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A Complete Guide to Using Liquids for Ice Control

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[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 31, 2019 2:36:21 PM / by Jim Arnot

A Complete Guide to Using Liquids for Ice Control-2

The use of liquids as a means of de-icing surfaces is a relatively new development, having only come to the fore in the last decade, or so. Previously, most contractors favored the use of solid ice-melters, mostly because adding a liquid to an icy surface seemed counter-intuitive.New and better products, training opportunities, development of outstanding application equipment, pressure to reduce chloride emissions, and cost savings have made savvy ice and snow contractors recognize the advantage of incorporating liquid ice melt into their overall strategy. That’s not to say that solid ice melt solutions don’t have their place. It’s a matter of using the right melting product for each situation. In general terms, here are the recommendations of which to use for optimal results:

When to use Liquids & Solids:

  • Improving traction on the surface of ice and snow: solids
  • Prevention of ice and snow bonding to surfaces: liquids
  • Breaking down ice and snow on surface pavement for removal: liquids and solids

Choosing the Right Liquid for the Right Job

Chlorides (or salts) are the best-known and most popular de-icers because they are inexpensive and readily available. They include sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride. Chlorides are corrosive, can damage vegetation, and are harmful to the environment.

Potassium Chloride

  • Effective to 20°F
  • Less harmful to the environment than sodium chloride
  • Works well as a blending agent

Sodium Chloride

  • Effective to 5°F
  • Inexpensive and most commonly available

Magnesium Chloride

  • Effective to -15°F
  • Less corrosive and safer for the environment
  • Requires slightly more volume to be effective
  • Good option to blend with other de-icers

Calcium Chloride

  • Effective to -25°F
  • Melts ice faster
  • More expensive
  • More corrosive and worse for the environment

Non-chloride de-icers, such as calcium magnesium acetate, potassium acetate, urea, and sodium formate, are non-corrosive and less toxic to the environment than chlorides. They are, however, more expensive. Non-chloride de-icing solutions are what airports generally use and are excellent options for parking structures, bridges, and other environments where corrosion and environmental concerns justify the added cost.

Calcium magnesium acetate and urea are effective up to 20°F, sodium formate is effective to 0°F, and potassium acetate to -15°F.

Using Liquids on Concrete

Concrete is particularly vulnerable to de-icers. By lowering the freezing point of water, de-icers cause repeated thawing and refreezing of ice. When that water is trapped in concrete, which is more common in poor quality concrete, its expansion can cause chipping, breakage, and other damage. To minimize the damage caused by de-icers, it’s best to limit the volume applied and to remove the melted ice and snow as quickly as possible.

Understanding Different Liquid Ice-Melt Uses:


Any experienced snow removal contractor worth his salt (pardon the pun) will tell you that it is far easier and faster to remove loose snow or ice than compacted ice that is frozen to the surface. Anti-icing is what allows you to be proactive when a weather event is looming. Application of the liquid to surfaces beforehand will help prevent it from bonding to the pavement by melting snow from the bottom-up. Anti-icing agents can melt approximately 1/4” of snow, providing you more time to complete the task of removing the accumulation. Since it takes as much as 5 times more salt and 50% more resources to break up existing ice bonded to the pavement than it does to prevent it, anti-icing can reduce your operating costs and boost your efficiency.

To be most effective, anti-icing requires good weather forecasting information and pavement surface temperature readings. Anti-icing liquids should not be applied at temperatures above 32°F, as it can make road surfaces more slippery. Other benefits of anti-icing:

  • Reduces damage to property and to the environment
  • Limits plowing time
  • Minimizes risk of accidents, making it safer for pedestrians and drivers


Pre-wetting is the practice of coating dry salt with liquid as it’s being spread on the surface. This helps to speed up the melting process. It also helps to prevent salt from blowing or bouncing off the desired surface. This practice is also an effective way to reduce salt usage.


When the snow has fallen, and the ice has formed a bond with the pavement surface, deicing is required. The application of de-icing liquid either on its own for thinner layers or with solid ice melt is an effective way to break up the ice and release the bond with the surface. This method melts ice and snow from the top down. Always plow before applying de-icing solutions. Foot and automobile traffic will help mix the material with the snow and ice, and therefore, areas with a higher volume of traffic require less material.

The Benefits for Property Managers and Other Customers

Integrating liquid deicers into your ice control strategy will help to set you apart from other snow removal contractors. Your customers will appreciate the faster results you achieve, the lower risk of slip and fall injuries, the improved protection to lawns and vegetation, and the reduced corrosion caused by your deicing solution. They will also achieve savings because their property will require fewer repairs due to cracks caused by frequent freeze and thaw cycles.


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Topics: Using Liquids

Jim Arnot

Written by Jim Arnot

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