Every winter, sidewalks, porches, stairs, and driveways become slippery slopes of danger. The good thing is that it doesn’t take much effort to combat the icy terrain. With the right knowledge and product, such as salt or popular ice melts, frozen sidewalks and driveways become safe again. But, what about regular old household Epsom salt? This article answers this question with great detail and care: Will Epsom salt melt ice?
Will Epsom Salt Melt Ice?
Epsom salt can melt ice but will do the job very slowly. Epsom salt’s chemical structure is magnesium sulfate heptahydrate. This means that each Epsom salt crystal has seven water molecules bonded to it. To melt ice, Epsom salt needs to connect with the water molecules in the ice.
However, with seven water molecules already around the salt crystal, there’s a lot of competition, and the reaction is slow to occur. Epsom salts are a safer ice melt agent to use than table salt. Epsom salts aren’t harmful to plants or vegetation. To increase your Epsom salts’ melting power, combine sugar and Epsom salt in a 1:1 ratio. The sugar works with the Epsom salt to melt ice quicker than either agent alone.
Does Sea Salt Melt Ice?
Sea salt boosts more nutrients than ordinary table salt. Depending on the brand you purchase, your sea salt can contain magnesium, potassium, and calcium in addition to sodium and chloride. All these chemical ions will react with water to lower the freezing point.
If you spread sea salt over ice, the ice will melt. How quickly this happens depends on the temperature and size of salt granules. Finely ground sea salt has more surface area to interact with the ice. Therefore, it melts the ice faster than coarsely ground sea salt.
Does Kosher Salt Melt Ice?
Kosher salt has the same chemical formula as table salt but a larger, lighter crystal structure. When kosher salt is used to prepare food, a gentler salt flavor enhances the food. However, when using kosher salt to melt ice, this crystal structure does not provide an advantage over table salt.
Some argue that kosher salt provides additional traction while melting ice. The coarse flakes do increase your grip on the ice, but only initially. Kosher salt dissolves into a brine to melt the ice. Once spread over the ice, you’ll only have a few minutes to benefit from the traction kosher salt provides before it dissolves into the ice.
Does Hydrogen Peroxide Melt Ice?
Mixing hydrogen peroxide with water can create a solution that remains liquid to -57℃. It’s an excellent combination for homemade ice packs.
However, pouring hydrogen peroxide over ice doesn’t result in speedy ice melting. It can melt ice but takes up to three times as long as a sodium chloride salt. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizing agent as well. That means that it may cause corrosion on many surfaces and metals. It is known to damage paint as well.
If you use hydrogen peroxide, don’t use it near your vehicles or metals. It would be best to use personal protective equipment to prevent damage to your eyes and skin.
Does Vinegar Melt Ice?
Pouring vinegar over already formed ice will only work if the vinegar is nice and hot. This means you’re really using heat to melt the ice, not the vinegar. Vinegar on its own isn’t powerful enough to melt ice. (Believe us, we’ve tried it!)
There is a commercially available ice melt product that combines vinegar with calcium and magnesium ions, known as CMA. The combination amps up the melting power of vinegar, making a very effective ice melting product. There is logic to trying to use vinegar to melt ice.
You can prevent ice from forming on your car windows by spraying them with vinegar. When mixed with water, vinegar lowers the freezing temperature, which can keep your windows free of ice in the cold winter months.
What Melts Ice Besides Salt?
Salt is effective at melting ice but can damage your car and driveway. Luckily, there are other options to quickly melt ice. Here are just a few of our favorites:
A common component of fertilizer, urea can melt ice down to temperatures of 15℉. It’s environmentally safe and doesn’t cause damage to concrete. In the spring, you might notice that the edges of your lawn grow more vigorously thanks to the urea providing the grass with an abundance of nitrogen.
Beet juice is a completely natural and safe way to de-ice your home. The juice won’t harm plants or pets, but it may stain surfaces. Rinse off any treated areas with soap and water once the temperature rises above freezing.
The remnants from your fireplace can help keep your driveway safe from ice. Wood ash contains potassium salts that help melt ice. Ash also absorbs solar energy, increasing the temperature to melt the ice.
Figuring out ways to keep driveways and cars free of ice can leave you with more questions than answers. Here are the answers to your top ice melting questions.
What’s the best way to melt ice?
The best way to melt ice is to prevent it from forming in the first place. Spread a combination of agents to prepare surfaces before snowstorms hit.
A layer of gritty material, like sand or kitty litter, followed by a layer of salt works best. If you can, apply a second coat partway through a storm. This will keep your surfaces as ice-free as possible.
However, storms don’t always give advance notice. You should follow the same procedure to melt ice after it has formed. Spread your gritty material to help you get traction before spreading your ice melt agent.
Once the ice has melted, shovel away the slurry and dispose of it in the trash to prevent damage to your driveway or yard.
How do I choose an ice melt product or agent?
Not all products melt ice at all temperatures. If you live in an extreme climate, your options for ice melts will be much more limited than those living in more temperate climates.
Rock salt and other DIY ice melt products typically only work until 5℉. For temperatures below 0℉, you’ll need to turn to a professionally produced ice melt.
You also need to consider the surface where the ice melt will be applied since salt-based ice melts can damage concrete. Using the minimal amount of product necessary and quickly clearing off the salt-ice slurry can reduce damage to concrete.
Is it safe to use salt to melt ice if I have pets?
If you are treating your ice with a natural salt like rock salt, you shouldn’t have to worry about your pet. However, they may experience some irritation since the salty solution can dry out their paws.
Regardless of what ice melt product you use, it’s a good idea to clean your pet’s paws with a damp cloth if they have been exposed to the ice melt.
Don’t let your pet ingest snow that has salts or ice melts in it. Even the pet safe agents like urea and magnesium chloride can cause vomiting and diarrhea in your pet if ingested.
Verdict: Will Epsom Salt Melt Ice?
Magnesium sulfate heptahydrate, the chemical compound found in Epsom salt, indeed melts ice. However, it takes a bit longer to get the job done than many products available for melting ice.
That said, other household salts like sea salt and kosher salt also work in the same fashion. They all melt ice, albeit not nearly as efficiently as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride ice melts do.
In addition, today’s market also offers numerous pet-safe ice melts for those with furry friends at home to think about.
What do you regularly use for melting ice and keeping frozen build-up from your sidewalks and driveway? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also, if you’ve made up your mind about using salt for your sidewalks and driveways this year, why not invest in the best walk-behind salt spreader to make the job even easier and efficient?
Oh yeah, one more thing. If you haven’t heard, roof melts are also pretty popular these days. If you live in a colder region that receives a lot of snowfall each year, it won’t hurt to consider.