What’s the Best Ice Melt for Concrete? This is an important question to ask yourself because the majority of common ice melt products that claim to be safe are ruining your concrete. I’m fully aware that chloride-based products are legally safe for concrete but the scientific data makes it clear that chlorides are the most damaging to concrete and the environment. You probably don’t believe me because you’ve been told otherwise, not to mention all the packaging of chloride-based ice melts that state they’re safe for concrete. I’m here to let you know there are much safer options for you.
And I show you the science behind the reasons why you need to stay away from chloride-based (salt) ice melt — assuming you want the least corrosive ice melt for your concrete. I’m here to explain the facts about chloride ice melt and dispel the lies you read on products that state they are “safe for concrete.” You’ve been lied to and I’m going to share with you the safe alternatives that won’t corrode your concrete.
Important: DO NOT USE any ice melt on concrete less than 12 months old. You need to give it time to settle, cure and reach its optimal strength. Use sand on new concrete for traction.
Table of Contents...
- 1 Safe Ice Melts for Concrete + What Products to Avoid
- 1.1 NOT Recommended for Concrete
- 1.2 Top Pick: Potassium Formate / Liquid
- 1.3 JUST FOR PETS: UREA-Based Proprietary Blend / NO CHLORIDES
- 1.4 Common Chloride Ice Melts are NOT Safe for Concrete or your Pets
- 1.5 Safest Compounds & Chemicals for Concrete and Pets
- 2 Best Ice Melt Safe for Concrete
Mild Formula: Ice Melt Safe for Concrete & Pets
This is Urea-based ice melt but they’ve developed their own proprietary formula and delivery system. Generally, Urea ice melt is more mild in comparison to other types of ice melts, especially chloride-based. This has No salts or chlorides so it’s one of the safest, and least corrosive ice melt products you can buy. This is a good option for concrete. Traditionally, Urea is used as a fertilizer, rich in nitrogen.
The main ingredient is Urea, which is also referred to as carbamide and carbonyl diamide. Urea is the main substance in urine.
They’ve developed a two-stage compound that each granule carries. The core is a modified crystalline structure and the outer layer is a liquid glycol admixture. After the granules hit the ice or snow, the outside layers begins to melt the ice, until the next stage is initiated by the crystalline core; speeding up the melting process.
This brand is the same company that makes the popular Safe Paw ice melt, which we discuss later and also recommend for concrete.
- Guaranteed safe for pets and children
- Proprietary traction agent (helps prevent slips and falls)
- Works to -2°F / Melts ice particles in 10 minutes
- Safe Thaw ice melt is made from the makers of Safe Paw
- Safe to use around plants, pets, and children; Ice melt won’t damage concrete and is environmentally safe for land and waterways. Safe If Ingested
- Safe Thaw crystal leaches out a deicing liquid to speed up the melting process even in subzero temperatures
- Will cover 100 square feet per pound
Safe Ice Melts for Concrete + What Products to Avoid
Let me make one thing clear before we continue — all ice melt formulas or individual ice melt compounds or chemicals, are destructive to concrete and the environment to some degree. The key to evaluating which ice melt to use should be determined by how destructive a product or compound/chemical will be. In other words, all ice melt products are situated on a scale of toxicity. It just so happens that chlorides are the most destructive on that scale, and the most corrosive compound is Magnesium Chloride. The other two to stay away from are Calcium Chloride and Sodium Chloride.
I don’t expect you to take my word for it because what I’m telling you goes against what most “experts” tell you. Here is a summary from extensive research done on ice melt and its impact on concrete. This research was done from the South Dakota Department of Transportation:
“…As a result of this research, it was determined that there is significant evidence that magnesium chloride and calcium chloride chemically interact with hardened portland cement paste in concrete resulting in expansive cracking, increased permeability, and a significant loss in compressive strength. Although the same effects were not seen with sodium chloride brines, it was shown that sodium chloride brines have the highest rate of ingress into hardened concrete. This latter fact is significant with respect to corrosion of embedded steel.
