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Have you put salt on your driveway this winter? Did it work? Which salt should you actually be putting on your driveway? No one likes slipping on ice, but some of the more effective de-icing salts can damage the cement of your home. Find out the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of driveway salt in this quick guide!

How Does Salt Work?

It’s a common misconception that driveway salt melts ice, but that isn’t the case at all. Putting salt on your driveway doesn’t actually melt it but instead alters the chemistry of the water.

Water freezes at 32° F. When you mix salt into the water, the freezing point of water decreases, meaning that the water will only freeze when it gets to an even lower temperature. So, if the salt you put on your driveway doesn’t lower the freezing point enough, you’ll still have plenty of ice left on your driveway even after a generous helping of salt.

Which Type of Salt Do You Need?

Knowing how salt works can help you decide which kind of salt your driveway needs. Different kinds of salt lower the freezing point of water to different degrees, so take into account just how cold it can get in your area. It’s also important to note that using certain salts can damage your driveway and lawn and can be toxic to your pets. Here’s a quick guide on each type of salt, so you can choose the best salt for your driveway.

Sodium Chloride or “Rock Salt”

Sodium chloride, or rock salt, is the most common type of driveway salt. It lowers the freezing point of water to 20° F. It’s the cheapest option, but it can cause major damage to concrete when used. The salt itself doesn’t break the concrete, but it instead makes it more likely for water to melt and refreeze in cracks in the concrete, widening gaps and breaking the concrete. It’s also important to note that sodium chloride can be dangerous to pets and children if ingested.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride is more expensive than sodium chloride, but it’s less harsh on your driveway than sodium chloride on your concrete. It can work for temperatures down to -25° F and it usually works faster than sodium chloride. A word of caution: don’t overapply calcium chloride as it can cause major damage to your lawn! While you don’t apply salt to your lawn, the water with salt runs off into your lawn once the snow melts. The saltwater can then kill grass and flowers.

Magnesium Chloride

Are you looking for a salt that’s pet friendly and environmentally friendly? Magnesium chloride is a great choice! While magnesium chloride is more expensive than sodium chloride and calcium chloride, it is less likely to damage your concrete or your lawn. This type of salt only works in temperatures down to 0° F, which is better than sodium chloride but not quite as good as calcium chloride.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate

The most expensive, yet the safest type of driveway salt is calcium magnesium acetate! This salt will not cause any damage to your driveway, and it’s also pet-friendly and environmentally friendly! It works best at temperatures above 20° F, but it can also still break the bond between the ice and your cement at 0° temperatures.

How to Best Use Driveway Salt

It’s one thing to choose the right salt to use, but it’s also important to use the salt right to effectively melt the ice without damaging your concrete and lawn. Here are a few things to consider when applying salt to your driveway.

  • Spread it evenly. Don’t pile on the salt in patches, even if some areas seem to be worse than others. By spreading the salt evenly, you cover as much surface area as possible without using too much.
  • Don’t use too much salt. When applying salt to your driveway, more is not better! Adding more salt does not melt the ice any faster or better. Using too much salt can cause major damage to your driveway and lawn once the snow melts.
    Clean paws and hands. Many salts are abrasive and can make your skin itchy and red. Also, many salts such as sodium chloride, are extremely toxic to pets. If you’re out walking your pet, make sure to wash off any salt that may have gotten on their paws.
  • Choose the right salt. Different salts work best in different temperatures. If Cleveland has been hit by a number of below zero temperature days, then you most likely need a salt that works past below zero temperatures, like calcium chloride.
  • Shovel first, salt second. While it may seem like more work at first, always make sure to shovel the snow before you apply salt.