Ice Melt 101: How to Reduce Slips and Falls this Winter

Icy Sidewalk

When used correctly, ice melt is a powerful tool that can keep ice under control at your facility and reduce the chance for slips and falls. If you live in the Midwest like us, you live in the Frost Belt, a region known for its cold frost, ice and snow producing ways… in other words, optimal weather for creating ice rink-like sidewalks during winter.

Luckily, we are not on our own when it comes time to battle what winter throws at us. Ice melt compounds work their magic to help eliminate dangerous ice and packed snow on steps, parking lots, sidewalks and loading docks.

When it’s cold outside, selecting the right ice melt should not give you a brain freeze.

How to Select the Right Ice Melt for Your Facility

The chemical composition is the defining quality of ice melt and determines whether the product is exothermic or endothermic. Blends that contain calcium chloride are exothermic. They release heat when they come in contact with water, making them great for extreme cold temperatures, effective down to -25°F. Exothermic blends cost slightly more, but work quickly with less product being used.

Blends without calcium chloride are endothermic, and require ambient temperature to work because they absorb heat from the atmosphere. These blends are better for milder temperatures.

First, choose an ice melt blend that will work best in your climate, then focus on characteristics that matter to your unique facility. Some properties to consider are: colorant (to help with even coverage), environmental impact, and safe-for-use qualities.

Used properly, ice melt will help prevent refreezing of ice and snow and will not damage concrete. The key to keeping your facility safe is to use ice melt and thoroughly clean the walks with a shovel.

Download the Ice Melt Selection Guide to find the right ice melt for your facility.

Application Tips

So you’ve selected the ice melt that best fits your needs, but if it’s not applied correctly, it will not be effective and may cause damage to walkways.

  1. Do not use on concrete less than two years old – Freeze-thaw damage may occur.
  2. Apply in advance of a winter storm – Early attention before a storm will help prevent freeze-thaw scaling of surfaces. When the snow starts falling, the ice melt will create a brine solution, preventing ice and snow from bonding to the surface.
  3. Disperse properly – Contrary to popular opinion, using large amounts of ice melt does not affect the speed which ice and snow melts. Using too much product can damage surfaces and harm the environment.
  4. Use a mechanical spreader for accurate coverage – The proper coverage rate is about one cup per square yard. This coverage will fan out and undercut the ice, so that you can shovel the walkway clear.
  5. Continue to disperse ice melt during a storm – This helps to prevent snow from becoming hard-packed on surfaces.

Ice melt plays an essential role in many safety programs. Select the right ice melt and apply correctly to reduce the chance for slips and falls this winter.

Know what else shouldn’t give you a brain freeze besides selecting the right ice melt? Cleaning up after the storm. You can’t stop the ice melt from being tracked in, but you can clean up your matting to look like new.

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