As the threat of winter ice and snow increases, many homeowners start stocking up on deicer and other products to try and keep their walkways safe and clear throughout the winter. Not all deicer products are created equal, however, and some can actually do some harm around the home. Not only can some deicing compounds harm plants around your walkway, but they can even cause some damage to your walkways as well if you aren’t careful.
Obviously, damage to your lawn or property isn’t ideal when trying to use a product to keep yourself and your family safe during the winter. With several options available, how do you know which deicer is best for your home? While it may differ based on the composition of specific deicer products, here are some things that you can look for to help choose the right deicer for your walkways.
Avoiding Harmful Compounds
When people think of deicer, one of the first things that they think of is rock salt. It’s the most common deicing compound and has been around for decades, but it’s also the most dangerous to both your walkways and your yard. Rock salt is made of sodium chloride, abbreviated as NaCl, so if you see this on a deicer product you’re considering then you’re probably better off picking something else. Don’t pick just anything, though; some deicers use potassium chloride (abbreviated KCl) instead of sodium chloride, but this can also cause damage and even inhibit the root growth of plants in the spring.
There are a few options out there that are much better for your property than rock salt or potassium chloride. One of these is calcium chloride, also abbreviated as CaCl2, which not only is effective at lower temperatures than rock salt, but also gives off heat as it melts the ice, so it performs better as well. Urea-based deicers, which are made from ammonia, are also useful and are less likely to damage plants than many other compounds. Calcium magnesium acetate, also known as CMA, can also be used and is significantly less damaging than most other deicers because it is free of any form of salt.
Reducing Deicer Damage
If you do have to use a deicer that is potentially damaging to your walkways or plants, you have some options to help you reduce the damage that’s done. Mix the deicer with an inert compound such as sand or cat litter before spreading it, as this will provide traction and reduce the overall amount of deicer that you have to use. Use a mechanical spreader as well instead of just tossing the deicer out by hand to ensure a more even application that will keep large concentrations of salt or other chemicals from being deposited in one location. If you have advance warning before snow or ice hit, you can also cover portions of your steps or walkways with plastic, cardboard, or old towels or rugs; once the winter weather has passed, you can pick these items up and reveal mostly ice-free surfaces beneath them to greatly reduce your dependence on deicer.
Preparing for Winter Weather
Once the worst of winter hits, it’s usually too late to go out and try to buy deicer; many places start running low once winter weather starts showing on the radar. To avoid this, it’s important to stock up on at least a little deicer and other winter prep items well in advance of the bad weather actually arriving. There’s more to getting ready for winter than just keeping deicer and some basic supplies on hand, though.
Take the time to get winter prep inspections done of your HVAC system, roof, and other critical parts of your home done while the weather is still mild. This can help you avoid costly repairs and potentially dangerous situations once you’re in the middle of winter.