to reactive. It involves using a chemical spray that you apply to the surface of the concrete before the ice forms. This helps keep ice and snow from accumulating on the surface and will also make it easier for removal if it does accumulate. It’s not magic and timing is everything with this product but it can be effective for small amounts of snow and freezing rain. It can also be used as a somewhat effective ice melter and it claims effectiveness down to -27 F degrees.