The mechanism for attack of hardened cement paste varies with deicer chemical but in general, a chemical reaction between chlorides and cement hydration products results in the dissolution of the hardened cement paste and formation of oxychloride phases, which are expansive. The chemical attack of the hardened cement paste is significantly reduced if supplementary cementitious materials are included in the concrete mixture. Both coal fly ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag were found to be effective at mitigating the chemical attack caused by the deicers tested. In the tests performed, ground granulated blast furnace slag performed better as a mitigation strategy as compared to coal fly ash. Additionally, siloxane and silane sealants were effective at slowing the ingress of deicing chemicals into the concrete and thereby reducing the observed distress…”
TIP: Here’s an example of a popular ice melt product that’s legally safe for concrete but in reality, it’s one of the most destructive products for concrete because it’s made from 100% magnesium chloride. My advice is to always look for the specific ingredient in the product and DO NOT trust what you see on the packaging. This is a problem with the industry and legal standards. This is not a criticism of the brand, or any other brand. They aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s just misleading to consumers.
NOT Recommended for Concrete
Kind Melt Brand: Even though this is an effective snow melt, because it’s 100% Magnesium Chloride, I don’t recommend it for concrete or pets.
Chlorides are salts. The chlorides in salt seep into the porous concrete and eventually reach any metal reinforcements. Structural concrete will slowly weaken and decay over time once chloride is released anywhere near it. Chlorides are common because they’re cheap, not because they’re the safest and most effective. They’re popular because they’re cheap, remember that. Everyone wants cheap despite the ultimate cost.
Formates and Acetates: The Safer Ice Melts
The least corrosive compounds and the safest for concrete are: Potassium Formate, Beet Juice/Extract, Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) and Potassium Acetate. And guess what? They’re more expensive than chlorides, which is why they’re not as common. One of the drawbacks of these ice melts is they’re more mild at their effectiveness in melting ice and snow. But don’t let that fool you. These work quite well, but they’re not as strong as chlorides. They are your best options if you truly want to buy the safest concrete ice melt.
Here’s how these ice melt compounds stack up from Most Destructive & least destructive to concrete:
Top Pick: Potassium Formate / Liquid
One of the Safest, Least-Toxic, Ice Melt for Concrete
It’s important to note that the science of ice melt and it’s impact on our world is complicated. You’ll have to read some of the studies I read before you can evaluate my conclusions. The truth is, our world is complicated. Any blended ice melt formula will create secondary chemical reactions, forming new compound which also have an influence on the environment. It’s very difficult to predict the cascade of variables that take place over the long term and down stream. Once you combine chemicals with the freeze and thaw cycle, you inevitably begin to influence the environment in negative ways. Concrete degradation is just one of the detrimental effects of snow and ice melt.
One tip I recommend is for you to seal the concrete with a concrete sealer, specifically use a Siloxane formula for a better seal. Apply it on all of the concrete around your home to prevent (minimize) toxic chemicals seeping into your driveway and walkways. This simple thing will help preserve the integrity of your concrete. It’s simple but effective. Seal your concrete.
Studies have proven that sealing concrete is one of the best things you can do to preserver your concrete. It makes sense as a sealer prevents ice melt from seeping into the concrete and causing damage.
Likewise, sealants proved to be very effective at reducing the impact of deicing chemicals. As can be observed from Figures 5.123 – 5.125, concrete samples coated with the siloxane sealer did not allow the penetration of chloride ions. In Figures 5.123 – 5.125, the chloride levels measured are very low and likely represent the chlorides contained in the limestone coarse aggregate.The Deleterious Chemical Effects of Concentrated Deicing Solutions on Portland Cement Concrete / South Dakota Department of Transportation
JUST FOR PETS: UREA-Based Proprietary Blend / NO CHLORIDES
Best Ice Melt Safe for Concrete and Pets
This product has a long history with an excellent overall rating. They don’t reveal their ingredients because it’s proprietary but all indicators point to a Urea formula. It leaves yellow staining which eventually washes away but that’s a tell-tale sign of Urea ice malt. Incidentally, urine is primarily made of urea and explains the yellow stains left behind.
