GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

January 10, 2014

Ice melters don't have to be hard on plant beds

What’s the difference between all of the ice melters? And why can’t I use a bag of rock salt? That seems to be the cheapest way to go.

A: Read the label on all of the ice melters — some are clearly marked that they “contain(s) rock salt and other elements” which you may not want to pour on plant material or walks made of concrete or specialty stonework — or track indoors, particularly onto polished wood floors.

Wipe your pet’s feet after spending time outdoors — driveway or road salt chemicals can crack foot pads.

If the icy area is very small or the temperature is close to freezing and snowfall is light, the quickest way to make the area safe for walking is a kettle of hot water, then a light application of a commercial melter. Don’t forget the use of clay kitty litter — not to melt, but to provide traction. It’s cheap and readily available. The only problem is that it sticks to shoes and animal paws and can leave a muddy puddle. So, what are you to do?

How about one of these?

Calcium chloride melts well to temperatures of 13 below zero, works fast, does not damage metal (think the underside of your car, porch railings) or concrete and does moderate damage to plant life.

Sodium chloride, or plain old rock salt, melts best at temperatures above 18 degrees. It works fast, damages concrete, metal and plants, but it’s cheap.

Potassium chloride melts well to 15 degrees but is slow to work. It won’t damage old concrete but does some damage to plants.

Choose carefully — there is a melter for you — and spring can’t be too far away, can it?

Should I be feeding birds all winter?

A: It’s the perfect time of year to open a new restaurant on the Cape Ann — a birdie restaurant, of course.

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