Types of Ice Melt

Types of Ice Melt
Most U.S. cities use some form of ice melt on their roads several months out of the year; individuals uses these chemicals on their porch steps, driveways and walkways. Because of their pervasive use, ice melt products are inevitably tracked into their homes and offices. So what exactly is melting the ice on the road and on your steps? These are some of the main forms of ice melt.

Rock Salt

Also known as halite, this is the most common form of ice melt. Rock salt in which the active ingredient is NaCl, is mined and used all over the world, but in large concentrated doses, it can cause harm to plants.



Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are both used for melting ice at extremely low temperatures. These are exothermic, which means they release heat in the process of dissolving. These are hazardous to humans and animals.
potassium chloride, also known as potash, on the other hand is actually a nutrient to plants when used in moderation, so it may be better for areas around the yard than rock salt. It, however, is not effective at extremely low temperatures unless mixed with other ingredients.


This is sometimes used around airports and airplanes as it is noncorrosive in its purest form. Like potassium chloride, it is often used as a nutrient in plant fertilizers but may be corrosive to concrete in some forms, similar to ammonium sulfate and calcium and magnesium chloride.

Ethylene glycol

Though a danger to humans and animals and when it comes in contact with plants and water supplies, this glycol is commonly mixed with urea in the liquid deicer at airports for spraying down the planes in winter.


These are more environmentally friendly ice melt options. Potassium acetate is a biodegradable liquid deicer that is also mixed with urea at airports. Calcium magnesium acetate, also known as CMA, was, according to the MadSci Network, developed as an alternative to road salt and is more environmentally friendly. It is the safest of all ice melts in terms of being noncorrosive, biodegradable and safe for plants, animals and water sources when used in a non-concentrated form. CMA is, however, much more expensive than all other ice melts, so not everyone can afford to use it for larger deicing needs.

Alpha methyl glucoside

The best forms of ice melt are a conglomerate of ingredients that balance each other out. Alpha methyl glucoside is one of those ingredients often used in conjunction with others because it helps other chemicals to work at lower temperatures and can speed up the melting process.


Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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