While rock salt may be the go to for maintaining safe walkways in ice or snow, it’s not the best way to protect your landscape & hardscape investment. Snow should be removed from hardscape surfaces with a plastic snow shovel as metal can potentially cause damage. Melting snow and ice can permeate the cracks & porous surfaces of hardscape material and then re-freeze. The re-freezing causes expansion, deteriorating the materials by cracking or shifting. When salt dissolves in melting snow and ice, it increases the freezing expansion by up to 40%. I am sure you have seen those pitted concrete sidewalks that just seem to worsen with each passing winter. That’s just one example of the damage rock salt can cause to hardscape surfaces.
Ice melters typically consist of either calcium, potassium, sodium or magnesium chlorides or urea. A blend of ingredients is better so that one chemical is not used in abundance. A coarse substance, such as sand or cat litter, can be used to help reduce the quantity of ice melter needed. Although neither is going to melt the snow and ice, it will help you gain traction on slippery surfaces. Most hardware stores sell ice melters that are safer for the environment & pets. They also won’t harm your lawn or plants by leaving behind chemical deposits in the soil. Some products are now colored so you can see how much you put down. This will reduces the chances of applying too much of the product. Be sure to read the label when shopping for de-icer to determine if it’s safe to use on your hardscape material.