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Rock salt is incredibly damaging to our properties on several levels.
 
  • Rock salt can damage or kill vegetation and trees. Salt damages roots and can also cause the plants to lose their winter hardiness.
  • It corrodes mortar used to hold pavers, flagstone, or other walkway materials together. This can lead to loose pavers or bricks.
  • It can cause corrosion to car parts, unprotected steel structures, and bridge decks.
  • Used regularly, rock salt can cause discoloration. You’ve likely noticed white powdery residue after you’ve salted your walkways, and as time goes by this doesn’t always wash away.
  • If you have pets, rock salt can dry out or irritate their paws and skin. If they eat it or lick up the melted ice they can develop a mouth irritation or even poison themselves.
  • Rock salt is not usually a problem for children, but it can cause irritation. That being said, if you know that your child swallowed a piece of rock salt, play it safe and call poison control.
 
So what are some alternatives?
 
Physical traction alternatives can include biodegradable cat litter, gravel, wood chips, straw, and heated stair mats. Some safe chemical alternatives include:
 
  1. Calcium Magnesium Acetate – Not only is this safe for your pets and plants, it also is no more damaging to your walkways than tap water. It works best at temperatures over 20 degrees, but can also perform at near zero degrees.
  2. Magnesium Chloride – For temperatures above -13 degrees, magnesium chloride is a top choice for deicing salt. It is also far less damaging to your walkways and plants than rock salt.
  3. Potassium Chloride – This works best when the temperature is above 15 degrees, and is not a skin irritant. It also is harmless to your vegetation, unlike rock salt.
Alternatives include biodegradable cat litter, gravel, wood chips, straw, and heated stair mats. Except for the heated stair mats, of course, these are used to provide traction rather than melt the ice.

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Picture of

Keith Langlois

RHI 

Registered Home Inspector
Licensed Electrician