The winter storm is over, but now you're left with a coat of ice and snow on your sidewalks and driveways. What's the quickest and cheapest way to get rid of it? We put some of the most popular ice melts to the test and found out which products work the best.
A blanket of white fluffy snow looks like a pretty picture, but when there's a layer of ice underneath that winter wonderland turns into a whopping workload. Everyone has different ways to try and melt the ice. The City of Columbia uses a three part cinder to one part salt mixture.
"The color from the cinder generates heat when the sun is out and it helps the salt melt the ice," says Jill Stedem, with Columbia Public Works.
It's cheaper for the city because they get the cinder for free from the city's water and light department, but using cinders is a messier option.
Jefferson City residents don't have to worry about black cinder marks on their carpets, because city crews primarily use rock salt on the roads. "We have a lot of hills in the area and salt is better at melting as opposed to cinder that's just going to give traction," says Britt Smith, with the Jefferson City Public Works.
Besides being more expensive, rock salt can be corrosive when left on steel.
What's best for you to use on your driveway and sidewalks? I tested out four popular ways to melt ice to see which ones melted the best. I tested out fertilizer, a magnesium mix, a calcium chloride mix and regular old rock salt.
We put the products on the ice and waited for about one hour. The fertilizer melted the ice a little bit, but not quite as well as the other three products.
The magnesium sodium mixture melted it pretty well, but the calcium chloride mix by far did the best job. It started melting the ice the second we put it down and now it's melted all the way down to the blacktop.
The rock salt also melted the ice, but not as well as the calcium chloride.
But, if you're more worried about money slipping out of your pocketbook, than slipping on the ice, then the calcium chloride may not be the product for you.
That's because per pound the mix is the most expensive of the products made specifically to melt ice. Calcium chloride costs about $0.94 a pound. The magnesium mix costs about half as much at about $0.41 a pound. The rock salt is the best buy at just under $0.10 a pound.
The fertilizer is our most expensive product at nearly $2.00 a pound. Even though it's the most expensive and doesn't do much to melt the ice, it does serve double duty. After the ice melts, it won't harm your lawn, but will actually help it come spring.
The calcium chloride is the most expensive of the ice melt products we tested, but it is concentrated so you can spread it out sparingly and make it stretch. You can also do what the City of Jefferson does. When the ice gets bad, they mix in calcium chloride with the rock salt.
Combining the two will help you quickly chip the ice off your driveway without chipping too much away from your bank account.
While some people use kitty litter or sand on ice, we discovered those products don't actually cause the ice to melt. They do provide traction, and because of their darker color will accelerate melting when the sun comes out.