What Kind Of Ice Melt Should You Buy?

I stopped by Walmart over the weekend, and there was a large sign at the entrance to the seasonal department: “NO ICE MELT.” That’s the case all over the country this winter, which means that if you do find some ice melt, you might be limited to what some gal down the street is hoarding in her garage.

When you do have a choice, though, which type you pick can have important consequences for your concrete, your pets, your landscaping, and how effective the stuff is at keeping your front walk from turning into an ice rink. Oh, and your wallet.

Our sure-footed colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports have science on their side, and produced a handy chart that shows the advantages and disadvantages of various chemicals used to melt ice. They even have a handy PDF download version of the chart for you to pin to the wall of your garage. For next year. When you can actually buy ice melt.

CRO_home_IceMeltChart_2-14

To make the best use of the ice melt that you do have, here are a few important tips to keep in mind for maximum meltage and minimum damage.

Remove the snow first. Remove as much as you can. This is probably obvious, but some people are very lazy, take the “de-icing” concept literally, or both.

Spread it evenly. Consider investing in a spreader if you have a lot of territory to de-ice: otherwise, don’t just toss out a few clumps and decide that you’ve got it covered.

Follow the packaging directions. Only use the amount directed, don’t use it on surfaces that the package contraindicates.

Keep it away from plants. Because they’re plants.

Keep the stuff out of small kids’ and pets’ mouths. Call poison control if your kid (or pet) consumes ice melt. Don’t induce vomiting immediately. Also, clean animals’ paws when they come inside: you might choose only the most pet-safe products on the market, but you can’t guarantee that your neighbors do the same.

Best ice melts review: Top products for your driveway, walkways, and steps [Consumer Reports]