Techniques and Tools for Dealing with Ice

dealing with iceGetting rid of snow is easy: just get a shovel or a snowblower and move it out of the way. Getting rid of ice is a lot harder. It sticks to cement, and it’s dangerous to walk and drive on. If you try to scrape it off, you might take some of the pavement with it. If you apply the wrong deicer, it won’t melt. Even if you apply an effective deicer, you may damage your property. Here’s how you can be sure you’re picking the right equipment and chemicals for ice removal.

How, Why and Where Ice Forms

For ice to form on pavement, the air temperature needs to be below freezing and there must be some form of water on the pavement surface. This moisture can be from frost, fog, freezing rain or snow.

The local landscape influences which areas ice over. Lower areas will have cooler, denser air, while trees, buildings and other objects can block the heat from the sun. This can leave spots of ice in some areas while the rest of the pavement is clear.

What makes ice slippery isn’t the ice itself: it’s the thin layer of water on top of the ice. This layer is thickest between 26 and 32°F, when the ice is almost warm enough to melt completely. Preventing and reducing ice formation cheaply and effectively requires a strategy that uses the right kinds of deicers and applications.

Choosing a De-Icer

Deicers can be broken down into three main chemical categories: chlorides, acetates, and carbohydrates. Each type of chloride is effective down to a minimum temperature.

Sodium chloride, AKA dry salt or halite: 15°F
Magnesium chloride: -10°F
Calcium chloride: -20°F.

All three chemicals can corrode metal, and they can cause scaling, especially magnesium chloride. Over time, temperature differences between salt-treated and untreated cement alongside crystal formation in cracks will break down pavement. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride can pull moisture out of cement, making surfaces slick if the pavement is over 35°F.

Salt runoff inhibits root and leaf growth, killing plants. Additives can increase the tackiness of salt brine, reducing run-off and associated plant damage and corrosion.


Calcium magnesium acetate: 20°F
Sodium acetate: -10°F
Potassium acetate: -15°F

Calcium and potassium acetate can cause scaling, but acetates do little to cause rust. They also don’t cause damage to plants if they reach the soil.


Beet juice, molasses and corn syrup are pitched as green alternatives to salts due to their low environmental impact. They aren’t well documented when it comes to freezing points. Cement, metal and soil impacts are minimal. This makes carbohydrates a great choice for de-icing in areas with sensitive landscaping, or where pavement repairs would be prohibitively expensive. However, once they reach waterways, they can cause algae blooms.

Methods of Application

Icing conditions vary greatly, even across a single parking lot, so you’ll need to do your own testing to find out what works for the area you’re clearing.


If you put down ice melting products before snow falls, the snow and ice will have a harder time bonding to asphalt and pavement. This makes it easier to clean up snow and ice after a winter storm, and it reduces the chance of slipping.

On average, it takes ¼ as much ice melting agent for anti-icing than it does for de-icing, while reducing the labor needed to keep ice under control. This can mean significant savings in materials and labor.

Pre-Wetting and Spraying

Salt only melts ice when it’s in a solution. This can be done in one pass with a spray bar by using a liquid solution, or in two passes by laying down water followed by the deicer. Salt doesn’t bounce on wet surfaces like it does on dry surfaces, keeping it exactly where you want it. This can cut deicer usage by up to 30%.

Spreading Solid Deicers

Why pre-wet and spray when you can apply a liquid de-icer? Rock salt processing is relatively crude, leaving bits of grit and gravel in the final product. This improves grip for people and vehicles crossing the ice. A spreader lays down salt evenly for consistent results. Ideally, enough deicer should be applied to break the bond between the ice and pavement. Once loose, the resulting slush can be scraped off without harming the pavement. Rotary brooms and snow buckets with plastic blades work great for this purpose.

We Have the Snow and Ice Equipment You Need This Winter

Whether you’re clearing a driveway or several parking lots, Shank’s Lawn Equipment has the tools you need for ice removal. This includes handheld, backpack and powered sprayers and spreaders from Shindaiwa, Echo, Exmark and Multione. If you’re looking for new equipment, or you need your current equipment serviced, visit us at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. You can also order parts and accessories from us at We ship across the U.S. and Canada.

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