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Liquid Ice Melt vs Granular De-icer: Which to Choose?

Liquid Ice Melt vs Granular De-icer: Which to Choose?

Justin Rollin

With so many de-icing products available, it can be difficult to choose the right one. But what melts ice besides salt? Well, there are two primary types of de-icing materials: liquid and solid, and while they do have the same goal, they also have their advantages and disadvantages based on their composition, features, effectiveness, etc.

Below, Ninja De-Icer will detail what granular and liquid de-icers are, as well as their pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision.

What Is Granular Ice Melt

Typically, a solid, or granular, ice melt is the popular choice for most de-icing applications. There are single ingredient de-icers on the market, but more commonly, people use a granular ice melt blend like calcium chloride or magnesium chloride because they offer greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Granular ice melts (salts) work well in a wide range of harsh weather conditions, breaking down and melting tightly packed snow and ice to make plowing easier. Thanks to the ready accessibility and lower cost of granular de-icer, it is very in demand for commercial and industrial applications.

Pros of Granular Ice Melt

Consider these benefits of using the most popular type of de-icer, granular ice melt:

  • Thanks to their mass, granules work quickly to melt away ice and penetrate accumulated, closely packed snow, as well as bare pavement.
  • Significantly easier to apply than the liquid alternative, meaning less labor is required.
  • It’s easy to purchase and readily available almost everywhere.
  • Doesn’t require any special containers for delivery which is especially helpful for towns and operations that subcontract de-icing.
  • Can be stored for long periods.
  • De-icing granules can help with skid resistance, adding traction and making driving safer in harsh weather conditions.
  • More cost-effective since it lacks free water and is primarily composed of chemical compounds.
  • Solid ice melts are almost 100% chemical, making them more difficult to dilute and resulting in better retention overall.
  • Easy to see, decreasing the chances of unnecessary additional applications.
  • Significantly less room for user error, as there is no need to operate specialized machinery or create mixtures and dilutions.

Cons of Granular Ice Melt

Using granular salt for snow removal also has a few notable drawbacks to keep in mind.

  • Because it’s solid, it requires moisture for the solution to be effective.
  • Solids can bind to one another and become clumpy, especially in storage.
  • Can scatter, bounce, and be displaced by traffic, making it ineffective for anti-icing and early application a waste.
  • The solution process can be slower, especially in colder climates, as a chemical reaction needs to occur between the salt and moisture.
  • De-icing salt is often overapplied, increasing road corrosion, costs, and negative environmental impact.

Cons of Granular Ice Melt

What Is Liquid Ice Melt?

Liquid ice melt, or liquid de-icer, is a great tool for preventing the accumulation of snow and ice. Because it’s already a brine and doesn’t have to undergo a chemical reaction, liquid de-icer works very quickly. The downside of this, however, is that it will also dilute quickly as the ice melts, making it less effective.

There are a few liquid de-icers available, including liquid calcium chloride ice melt and liquid magnesium ice melt, all of which can be used before the storm hits, ensuring the precipitation won’t build up and reducing the risk of slippery surfaces and other hazards.

What Is Liquid Ice Melt Made of?

Liquid ice melt, just like solid ice melt, can be made from a few different chemical ingredients. However, the most common liquid ice melt is a brine made of sodium chloride. Generally, the ratio of the components in the brine is ¾ water to ¼ sodium (salt), or approximately 23% solidity.

Pros of Liquid De-icers

Liquid snow melt has a few advantages over its solid counterpart, including:

  • As liquid de-icer is already a brine and starts working as soon as it’s applied and the snow falls, the results are immediate.
  • Liquid ice melt allows for a significantly more proactive approach. Rather than waiting for the snow to fall to apply it, liquid de-icers are most effective when applied a few hours before the storm. This will ensure you're prepped and ready and that the ice and snow won’t stick to the surface in the first place.
  • Liquid better embeds in the ice and sticks to the surface, thus decreasing the chances of scattering and reducing the need for additional applications.
  • Liquid residue remains effective for much longer than salt.
  • It can be used for two things: it can be applied directly to roads and other paved surfaces, but can also be used to pre-wet and treat solid de-icing chemicals.
  • There is significantly less environmental impact, not only in that less de-icer will be required thanks to its sticking power, but also because this sticking power means less displacement from vehicles, foot traffic, or even wind, and in turn, less waste. Additionally, the application itself is more controlled, unlike with salt which is thrown around.
  • Snow removal will be easier afterward, requiring less labor and time, as liquid de-icer prevents the snow and ice from bonding to the surface.
  • Its ability to bond to the surface will decrease the chances that it is tracked into buildings where it can damage floors and shoes.

de-icing salt

Cons of Liquid De-icers

A liquid de-icing solution also has a few disadvantages to consider, including:

  • It requires special delivery tanks, making transport more difficult and expensive per unit of chemical.
  • It’s primarily used for pre-treatment before a storm hits, and therefore doesn’t work as well on tightly packed snow and ice unless coupled with a granular de-icer as well.
  • Best used for lighter snowfall, as it will have trouble breaking down too much snow or ice.
  • Should not be applied before rainfall, including freezing rain, as it can wash the liquid de-icer off the roads.
  • When it is diluted, by precipitation, for example, liquid de-icer becomes significantly less effective.
  • If it is used on a sloping surface, the liquid can cause slippery conditions that could potentially be hazardous.
  • Though it should be applied before snowfall, it should ideally be applied less than 48 hours prior. Otherwise, it will wear off or wash away and won’t work as effectively.

When to Apply Granular vs Liquid De-icers

Each road de-icer has its application requirements to ensure the most efficient and effective use of the ice melting product.

Liquid ice melt is a brine that is specifically designed for a pre-snowfall application. It’s meant to be a more proactive approach, applied a few hours before the snow and icefall. Once embedded in the surface, it then serves to prevent the ice from bonding to roads, parking lots, sidewalks, or any other paved surfaces. Applying it after a snowfall is not recommended, as it will melt the ice and snow much more slowly than salt.

Granulat de-icer, on the other hand, can be used before, after, or even during, ice and snowfall. It absorbs moisture from the snow and ice, or even from the air, to form the brine. This brine can both penetrate closely packed snow and prevent the snow from sticking to the ground in the first place.

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What Type of De-icer Is the Right One for Your Commercial Property?

Now that you have a better understanding of the available snow melt products, the question is which of these types of de-icers should you choose? Most likely the answer is both. Apply liquid ice melt before the snow starts and granular de-icer during and after the storm for the greatest level of safety.

If you’re looking for high-quality granular de-icers and liquid de-icers, get a quote at Ninja De-Icer. We’re a one-stop-shop for your snow and ice management needs!