How to Spread Ice Melt (5 Best Ways)

Winter weather can be unpredictable and things can get icy, especially when it comes to your walkways and driveways. While ice melt can be an effective solution to get rid of the ice, it’s important to know how to properly spread it to maximize the effectiveness and of course ensure your safety.

In this article, I will cover the basics of how to spread ice melt to keep your property safe and accessible during the winter months.

What is Ice Melt?

Ice melt is a product used to melt ice and snow whether its on a sidewalk, driveway, walkway, patio, or any other outdoor surface. It is typically made from a combination of salt and other chemicals, such as calcium chloride or magnesium chloride. These chemicals work by lowering the freezing point of water, making the ice to melt and turn into a liquid state.

You can find ice melt in various forms, including pellets, crystals, and flakes. It’s important to choose the right type of ice melt for the surface you are treating, as some ice melts can damage certain materials, such as your lawn!

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, which should be located on the products container. Applying too much ice melt can be harmful to the environment and can damage surfaces, while applying too little may not be effective at melting the ice. It is also important to wear gloves and other protective gear when handling ice melt, as it can be irritating to the skin and eyes.

Read our post here to learn more about ice melt and what temperature it works at.

What to Consider Before You Spread Ice Melt:

Before you start spreading ice melt, you need to consider a few things to ensure that you are doing it correctly and safely. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Safety Precautions

Safety should always be a priority when spreading ice melt on your driveway, patio, or pathways. Here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Wear protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, to avoid skin and eye irritation.
  • Avoid inhaling the fumes or dust from the ice melt, as they can cause respiratory irritation. 
  • Keep the ice melt away from children and pets, as it can be harmful if ingested.
  • Be careful when walking on the treated surface, as it may still be slippery as it takes time to activate. 

When the Best Time is to Spread

The best time to spread ice melt is before the snow or ice has built up. This will prevent the accumulation of ice and snow, making it easier to keep your space safe to walk on and reduce your time clearing snow. If you wait until after the snow or ice has accumulated, you will need to use more ice melt to remove it and it may be time consuming.

The Type of Ice Melt

There are different types of ice melt and choosing the right one depend’s on the conditions you are dealing with. Some factors to consider include:

Type of Ice Melt Pros Cons
Calcium Chloride Effective at low temperatures Can damage concrete and vegetation
Magnesium Chloride Less damaging to concrete and vegetation than calcium chloride Less effective at low temperatures
Potassium Chloride Less damaging to concrete and vegetation than calcium chloride Less effective at low temperatures
Sodium Chloride (rock salt) Most cost-effective option Can damage concrete and vegetation, and is not effective at very low temperatures

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

How Much Ice Melt is Required?

The amount of ice melt you need really depend on the size of the area you are treating and the severity of the ice and snow conditions. As a general rule, you should use 2-4 ounces of ice melt per square yard of pavement. However, you may need to adjust this amount based used, if the ice is thick you can use more.

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. Read our 4 safe ways to melt ice on grass here!

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: 

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