Winter is all fun and games until someone gets into an accident from the slippery ice on the driveway. Apart from being a massive safety hazard, it's also often nearly impossible to get a vehicle—which requires ample road traction—across a slippery driveway or parking area.
The best way to get rid of the annoying ice is by using various driveway salts, such as dedicated ice melt products and salts you can find at home. Here are some of the best options on the market—plus suggestions on the best deicing salt for you.
Which Salt is Best for Driveway?
While salt is the common name for ice melters, this term also refers to powerful chemical compounds that work wonders in removing the thickest layers of ice in negative-degree weather.
In particular, magnesium chloride is a caustic de-icing solution that many homeowners regard as one of the best salts for colder temperatures, as it can melt ice at up to -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Magnesium chloride isn't the most budget-friendly brine solution out there, but it does the least damage to concrete, plants, and pets (compared to other chemical compounds).
How Does Salt Work?
Salt is a powerhouse ingredient that reduces the freezing point of water, which prevents it from solidifying — or turning into ice. Temperature isn't constant, which means that ice continuously goes through freeze-melt cycles.
When bits of water penetrate parking lots and your concrete or asphalt driveway, the changing temperature can cause it to expand and melt over and over again. This cycle can cause your driveway to crack.
Since salt reduces the freezing point of water, the top layers of snow can no longer turn to ice. The combination of water and salt then creates a brine solution, which releases heat and penetrates the underlayers of the ice, completely melting them.
Best Driveway Salts
Salts are the undisputed champions of protecting your driveway from harmful ice. But there are tons of mixes that work in various environments, from powerful snow melters for extreme weather conditions to earth-friendly products that are great when there's still some sun amid the cold winter months.
We narrowed down thousands of products to a selection of ten consumer deicers that we think you'll love.
This powerhouse mix contains pure magnesium chloride and was specifically produced to counter some of the toughest layers of ice. The flat flakes allow it to stay put on ice without rolling, which is great for sloped driveways.
- Friendlier to brick driveways, concrete driveways, asphalt driveways, and more—compared to others in the market
- 50% less toxic than common baking soda—great for pets, people, and the environment
- Can melt ice up to -25 degrees Fahrenheit
- Made of pure magnesium chloride hexahydrate, which is about 47% magnesium chloride.
- Great for de-icing in below-zero temperatures
- Has other applications apart from ice melting, making it a great product all-year-round
- Friendlier to children, pets, and plants compared to other strong formulas
- More expensive than other 50Lb salt bags
- Homeowners interested in removing ice from large spaces and environmentally-sensitive locations
This product contains a high concentration of calcium chloride, amping up its efficiency in removing ice—fast. Its unique flat surface allows it to stay put despite strong winds so that the pieces don't fly into your neighbor's yard. DowFlake is also useful in a HotMix formula with rock salt to further improve its efficiency and melting speed.
- Flat profile to prevent roll-off from wind
- Contains more calcium chloride than most alternatives
- Its effective temperature range goes beyond the freezing point at -25 degrees Fahrenheit
- Made of 83-87% calcium chloride
- Reasonable price for a 50Lb bag
- Can save money by mixing this product with rock salt or sand at a ratio of 1:4. This can reduce calcium chloride usage by up to 60%.
- Generates a lot of heat to melt ice fast
- Not necessarily safe for plant life, pets, and even asphalt roads and asphalt walkways, which crack easily
- Homeowners looking for a high-performing ice melter on a budget
- Homeowners who are careful about usage to prevent damage to plants and others
This blend of potassium and sodium chloride turns into a fast-acting brine solution very quickly despite its low price (compared to competitors). And despite being an affordable option, the Knox Ice Melter is climate-pledge friendly and doesn't cause chemical burns to plant life.
