how to spread ice melt on ground. image shows ice melt on pavers

5 Easy Ways to Spread Ice Melt (or Rock Salt)

In Winter by Jamie

If you live in a climate where it regularly snows and you find ice on the ground, you might be wondering how you can easily spread ice melt or rock salt to melt the ice. Using ice melt is a convenient way to make sure that you get ice off your steps, walkways, and driveway.

This guide will cover the easiest ways to spread ice melt to make your winter months much easier.

What is Ice Melt?

Ice melt is typically a blend of sodium chloride and magnesium chloride. Sometimes calcium chloride is used instead of magnesium chloride. Calcium chloride is usually more sought after because it’s considered fast-melting and longer-lasting.

Ice melt is designed to prevent ice from forming by lowering the water’s freezing point, also it can break down currently formed ice melting it into slush and water. It is designed to make sure the ground is not slippery for people to walk on, and sometimes drive on. Ice melt will help melt snow too!

Ice Melt is usually sold in flakes and it comes in a big baggy like soil, or in a plastic container. You simply sprinkle it over ice to make it melt very quickly. Read here to learn more about ice melt and what temperature it works at

What is Rock Salt?

Rock salt is the same ingredients as table salt but before it has been purified. Rock salt will penetrate the ice and break the bonds between the ice and the surface it’s on. Rock salt is in its original natural form and has impurities. Even though it’s the same ingredients as table salt, it cannot be eaten. 

You spread rock salt over walkways, driveways, sidewalks, and many other areas to keep ice away. Many places use it to prevent ice on the roads, but salt becomes ineffective when the temperatures drop very low. Then sand is usually used to create a grip instead of actually melting the ice. 

Should You Shovel Snow Before Spreading Ice Melt?

You can shovel snow before spreading ice melt. If you choose to do so, you should spread the ice melt immediately after shoveling the snow. This prevents ice from forming quickly, ice melt will work more effectively if done right away. Some people also choose to shovel the snow after the ice melt has been spread and done its job. You will be shoveling slush though, so keep that in mind as slush can be heavy.

Should You Shovel Snow Before Spreading Ice Melt

When Should I Spread Ice Melt?

The best time to spread ice melt is before the precipitation freezes. You can also apply it immediately after shoveling the snow. You can apply it after but remembering to apply it before is usually more effective.

It will allow you to do less shoveling and less work later on. This is because the ingredients in the ice melt will bond with the surface and prevent ice from forming when the snow lands on the surface.

If there are freezing temperatures in your area and you think snow is coming, you can go ahead and spread the ice melt so that you have less work shoveling the next day.

If you are interested check out our 10 best ice melts here!

How to Spread Ice Melt?

1. Use a Broadcast Spreader EarthWay Polar Tech 90950 50 LB Professional Ice Melt Broadcast Walk Behind Spreader with 13" Pneumatic Tires, Adjustable Handle, and Solid Linkage Control

A broadcast spreader is one of the best ways to spread ice melt especially if you have a large lawn or piece of property. You can load the rock salt into the spreader and then push it around the yard. Broadcast spreaders spray products out evenly across the lawn so that every area will not have ice.

While you might see them being used commercially or for farms, many people also use residential options for their own properties.

This one by EarthWay Polar Tech is one of the best residential options. It comes fully assembled but can also be folded down to make it easier to store in your garage or home. It’s designed specifically for rock salt and has a 12-foot spread width.

This makes it very easy to do your whole property in less than an hour.

Chapin International Chapin 82500 100-Pound Stainless Steel Professional Salt Spreader, Silver

There are also professional options if you need one such as this one made by Chapin. It has a 100-pound capacity making it easy to load enough for your entire yard. It can be used with ice melt and rock salt as well as with fertilizer and seeds in the warmer months.

2. Using a Drop Spreader SaltDogg WB400 Professional 200 lb Capacity Walk Behind Drop Salt Spreader

Drop spreaders are similar to broadcast spreaders in that you will load the material and then push it around the yard while the salt comes out. However, drop spreaders do not spray the material out as the broadcast spreaders do.

