Loss Control Insights for Public Sector

Seven Slick Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Ice Melt

applying snowmelt

When it comes to winter maintenance of the sidewalks and parking lots for your community facilities, ice melt can be a valuable tool. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your ice melt with these tips.

  1. Start with Snow Removal
    Ice melt must be applied directly to the walking surface to be effective, typically after shoveling or plowing. Don’t use ice melt to simply melt snow or ice when mechanical removal is possible. Ideally, you should preapply a liquid ice melt product (brine) before precipitation begins to prevent ice and snow from bonding to the surface.

    If pre-storm application isn’t possible, make sure you clear the snow before applying the ice melt to ensure it actually makes contact with the walking surface. If possible, forego shoveling for less ergonomically stressful snow removal methods such as plows, blowers and power brushes.

  2. Plan Ahead to Prioritize Application
    Know which walking surfaces are high risk (i.e., often icy, prone to black ice, located in the shade) and plan to make their treatment a priority. You’ll also want to prioritize high-traffic areas and check them throughout the day.

  3. Don’t Use Too Much
    According to manufacturers, less is usually more when it comes to ice melt. Applying too much can actually be counterproductive when the extra is tracked inside, creating a slippery residue on floors and damaging carpeting. Help control your application by using handheld fertilizer spreaders for small areas and walk-behind spreaders for large areas. Colored ice melt can also give you a visual indication of how much has been put down.

  4. Consider the Surface
    Ice melt is not recommended for new concrete less than a year old, or on porous walkway surfaces such as brick. Before using ice melt, consider applying a sealer to help prevent concrete damage. Sealed concrete also requires less ice melt. Use abrasives such as sand where ice melt is not appropriate. To reduce damage on concrete, be sure to remove the slushy layer once the ice melt has done its job.

  5. Choose the Right Product
    The best ice melt product for you depends on a variety of factors, including expected temperatures, surface materials and the need to protect any vegetation. Rock salt (sodium chloride) is by far the least expensive option but it is only effective down to 15°F. Magnesium and calcium chloride products are very effective at lower temperatures, but are more expensive. Products with a high concentration of calcium chloride are more likely to leave a slippery, oily residue when tracked inside. Magnesium chloride produces less residue and is generally safer for vegetation.

    Don’t limit your slip-prevention tools to just ice melt. In most cases, application of a traction aid (e.g., coarse sand, poultry grit or oil absorbent) can be a helpful treatment for icy surfaces, especially during thaw/refreeze conditions.

  6. Keep It Outside
    Help reduce tracked-in ice melt residue by placing mats both inside and outside all entrances. Additional walk-off mats are likely needed during snowy weather. Hard surface floors should be mopped as needed throughout the day, and mats should be replaced when they become saturated.

  7. Don’t Forget About Refreeze
    Melted snow and ice can refreeze overnight, or even during the day depending on sun exposure, creating slippery and hard-to-see patches of black ice. Inspect walkways before the day’s foot traffic begins so you can treat slippery spots with ice melt or traction aids. Mark especially dangerous spots with cones or signs. Be sure to adjust sensors and timers on exterior lights during winter months to ensure adequate illumination of outdoor walking surfaces.

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