- Can melt ice in temperatures 5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Made of a blend of potassium chloride and sodium chloride
- Low-priced and easy to use
- Not as corrosive as others to asphalt, concrete, or brick
- Won't harm your garden or wood porches as long as it's used responsibly
- It's not powerful enough to withstand extreme sub-zero temperatures, so it can't be used by homeowners in very cold climates
- Homeowners in not-so-cold places that still experience problems with icy driveways
This bag of pellets is the cheapest option in the 50Lb department. It's made of a mix of various salts and boasts a pretty purple color that's easy to spot and shovel away after use. Despite its low price, Merlin Melts Like Magic works in temperatures up to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The easy-to-spot purple color prevents safety hazards
- Coated with calcium magnesium acetate, which makes the formula safer (compared to others with similar formulations) for pets, plants, and humans
- Made of a blend of calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, sodium chloride, and sodium magnesium acetate
- Very affordable for a 50Lb bag
- Effective ice melt product for the extreme cold
- Medium-to-coarse texture makes it easy to shovel, whether with conventional or metal shovels
- Friendly to the environment
- Less premium compared to other 50Lb options
- Homeowners on a budget
- The orange color helps identify the pellets, making them easier to clean up after use
- The careful formulation makes it safe for various surfaces, whether brick, asphalt, concrete, and more
- Made of a mix of potassium chloride, calcium chloride, sodium chloride, and magnesium chloride
- Coated with calcium magnesium acetate
- A more premium but still affordable option
- Blends together all popular salts while retaining environmental friendliness
- Safe for even the most sensitive asphalt surface
- Can melt ice up to -25 degrees Fahrenheit
- Not the cheapest option
- Not explicitly plant friendly
The DowFlake Xtra was one of our top 50Lb bag choices—but if you don't need that much salt for your small driveway, then the 25Lb option can be an ideal compromise.
- Has all the same features as the 50Lb bag, such as the high calcium chloride concentration, fast-acting properties, and ability to mix with sand or rock salt to save money
- Made of 83-87% calcium chloride
- Melts ice very fast
- Very expensive compared to the 50Lb bag. The 50Lb bag costs $16.99 while this 25Lb alternative costs $11.99, despite only being half the weight. But it's still a great option if you don't want to end the winter with unused pellets.
- Homeowners with small driveways
This ice melter is so pet-safe that even pet shops are stocking it! Traditional ice melters can be a massive safety hazard to your pets, whose paws can crack and stomachs can get upset due to the high chemical concentration.
- Made of fertilizer and other non-corrosive products to reduce risk to pet health
- The blue color is made of natural dye for easy visibility without compromising pets
- Made of calcium magnesium acetate, anti-corrosion spray, pH adjuster, sodium chloride, dye
- Pet-friendly compared to other options on the market
- Low price
- Comes in various sizes
- Packaged in a jug for easy storage
- Not ideal for extremely cold temperatures
- Homeowners with a lot of pets
The Remove Ice Melter is a great option for people who don't need a giant 50Lb bag to tide them through the wintertime. It's an economical choice that can remove deep ice in below-freezing temperatures of up to -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Eco-friendly and won't cause major damage to plants and vegetation
- Safe for concrete and asphalt driveways as long as it's applied with care
- Pellets are uniformly sized for overall efficiency
- Made of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride
- Small size is great for people who don't need a lot of salt
- Price is affordable
- Melts ice fast
- Not ideal for people in places with temperatures under -5 degrees Fahrenheit
- People with small driveways
Morton Safe T-Salt is an extremely low-priced, 50Lb bag of sodium chloride that can quickly melt ice from both commercial and personal driveways. It's one of the most economical salt brine solutions on the market!
- Can melt ice in temperatures up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit
- Provides road traction
- Made of sodium chloride
- One of the most affordable 50Lb bags out there
- Melts ice fast
- It can't melt ice in sub-zero temperatures
- Prone to refreezing and breaking concrete
- People on a budget
Common Types of Salt For Driveway
From our lineup of the best ice melters, some chemicals constantly pop up in salt brine formulations as they've been proven to be some of the most effective types of salt for the driveway.
Sodium Chloride or “Rock Salt”
This salt is cheap and easy to find, but tends to be the least reliable option compared to more powerful chemicals. Rock salt isn't very resistant to weather, making it more likely to melt and seep into cracks on the ground before refreezing—causing the ground to crack due to the water expanding as it freezes.
Calcium chloride is typically one of the most unfriendly chemicals to plants, but it certainly does a great job at keeping your driveway ice-free. This salt works in some of the worst below-freezing temperatures (up to -25 degrees Fahrenheit)—and works fast!