Drop spreaders are much more precise and you can control exactly where you want the rock salt to go rather than it being sent out all over the yard.

If you want a drop spreader, try this one by SaltDogg. It’s built low to the ground making it easier to spread very precisely. It can hold up to 200 pounds of rock salt or ice melt. The spreader is made of stainless steel so you don’t need to worry about corrosion even during snow and cold rain. It also comes with 13-inch pneumatic tires perfect for stability.

3. Hand Spreader Chapin 8705A 1.6L/.4 Gal Crank (1 Package) Hand Salt Spreader, 3 -Liter, Blue

Head spreads like this Chapin Hand Salt Spreader are also an option. These are much cheaper and better if you’re on a budget. You can put the rock salt into the spreader and then walk around as you turn the knob. Ice melt or rock salt will fall out onto the ground and help to melt the ice.

This model has a convenient trigger-style gate control and enclosed gears so you don’t need to worry about corrosion or debris.

4. Spread by Shovel MARTHA STEWART MTS-MDS1 27-Inch Mini Round Pt. Digging Shovel w/8-Inch Heat-Treated Rust-Resistant Solid Steel Blade

If you don’t have a spreader, you can always use a shovel. This is the most cost-effective method. You can load the ice melt or salt onto the shovel and spread it on the parts of your lawn or pavement where you need it.

5. Straight from the Container

Depending on what brand you buy, you can simply just use the container itself. Some containers, like Safe Thaw Snow & Ice Melter, will have an adjustable cap you can spin to simply spread by hand.

These are better if you only need to spread the ice melt on a very small area.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Ice Melt Should I Spread?

This depends on the size of your yard and the product you are using. Larger yards will need more ice melt. Some ice melts are weaker than others and will need to be used more as they are not as powerful. Most companies recommend you spread about a half cup of ice melt per square yard.

If you’re unsure how much to use, you might want to read up on the brand you bought and see what the manufacturer says.

How Long Does Ice Melt Take to Work?

It usually takes about 25 to 30 minutes to work. The exact time might depend on how effective the product is that you bought as some are much better than others.

Do You Need Eye Protection When Spreading Ice Melt or Rock Salt?

Most manufacturers recommend that you wear eye protection when spreading ice melt or rock salt. This is especially true if you are using an ice melt product with magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. You should also wear gloves as they can hurt the skin and become stuck to the skin which can be very painful and cause a variety of problems.

Can Ice Melt Damage Vegetation?

Yes, ice melt can damage vegetation especially when it’s overused. This is because these products contain large amounts of salt that can go into the ground and it can keep plants from being able to take up the nutrients they need from the soil.

The chloride that is in these products is especially harmful because it can pull moisture out of the plants causing them to dry out and become brown and unhealthy.

Will Rock Salt Damage Vegetation?

Rock salt can cause the same kinds of damage as ice melt. It can take moisture from plants and travel up the roots into the plant to make it unhealthy. If you need to use ice melt or rock salt around plants try to use the smallest amount possible.

Can You Spread Ice Melt with Your Hands?

Ice melt can irritate bare skin so it’s not recommended for you to touch it with your bare hands. If you need to use your hands to spread ice melt, make sure to wear thick protective gloves so that the ice melt does not make direct contact with your skin.

Can You Spread Rock Salt with Your Hands?

You need to wear gloves when touching rock salt. Make sure rock salt does not come into contact with your skin as it can cause serious issues.

What to Do if Ice Melt Clumps Together?

It’s common for ice melt flakes to clump together especially if you have not used them in a while. You might need to drop the bag on the ground a few times to make sure all the clumps break apart. You might also need to thaw it out slightly by leaving it on a part of the pavement that has sun for a few minutes.

Final Thoughts

Ice melt and rock salt are important products in the winter because they allow you to get ice off your lawn and pavement very easily. There are also many ways for spreading ice melt including with spreaders, shovels, or just by hand from the container.

Read our related ice melting articles: 

About the Author

Jamie

Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.