Common Chloride Ice Melts are NOT Safe for Concrete or your Pets
This guide has one purpose — to provide consumers with accurate data on ice melting products that are objectively safe to use on concrete and around your pets. After doing deep research it became quite clear that the science didn’t support the claims I was reading on the packaging of the most popular ice and snow melting products. I found it strange that claims were being made that simply weren’t true. I’m here to share with you what I’ve discovered. The choice is yours to do with this information whatever you want.
All the scientific data points to chlorides as being highly destructive over time, but some chlorides are better than others and the safest, least-corrosive compounds and chemicals do not have “chloride” in the name. I don’t expect you to take my word for my claims about chlorides, so let’s look some science-based data.
The corrosive effects of deicers to metals were investigated both in the laboratory and in the field. For deicers diluted at 3% by weight or volume (for solid and liquid deicers respectively), electrochemical polarization test results showed that acetate-based deicers (CF7 and NAAC) were much less corrosive to mild steel than chloride-based deicers (the CDOT MgCl2 blend, IceSlicer, and IceBan) while comparably corrosive to galvanized steel.
Based on the electromigration test of chloride diffusion coefficients in portland cement mortar, it was estimated that even for high-quality concrete, the implications 248 of chloride-based deicers on the service life of steel-reinforced concrete might still be significant. While diffusion rates of acetate/formate based deicers were not measured, these products can impact steel reinforced PCC but to a much lesser extent than chloride based deicers…Read Full Report: EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVE ANTI-ICING AND DEICING COMPOUNDS USING SODIUM CHLORIDE AND MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE AS BASELINE DEICERS – PHASE I / Colorado Department of Transportation, pages 228-229
This buying guide will give you the facts about ice melt that you need to know before you decide which formula to by. You need to know that most ice melters use common inorganic compounds or chemicals as the core melting agents in their formula. Many products use 100% of a particular compound while others create a proprietary blend using common compounds. These products are not as complex as one might assume.
If you’re getting pock marks on your concrete driveway, you’re probably using an ice melt that’s not safe for concrete. There are several ice melt products that are safe for concrete. This section will give you an overview of what ingredients you should avoid and which compounds are the safest for concrete and the paws of your dog or cat.
Safest Compounds & Chemicals for Concrete and Pets
If you’ve been using rock salt or potassium chloride, this is probably why your concrete driveway is showing signs of deterioration. These products are corrosive and therefore not safe for concrete. We’ve researched ice melt products, paying particular attention to their effects on concrete, as well as plants, animals, and people.
When it comes to concrete, salt (sodium chloride) is often used as an ice melt compound, but it is actually one of the least safe and least-toxic compounds to use. Chloride in salt can react with the calcium hydroxide present in concrete, resulting in corrosion of the concrete surface and damage to the reinforcing steel and other metal components. Therefore, it is best to avoid chloride-based ice melts when it comes to concrete.
VIDEO: Learn About How Chlorides Impact Concrete
Chlorides such as calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and potassium chloride can also be corrosive and damaging to concrete surfaces. Therefore, if you want to buy the least corrosive concrete ice melt then you should avoid formulas where the main ingredients are chloride-based. But you don’t need to as much as a purist as I am because there are some great ice melt products with a small percentage of chlorides, which I think is okay as well. My only point here is that you should minimize the amount of chlorides in the product for the safest concrete ice melt.
This ice melt from National Blue is an excellent example of a formula that has No Magnesium Chloride and 10% Calcium Chloride. This is an excellent choice to keep pets safe, as well as concrete structures.
National Blue / Excellent Concrete Safe Ice Melt with Minimal Chlorides
What makes this ice melt a good buy?
Luckily, there are safer options outside of chlorides that can effectively melt ice and snow on concrete surfaces. Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is one of the safest and least-toxic compounds for concrete and pets. In fact, CMA is less corrosive than the tap water you drink, and it surpasses LEED guidelines, which means it’s the safest ice melt for concrete structures.
