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What Is CMA Ice Melt, and How Does It Work?

What Is CMA Ice Melt, and How Does It Work?

Justin Rollin

Anyone familiar with commercial or residential snow and ice management understands the importance of choosing an effective ice melt with benign environmental effects. Pure Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) is about as corrosive as tap water, making it a popular choice.

Approved by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, CMA salt has been used worldwide since the 1980s as Sodium Chloride replacement because it's far less corrosive to structures, roads, and vegetation.

In this blog, we explain everything you need to know about Calcium Magnesium (CMA), including how to use CMA as an ice melt and the multiple advantages it offers.

What Is Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) Ice Melt?

What is CMA ice melt? CMA snow melt is granulated calcium magnesium acetate. It’s a combination of dolomitic lime and acetic acid that makes an environmentally friendly and less corrosive alternative to road salt and liquid de-icers.

Its solid form is spread on roads, pavements, and other surfaces just like other de-icers. Furthermore, like traditional sodium chloride salt, CMA works in freezing temperatures. However, its added advantages set it apart, such as its minimal effect on the environment, low corrosive nature, and potent residual action.

How Does Calcium Magnesium Acetate De-Icer Work?

calcium magnesium acetate ice melt

CMA snow melt is unique compared to other de-icers because it works by interfering with snow and ice particles’ ability to adhere to one another, as well as roads and other paved surfaces. Unlike other salts, calcium magnesium acetate doesn’t form a salt brine, instead, it prevents a compact snow pack from forming. This keeps the snow light and dry, which in turn improves traction, stops the ice or snow from bonding to the pavement surface, and makes it easier to remove snow or ice with a plow or shovel.

Pros and Cons of (CMA) Calcium Magnesium Acetate

All rock salt alternatives have pros and cons; CMA de-icer is no different.

CMA Benefits

Calcium Magnesium Acetate is non-toxic to plants and animals, meaning it doesn’t pose a risk to animals and won’t destroy plant life. It’s chloride-free, which is why it's so great at melting ice without compromising pavements and asphalt. CMA salt also has a residual effect, which means it requires fewer applications and lasts longer than other ice melts. And, unlike other toxic products, it’s completely biodegradable making it a more environmentally friendly choice.

Disadvantage of CMA

CMA ice melter is not as effective at very low temperatures. In fact, it works at more or less the same temperatures as traditional rock salt, around 15ºF. Therefore, it's not as useful when directly applied to ice that’s already bonded with the ground. Hence, why it’s usually used as a pre-treatment. Yet, perhaps this chloride-free product’s biggest downside is that it can cost as much as 30 times more than traditional rock salt.


Features of CMA Ice Melt

CMA Needs to Be Applied Early

Calcium magnesium ice melt requires an early application for the most effective performance. Before snow or ice precipitation, applying CMA liberally will help ensure a residual layer of it remains after snow plows and any traffic removes or displaces the snow. As the snow or ice continues, application rates can be reduced.

CMA Works Differently

As Ninja De-Icer discussed above, compared to other de-icers, calcium magnesium acetate ice melt works differently because it affects how snow and ice adheres to paved surfaces.

CMA Is Environmentally Friendly 

CMA de-icer is the corrosion standard for assessing other de-icers. Often said to be as corrosive as common tap water, it exhibits low corrosion rates on metals used for highway structures, bridges, garages, roads, and other infrastructure. CMA can even be used to treat structures contaminated by chloride corrosion to help slow their corrosion rate.

CMA Has a Lasting Effect

CMA doesn’t create a salt brine, meaning it won’t run off surfaces like other products. Thanks to this, fewer applications are required during and between snowfalls. Anecdotal evidence shows that pavement and roads treated with CMA will have anti-icing properties during subsequent precipitation in freezing temperatures.

CMA Is a Natural Alternative

In water and soil, (CMA) Calcium Magnesium Acetate degrades into calcium, magnesium, carbon dioxide, and water. When absorbed into the soil, CMA salt benefits the soil structure; just as liming a garden improves permeability. During the snow and ice management process (CMA) Calcium Magnesium Acetate can leave a residue; however, this merely increases its effectiveness and doesn’t track easily inside. This is the best choice if you're trying to avoid adverse environmental effects.

What’s the Best Time to Apply Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)?

For effective snow and ice management, CMA should be applied early in a storm to prevent snow and ice from bonding, except in the case of bridges, which should ideally be treated before a storm with liquid CMA. Calcium Magnesium Acetate doesn’t create a flowing brine like salt. Instead, it keeps the snow lighter and drier, improving traction.

When applied early, it's much easier to move snow and ice by broom, plow, or shove. CMA application needs tend to vary depending on climate, location, and snow and ice management practices. Advantageously, fewer applications are needed from storm to storm. Sunlight, traffic, and warmer temperatures will determine just how many.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate Application Rates 

The application rates of CMA vary according to climate and maintenance practices. It’s typically applied at rates similar to road salt. The first application will be heavier, with subsequent applications becoming lighter as the storm progresses. 

Approximate application rates: 

  • 250 to 400 pounds per lane mile;
  • 5 to 15 pounds per thousand square feet;
  • 20 to 40 grams per square meter.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate Environmental Effects

Some calcium magnesium acetate environmental effects include:

  • Soils: Biodegradable in soil. Increases soil permeability and has no adverse effects on soil strength or compaction.
  • Vegetation: It can stimulate roadside plant growth but should have little to no adverse effects.
  • Water: It’s unlikely to reach groundwater, but calcium and magnesium can increase water hardness. In surface water, it can deplete oxygen but won’t stimulate algae growth.
  • Air pollution: It may decrease sand use and resulting particulate emissions.
  • Human/Animal life: This can be a mild eye and skin irritant but is essentially non-toxic.
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Is CMA the best ice melt? It definitely offers some benefits over other de-icers, particularly its interaction with the environment. If you’re looking for effective, high-quality CMA, Ninja De-Icer is the way to go! Browse our wide selection of de-icers, including CMA, on the Ninja De-Icer website, or get a quote today to discuss your de-icing needs.