Magnesium chloride boasts the same efficiency levels as calcium chloride, with the added benefit of being friendly to sensitive environments. It's often regarded as the most eco-friendly salt option, keeping plants, pets, and your driveway safer than others.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate
This salt is the safest type of salt—allowing no harm to humans, pets, plants, and even sensitive driveways made of asphalt. But due to its high price, it's often only used as a coating for pellets made of other chemicals.
Magnesium chloride vs calcium chloride ice melt
Magnesium chloride is safer for your family, pets, and the environment compared to calcium chloride.
Magnesium chloride is more expensive, which makes calcium chloride a better choice for people on a tight budget.
Calcium chloride vs sodium chloride ice melt
Calcium chloride is significantly more effective than sodium chloride. Among the two, calcium chloride is also less harmful to your driveway when used correctly.
Calcium chloride is more expensive, making sodium chloride the better option if your budget is very low.
Magnesium chloride vs sodium chloride ice melt
Magnesium chloride is undoubtedly the safer option of the two.
Magnesium chloride can cost twice as much as sodium chloride, making it a bad option from an economical standpoint.
Best Way to Use Driveway Salt
Driveway salts are amazing ice melters—but they can be incredibly harmful when used incorrectly. Follow these tips to bring out their best potential.
Use the right amount of salt.
Each bag of ice melter pellets will contain instructions on how much you need to use per square area. It's best to follow the directions as closely as possible to prevent putting too many unwanted chemicals on your driveway, which could cause harm to the concrete and surrounding environment.
Spread the correct salt evenly across the driveway.
Ice melters indicate the lowest temperature in which they’re effective. If you have a bag of sodium chloride that works down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, it certainly won't solve your ice problems when it's -25 degrees outside. Likewise, even the best salts aren't going to melt ice when they aren't spread across the driveway evenly.
Apply salt at optimum times.
The best time to apply salt is right before a snowstorm. This allows the salt bring solution to work both upward and downward—clearing up old ice while preventing new snow from freezing.
Clean up pellets after melting.
A big mistake many homeowners make is spreading the salt and leaving them on the driveway all winter. Salt pellets are meant to be cleaned up after melting ice to prevent the chemical properties from seeping deep into the ground or becoming a safety hazard for your friends, family, pets, and plants. Make sure to use an old-fashioned shovel to get rid of the pellets after use.
Clean yourself, children, and pets after contact with pellets.
Ice melter pellets are chemicals—many of which can cause allergies, irritations, and even burns when not handled correctly. Keep your family and pets safe by implementing basic safety protocols, such as washing your hands and your pets' paws after contact with an ice melter.
How Many Bags Of Salt Do I Need For A Driveway?
A cup of ice melter can cover about 20 square feet of your driveway, which means that a 50Lb bag can cover up to 1,600 square feet. Calculate the size of your driveway and use these numbers to help you find out how much you need all winter.
FAQs About Driveway Salt
Is it bad to salt your driveway?
It's not bad to salt your driveway if you follow the manufacturer's instructions, use safe salts, and take precautions when applying and removing the pellets.
When should I put salt down on my driveway?
It's best to put salt down before a snowstorm. If none is projected to come anytime soon, spread the ice melt as soon as the driveway is covered in ice.
How much does a 50lb bag of salt cover?
It can cover up to 1,600 square feet.
What temperature does ice melt work?
It depends on the brand and type of salt but ranges from 10 degrees to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
At what temperature does ice melt not work?
Most ice melts stop working when the temperature goes even lower than -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
What chemicals are found in ice melt?
The most common chemicals found in ice melt are salts, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium chlorides.
Is using ice melt safe for pets?
Pet-safe ice melts or magnesium chloride ice melts are safe for pets, but it's still best to take extra precautions, such as cleaning their paws after exposure and ensuring they don't ingest the pellets.
When it comes to driveway salt, you have a lot of options. In this article, we helped you compare the different features, formulation, pros, and cons of each product to help you decide which driveway salt is the best for melting ice on your driveway.
There are many different types of salt available for melting ice on the driveway. Some are better than others at melting ice quickly, while some are safer to use. The type of ice-melt product that works best for one person might not be as effective for another person because there are many factors involved.
Where to Buy Salt For Driveway
Standish Milling supplies a wide range of top driveway salts for melting ice at any temperature and price point.