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How to Treat Ice on Sidewalks and Driveways Without Damaging Concrete

How to Treat Ice On ConcreteWondering about the best way to melt ice for your driveway and sidewalks this year?

At some point each winter, Oklahomans can expect ice and snow buildup on our driveways and walkways. For safety reasons, those outdoor spaces should be quickly treated to make it easier to park and walk without slipping and falling. However, using the wrong de-icers can cause your concrete surfaces to become damaged.

Why Salt-Based De-Icers Cause Problems for Concrete Surfaces

While salt mixtures are popular, they are also the biggest culprits of concrete deterioration. Using salt to melt ice can cause the cement in walkways, steps, and driveways to pit, which quickly leads to larger potholes and cracks.

Fortunately, there are many alternative solutions to salt-based de-icers that you can use to stay safe, as well as preserve your beautiful concrete this winter.

Add Traction with Non-Chemical Solutions

While these treatments won’t melt ice and snow, they’ll make it safer to walk on your concrete driveways and sidewalks.

Sand

You can spread sand on top of an icy or snowy driveway or sidewalk. Although it doesn’t melt ice and snow, it provides traction without damaging concrete.

Mixing sand with salt is a popular mixture that works to an extent but may not be a sufficient melting agent.

Cat Litter

Sprinkling unused cat litter on sidewalks and driveways can add traction that helps prevent slips and falls without harming the concrete beneath. Use biodegradable cat litter to ensure there are no toxins that could harm pets, children, or the plants in close vicinity of the concrete.

Gravel, Wood Chips, Straw or Sawdust

Other great options to add traction to icy walkways and driveways are gravel, wood chips, straw, or sawdust. These substances don’t harm your concrete, and they don’t hurt the environment.

Since these treatments don’t melt ice and snow, it’s a good idea to be proactive. Treat your concrete sidewalks and driveways before bad weather occurs, and help prevent ice from accumulating in the first place.

Chemical De-Icers: The Do’s and Don’ts

H3 – Say No to Sodium and Potassium Chloride
First of all, both sodium chloride (aka rock salt) and potassium chloride are salts. Therefore, they are not recommended for use on concrete to melt snow and ice, because they do significant damage over time.

Even though these products are used quite a bit, nothing is more corrosive toward concrete than salt. Potassium chloride is better, but still likely to damage sidewalks and driveways.

So, if not salt, what choices do you have? Read on!

All of these treatments can be effective to help de-ice concrete if used with care, according to their instructions.

Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride

Of all the common de-icers on the market, tests have shown that calcium chloride is the least harmful to concrete. It is also among the most effective, melting ice at temperatures as low as minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Calcium chloride self-generates heat as it dissolves, which melts ice and snow quicker. It is, however, corrosive to metal, can be damaging to plants if over-applied, and leaves behind a slimy residue.

Magnesium chloride, a similar compound, absorbs moisture, is less corrosive and safer on concrete and plants, and is becoming more readily available.

Urea

Normally used for fertilizing, urea is also quite effective as a treatment for slick surfaces. It does not contain chlorides, meaning it is less corrosive and safer for use on concrete, but it doesn’t melt ice and snow in temperatures lower than 15 degrees.

Also, using it too much can harm vegetation, as well as have adverse effects on a community’s water supply. So it must be used with care.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)

CMA is made from the main compound found in vinegar. In varying concentrations, it can work to unthaw ice and snow, making it easier to navigate your sidewalks and driveway in winter.

Even though CMA has no adverse effects on concrete and vegetation, it doesn’t work at temperatures below 20 degrees.

Clear Coatings

There are clear coats and deep seals for concrete surfaces on the market that are excellent for preventing water absorption. Most of these treatments contain chemicals like siloxane or silicone, allowing concrete to repel water. Therefore, ice and snow don’t build up easily on your outdoor concrete.

When a proper sealant has been applied before winter, a traction treatment like sand is all that is needed to keep the concrete surface safe for walking.

Heated Driveways and Sidewalks

Heated driveways and walkways either contain electric heating coils under the asphalt, or have hydronic tubes that were installed when the concrete surface was initially poured. These heating elements allow you to control temperature settings, keeping the walkway or driveway warm enough to keep ice and snow from solidifying.

An amenity like this requires a sizable investment upfront, but provides a safe driveway or walkway for years to come—making it appealing for many homeowners.

Snow-Melting Mats

Metal shovels can be harsh on concrete, and some applied chemicals can be damaging. But you’ll have no need for them when you have a snow-melting mat, making it easy to de-ice a slippery driveway or sidewalk.

With powerful heating elements between two layers of heat-resistant rubber, these mats can melt snow within an hour or two. Easy to store in summer and lay down in winter, these non-slip rubber mats plug into any electric outlet and get the job done fast.

Enjoy Lasting, Gorgeous Concrete for Years to Come

This winter, as you take great care to safely de-ice sidewalks and driveway, remember that our team at R&M Concrete is always here to answer questions that keep your home looking and performing at its best. So, if you notice cracked concrete surfaces, failing concrete walls or other concrete surfaces that need attention, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help.