Visually, it’s a white, odorless powder made from calcium and magnesium salts and acetic acid. CMA is an effective ice melt safe for concrete and pets. It doesn’t contain any corrosive or potentially harmful ingredients. This is a definite winner.
Potassium chloride is another safe and effective ice melt compound for concrete. This is a naturally occurring mineral with a much lower chloride content than sodium chloride, making it much less corrosive to concrete and the environment. It’s efficient at melting ice and snow, while being safe for concrete surfaces.
Organic compounds are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional ice melts. These compounds, such as glycerin, propylene glycol, and ethanol alcohol, are safe for concrete, yet they’re still effective at melting ice and snow. In addition, they’re biodegradable and non-toxic. They are a great choice for those looking for a more environmentally friendly option for ice melting.
Beet extract and potassium formate are two lesser-known alternatives that are gaining visibility in this industry. Beet extract or juice is a natural ice melt that’s being used by select local governments on a wide-scale. It really does work and I highly recommend it for concrete and pets.
Potassium formate is a unique alternative ice melt, applied as a liquid, which is a more efficient way to apply ice melt. It’s a more mild product compared to chlorides and one of its limitations is that it’s only effective on ice or snow up to ⅛” thick, which is about the thickness of cardboard.
Let me interrupt this article to share with you how beautiful salt can be…
Natural Beauty of Rock Salt in Photos
Most road crews use rock salt (halite / sodium chloride) to melt ice on public roads. This is because it is the cheapest solution. Potassium chloride is seen as an environmentally safe alternative to rock salt, but this is also corrosive, making it unsafe for concrete. Homeowners may be better off considering alternative ice melt products, especially for concrete surfaces.
For example, beet juice or beet extract is a natural ice melter that won’t corrode concrete or harm the paws of your dog or cat. Even major cities are using beet juice for their snow clearing because it’s effective a deicing the roads. Local municipalities are using it by mixing a 50% mixture of beet juice with 50% chloride salts. This seems to lessen the toxicity to the environment while maintaining the fast ice melting speed of chlorides.
VIDEO: News Story on Beet Juice as a De-icer / Does it Work?
We also need to consider the safety of our family, pets, and the plants in our garden. It goes without saying that ice melt that is safe for concrete, plants, and animals, will also be the most eco-friendly products.
Other considerations may speed, there are ice melt products that act faster at removing ice. Some are better at preventing ice from forming, while others may be more effective in colder climates. Ice melt tends to leave a slurry that is slippery and not safe for pedestrians. So you may also want a product that does not leave a brine. It’s not just a simple matter of deciding which ice melt is safe for concrete. We need to factor in all our needs circumstances.
I’m going share my findings with you. I’ll give a detailed description of ice melt products deemed safe for concrete and discuss their other attributes. How do these deicers work? Generally, ice melt is a hygroscopic chemical compound. This means that these chemicals absorb moisture and then dissolve, raising the temperature and causing the ice to melt. After discussing safe deicers for concrete, I’ll give a more detailed analysis on how various types of ice melt chemicals work.
Best Ice Melt Safe for Concrete
Calcium Chloride — NOT Recommended for Concrete
Green Gobbler : 96% Calcium Chloride
Features : Green Gobbler Ice Melt
- Melts snow and ice 4x faster than rock salt
- Generates exothermic heat to melt thick snow and ice
- Works in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit
- Lowers the re-freezing temperature of melted ice
- Leaves no leftover residue and does not track
- Controls the freeze-thaw cycle (preventing concrete spalling)
Should you buy Calcium Chloride?
While opinions are not always the same, most experts agree that calcium chloride is the best product for those seeking an ice melt that is safe for concrete. This is a hygroscopic compound. So it absorbs water and then generates heat as it dissolves, up to 140°F. Typically, a pound of calcium chloride will heat a gallon of water by about 30°F or more.
Due it’s exceptional exothermic properties, calcium chloride is the most effective concrete-safe deicer for colder climates. Capable of melting ice when the ambient temperature is as low as -25°F, calcium chloride is the best solution in extreme weather conditions.
