In the world of ice melters, the hundreds of suppliers, brands, and performance blends being offered can confuse one.  Add to that the differences in pricing, and you can add even more confusion.  But as with many things in life, you usually get what you pay for.

Let’s be honest.  The majority of ice melt blends use sodium chloride (salt) as the main ingredient.  Most blends contain 80 – 95 % salt because it is cheap and it works.  The salt is blended with other products that lower melting temperature, increase residual, reduce corrosion, add color, speed up the melting process, or are considered more environmentally favorable.  Almost all of these products are more expensive than salt, and increase the cost of the blend as their percent of the blend increases.  The most common added products are calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, urea, calcium-magnesium acetate, carbohydrate based extenders, and other chemical extenders and corrosion inhibitors.

What does that mean to us snow melters?  Say a regular bag of plain salt is $ 4.50 / bag, and salt melts down to 15 degrees F.   Calcium chloride is $ 12.00 / bag and melts to -25 degrees F.   So a 50/50 blend should cost about $ 8.50 / bag – correct?

Well, I have not seen such a blend due to technical problems with that concentration, but you get the picture.  The more of these high value products we add, the cost will go up.  You are not going to get a $ 5.00 – $ 6.00 bag of ice melt with much more than salt in it.  And what if they claim it melts to -20 degrees F?

Ice melters should be more costly than plain salt due to processing the salt to get a more consistent particle size, and the addition of performance enhancers.  You have to balance the handling, spreadability, speed of action, and residual with cost.  And of course, your budget may be the ultimate deciding factor.

A comparison of plain bagged salt on the right, and a complex ice melt blend on the left. Notice the smaller, more consistent salt particle size and the addition of other components to lower the melting temperature.