How Does Ice Melt Work?

Ice melt is an essential product to keep your grounds ice-free and safe, but how does ice melt work? While we know the end result, how it breaks down the ice is an interesting process.

As you search for the best ice melt to prevent ice from building up and avoid any slips or falls, we are sharing just how ice melt works to guide your selection better. Let’s break it down.

Know What to Use

No two ice melts are the same! With different products using different chemical compounds, understanding the various options is essential to grasping how ice melt works. Below are the details on the most commonly used options.

Sodium Chloride (Rock Salt)

Sodium chloride is often the most commonly used choice, even though it doesn’t work as effectively in extreme cold. This selection won’t chemically impact concrete but can have an impact on steel and rebar. Plus, its corrosive composition can damage vegetation. If the temperature drops below 20 degrees, you won’t want to rely on sodium chloride.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium Chloride

In a pellet form, this ice melt absorbs moisture from the air, allowing it to work in even low, extreme temperatures. For this reason, it is a relatively pricier ice melt. Keep in mind, this choice tends to damage vegetation as well.

Magnesium Chloride

Comparable to calcium chloride, magnesium chloride is a slightly less corrosive option. This means it’s better to use on concrete and won’t harm vegetation as much as other ice melts, yet still effectively attacks the ice.

Potassium Chloride

Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride is an ice melt that can work effectively as long as the temperature remains above 25 degrees. This can limit the use of this ice melt, especially since it works more slowly than other options like calcium chloride and rock salt. However, it is safe to use on concrete as well as near plants.


Doubling as a fertilizer and ice melt, urea can melt ice down until it’s 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, since urea doesn’t have chlorides, it is less corrosive on concrete, steel, and rebar.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate

Calcium magnesium acetate functions as a deicer and road salt, effectively combating ice from forming at temperatures as low as -17.5 degrees. This choice is highly effective on concrete and won’t cause the kind of damage other ice melts may inflict, making it great for large concrete areas, like parking lots. Since it’s not chloride-based, it’s all-around less corrosive and is biodegradable, causing less of an impact on its surroundings.

How Ice Melt Works

How Ice Melt Works

Now that we understand the different chemical compounds, it’s time to answer the question, “what does ice melt do?” There’s a lot that goes into the process, so let’s start with how does salt work to melt ice.

Ice melts effectively diminish ice by lowering the freezing point of water. This is done as the ice melt attracts moisture, forming a liquid brine solution that generates heat. With this heat, the ice melt is able to melt the ice.

Wondering how long does ice melt take to work? This depends. As the ice melt works through the ice, its own temperature actually slowly decreases. This means that after a certain point, the ice melts concentration is reduced, leaving the freezing point of water to increase again. How do we combat this? With more ice melt to power through the ice and keep the freezing point low. No, this doesn’t mean the process will rapidly speed up, but it will continue fighting against the ice instead.

How Long Does Ice Melt Last?

So, how long does ice melt last? Ice melt is an effective solution to use both immediately before a storm or right after to tackle impending ice buildup. However, how long it lasts depends on the weather conditions. As the ice melt will dissolve the ice that’s there in the moment, if more accumulates, you may need to lay down more. Additionally, to get the most out of your ice melt, ensure that you’re storing it properly.

Tips on Using Ice Melt

Ice melt is a great solution for winter, but one that does require a bit of consideration and knowledge. When using an ice melt, keep in mind these tips to get the most out of your product.

  • Don’t use too much! Contrary to popular belief, this won’t make it work faster. Instead, follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Shovel away any snow first – you can’t melt through everything.
  • Wear protective gear, like gloves, to protect skin from chemicals.
  • Keep the ice melt properly sealed and stored. Since it naturally absorbs moisture, it will clump if not properly stored.
  • Avoid using ice melt on uncured, new concrete. It will cause damage.
  • If ice melt comes in contact with surrounding vegetation, be sure to flush the area with water in the spring season.


Now that we’ve answered the question of “how does ice melt work?”, plus all our tips and tricks, you’re ready to take on anything winter throws your way!

Whether you’re still wondering “how long does it take for ice melt to work?” or want to choose from the best options on the market, Ninja De-Icer has the answers. Delivering all the ice-related winter products across the midwest, we are happy to help find the right ice removal needs for your location.

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