Calcium chloride is fast-acting, forming a brine quicker than most similar ice melts. This means quicker deicing. It is considered one of the more environmentally safe ice melt products. Though not the best in this regard.
Whilst easily the best ice melt safe for concrete, calcium chloride is one the more expensive options. You can expect top price in the region of $18 for a 50-pound bag of calcium chloride ice melt, depending on the brand.
Magnesium Chloride Ice Melt / Safe for Concrete
If you have a dog, cat, or kids, then you’ll want a pet safe ice melt.
- Low risk of concrete corrosion
- Melts snow and ice in frigid temperatures (as low as -10°f). Generates exothermic heat over a short period of time. Melts twice as much ice as rock salt in 21°f!
- Magnesium chloride formula harvested from the dead sea. Less toxic than calcium, potassium or sodium chloride.
- Safer for pets and the environment. Highly unlikely to burn or irritate the skin or pets paws. Pet safe won’t harm plants or cause spalling on driveways and concrete that’s been properly set and cured.
- Can be used in various ice melt spreaders.
- 30 day hassle free money back guarantee
Is Magnesium Chloride right for you?
Magnesium chloride works in a similar way to calcium chloride, it is a hygroscopic compound forming a brine solution which heats the ice. However, magnesium chloride is slower and is not as effective in colder weather.
Magnesium chloride is works well in temperatures as low as -5°F and is safe for concrete. The only real benefit to using magnesium chloride over calcium chloride, is that magnesium chloride is safer for vegetation. It is widely considered one of the more environmentally sound deicers.
Since magnesium chloride is one of the most expensive ice melt products, and is not as effective as calcium chloride, it can become costly. You’ll be paying for the product and will usually need to use more of it. However, if vegetation is your main concern, this would be the safer option.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate
Seen as the safest for animals, plants, and people, Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) is also safe for concrete. It is mostly made up of acetic acid, and closely resembles vinegar. This makes it an all-natural product, with the lowest environmental impact.
Unlike hygroscopic compounds, CMA does not form a brine. It functions by preventing ice particles for bonding and is one of the best at preventing re-freezing. It does, however, leave a slushy residue.
CMA is the safest ice melt, in general, though it is not as effective as other concrete-friendly deicers. It is rated for temperatures down to -7°F and is reasonably fast-acting.
Read Report — from Utah Department of Transportation, Research Division : Physical And Chemical Effects Of Deicers On Concrete Pavement : Literature Review
The researchers conclude :
“… Regardless of variations in testing methods and specimen characteristics, the results from nine of the ten studies summarized in this research indicate that specimens exposed to sodium chloride experienced only minor, if any, adverse effects, while specimens exposed to calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, or CMA experienced significant deterioration, including scaling, cracking, mass loss, and compressive strength loss.
The researchers found that the deterioration suffered by specimens exposed to calcium chloride was caused by the formation of calcium oxychloride and complex salts, while specimens exposed to magnesium chloride and CMA deteriorated because of M-S-H and brucite formation.
How Does Ice Melt work?
Most deicers are hygroscopic compounds. Generally this is some form of salt that absorbs moisture. As the water in the ice or snow is absorbed, a brine is formed, and the chemical reaction produces heat. The heat, in turn, melts the ice to form a slush that is easily removed. The most common hygroscopic ice melt products are rock salt, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride.
Products like calcium magnesium chloride, prevent ice particles from sticking to one another. In doing so, they stop snow from form forming ice sheets.
It’s important to note that ice melt products need to dissolve in order to be effective. Applying most deicers directly to an ice surface won’t work too well. It’s best to apply an ice melt before the ice forms. Alternatively, dissolving the deicer in some water before applying it will help start the exothermic hygroscopic reaction. In other words, mixing your ice melt with water will cause it to start heating up and help the process along.
- Detailed information on Concrete : (Portland Cement Association)
- Concrete Deterioration by Deicing Salts: An Experimental Study
- Effects Of Deicers On Concrete Deterioration : University of Kansas, Center for Research