Rock Salt Alternatives: You Won’t Believe What is Destroying Your Walkway

snow shovel in snowWe’ve been blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with snow-filled winters in Pennsylvania in recent years. While fun for some, those winters wreak havoc on our roads and landscapes. If you have concrete or natural stone walkways at your home, you may even have noticed their condition deteriorating.

Here is a key question: How do you fight off the hazardous ice that forms on the steps and sidewalks around your home? If your answer is with rock salt or other deicers containing ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate, then you’re contributing to their deterioration!

Fortunately, there are alternatives that can save your sidewalks, steps, and landscape. If you want to be properly motivated first, check out the ways in which rock salt is detrimental to your property:

  • Rock salt can damage or kill vegetation and trees. Salt damages roots and can also cause the plants to lose their winter hardiness.
  • It corrodes mortar used to hold pavers, flagstone, or other walkway materials together. This can lead to loose pavers or bricks.
  • It can cause corrosion to car parts, unprotected steel structures, and bridge decks.
  • Used regularly, rock salt can cause discoloration. You’ve likely noticed white powdery residue after you’ve salted your walkways, and as time goes by this doesn’t always wash away.
  • If you have pets, rock salt can dry out or irritate their paws and skin. If they eat it or lick up the melted ice they can develop a mouth irritation or even poison themselves.
  • Rock salt is not usually a problem for children, but it can cause irritation. That being said, if you know that your child swallowed a piece of rock salt, play it safe and call poison control.

So what can you use instead? There are a few options, and we’ve listed them in order of preference.

  1. Calcium Magnesium Acetate – Not only is this safe for your pets and plants, it also is no more damaging to your walkways than tap water. It works best at temperatures over 20 degrees, but can also perform at near zero degrees.
  2. Magnesium Chloride – For temperatures above -13 degrees, magnesium chloride is a top choice for deicing salt. It is also far less damaging to your walkways and plants than rock salt.
  3. Potassium Chloride – This works best when the temperature is above 15 degrees, and is not a skin irritant. It also is harmless to your vegetation, unlike rock salt.

Alternatives include biodegradable cat litter, gravel, wood chips, straw, and heated stair mats. Except for the heated stair mats, of course, these are used to provide traction rather than melt the ice.

We hope this helps you not only to protect your children and pets, but also to save some money on replacing sidewalks, steps, plants, and anything made of steel. If you need any assistance removing ice or snow at your home or business, remember to give Hively Landscapes a call at 717-292-5696 and we’ll be happy to help!