melting ice on concrete

What Should You Use for Melting Ice on Concrete?

Melting ice on concrete can be a tricky job. You need your steps, walkway and driveway clear, but you don’t want to damage these surfaces, creating the need for repairs come springtime.

What’s the best way to clear snow and ice without causing pitting and spalling on concrete surfaces?

Different Types of Ice Melt

Ice melt is typically sold in one of the following four forms:

1. Sodium Chloride

This is the most common form of ice melt, known as rock salt. It is typically able to melt snow and ice until the temperature drops below 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It produces the highest level of chloride runoff, so it’s not the safest choice for the environment.

2. Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride looks like tiny white pellets. It can cause skin irritation, but it melts ice in temperatures as low as 1.4 Fahrenheit.

3. Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride is safer for landscaping, but it only works at temperatures of 15 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

4. Magnesium Chloride

This is the most environmentally friendly ice melt option because it emits much less chloride. It works in temperatures as low as -13 Fahrenheit.

What’s Wrong with Ice Melt?

In general, you shouldn’t use any form of rock salt for melting ice on concrete.


Since concrete is a porous material, it absorbs melted snow and ice. When temperatures drop below freezing again, the moisture in the concrete freezes and expands, putting pressure on the concrete particles. This is called the freeze/thaw cycle, and it’s highly detrimental to concrete.

What Should You Do?

You don’t have to depend on rock salt to de-ice your concrete. Consider the following alternatives:

  • Cat Litter: Sprinkle bio-degradable cat litter on your steps and driveway to increase traction.
  • Gravel: Pour a layer of gravel on your steps and walkway before the snow falls to prevent icy buildup.
  • Sand: spread sand before the next snowstorm, or pour it on top of ice so you can walk safely in the winter.

You won’t be able to fully protect your concrete from rock salt. Since it’s the main de-icing material used on the roadways, your car will track it onto your driveway. But by switching to one of the alternatives at home, you’ll prevent the gradual weakening of your concrete that’s inevitable after repeated use of rock salt.

If you must use de-icing salts on your concrete surfaces, scrape off the material with a shovel after it’s done its job. Always use icing salts that work in the lowest temperature possible to prevent moisture from re-freezing.

Contact Lift-Up Concrete for more information on what materials are best for safely melting ice on concrete and get a free quote for concrete damage repair.