When winter weather hits, snow and ice can make driveways and sidewalks hazardous for motorists and pedestrians. Having an ice melt on hand can save time and make sure that you can safely walk and drive. Adding a heated driveway to your home may be too big a project, but an ice melt spray or liquid is a budget-friendly way to keep ice from causing damage.
Ice melts come in a variety of application methods and formulas specifically made for surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, and glass. For homes with pets or children, there are options that are eco-friendly and don’t use harsh chemicals to melt ice quickly.
We researched dozens of melts.
Green Gobbler Pet-Safe Ice Melt
Better choice around pets, plants
Available in bulk sizes
Shape can reduce spreader jams
Effective up to minus 10 degrees
Lid can be hard to remove
This product should melt any ice on your driveway or sidewalks in temperatures as low as minus-10 degrees Fahrenheit. You can scoop and spread the small, round pellets or use a spreader such as used for seed and fertilizer. The pellets are shaped to reduce jams and clogs in most spreaders.
While no ice melt is “safe” for pets, the ASPCA says this product’s primary ingredient, magnesium chloride, can be less dangerous to pet paws than other materials used in ice melts, but it can still cause them to become sick if they ingest it while trying to lick the substance off their paws.
This ice melt is a bit expensive, but buying in bulk—the bucket is pretty heavy at 35 pounds—helps keep the per-use cost down. (It does come in a smaller 15-pound size but it is more expensive by weight.) Just keep in mind that if you plan to move the bucket when it is full, you may need some muscle to get the job done. The bucket also has a lid that is very secure, and we’ve noted that many people have said that they've struggled to get it off.
Price at time of publish: $73
Intended surfaces: Driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, walkways | Type: Pellets | Size: 35 pounds | Use around pets/plants with caution? Yes/Yes
Road Runner Ice Melt Calcium Chloride Blend
Can be used around plants
Can be used with a spreader or from the bag
Bag is not resealable
Can harm pets
This affordable ice melt combines magnesium chloride and calcium chloride for quick-acting ice melt in temperatures as low as minus-15 degrees Fahrenheit. Calcium chloride should be less harmful to plants, as long as you use it in reasonable amounts. However, calcium chloride can be more harmful to pets than magnesium chloride, so it would be wise to keep Bella away until the ice melts to the point where you can shovel it and the ice melts off the surface.
We like that you can spread this product straight from the bag or by using a spreader. We would prefer that the 20-pound bag it comes in be resealable. So, plan to use all of the ice melt at once or have a way to store it, preferably in a sealed bucket.
Price at time of publish: $7
Intended Surfaces: Driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, walkways | Type: Pellets | Size: 20 pounds | Use around pets/plants with caution? No/Yes
Best for Pets
Sunday Pet Safe Ice Melt
Can be used around pets, plants
Responsibly sourced magnesium chloride
Small bag is easy to carry, pour
Alternatives cost less
May need to reapply frequently
Dead Sea magnesium chloride, which this product uses as its only ingredient, has been found to be effective against some skin irritation. However, we find no research to confirm whether that makes this product an effective ice melt. We recommend this product, however, because magnesium chloride can be gentler on pet paws than calcium chloride, which is used in other ice melt products. This product uses no other ingredients that could severely harm animals.
The manufacturer claims this product can melt ice to a slurry in temperatures as low as minus-13 degrees Fahrenheit. A half cup of pellets should be sufficient to melt ice on a walkway or driveway up to 10 feet long and 3 feet wide. If your driveway or sidewalk is longer, you may need more than a single bag.
Price at time of publish: $18
Intended Surfaces: Driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, walkways | Type: Pellets | Size: 7 pounds | Use around pets/plants with caution? Yes/No
Best for Concrete
National Blue Ice Melt
Calcium chloride is recommended for concrete
Blue dye shows application spots
Dye doesn’t stain
May harm pets
Large quantities are hard to move
If you need to cover a large area of concrete with minimal risk, we recommend this mostly calcium chloride product. Calcium chloride doesn’t melt the ice but chemically degrades the bond between ice and the concrete surface, which is frequently colder than the air. Unfortunately, calcium chloride is more of a pet and plant irritant than magnesium chloride, which other products use. This product also contains sodium chloride (salt), which can irritate pet paws.
National Blue Ice Melt product comes in 20-pound and 50-pound buckets—difficult to move but perfect if you need to purchase ice melt in bulk. The blue color comes from dye that is meant to show where you have applied the ice melt, reducing the likelihood that you use more of the product than necessary. The dye is water-soluble, so it disappears and doesn’t stain as the ice melts.
Price at time of publish: $45
Intended Surfaces: Concrete | Type: Pellets | Size: 20 pounds| Use around pets/plants with caution? No/No
Best for Asphalt
Bare Ground 5 Gal. Liquid Anti-Snow/De-Icer
Easy to use and store
Works in extremely low temperatures
Dedicated sprayer required
Bare Ground Liquid de-icer is effective for keeping snow and ice from sticking to asphalt surfaces such as some driveways—up to 10 days, according to the manufacturer. Applying this to bare ground before snow falls may stop up to 2 inches of snow from accumulating. Its effective low-temperature limit is listed as minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit.
This liquid product comes in a bag with a resealable pour nozzle. But you apply it by spraying, requiring a separate, dedicated sprayer (not included). You can use any standard sprayer, but we recommend using a separate hose from the one that you use with your plants. Expect the 5-gallon package to cover around 5,000 square feet (slightly larger than a basketball court).
We have not noted any special danger to pets, although any ice melt can be harmful if ingested or licked off paws. You can also use it, as directed, around plants, although you should try not to spray directly on vegetation. It is also biodegradable. You can consult the UL Safety Data Sheet for more information.
Price at time of publish: $62
Intended Surfaces: Asphalt | Type: Liquid | Size: 5 gallons | Use around pets/plants with caution? Yes/Yes
Best for Roofs
Roofmelt Ice Melt
Melts ice dams
Keeps water from draining into house
Comes in a bulk size
One tablet for each square foot
Ladder recommended for placement
Ice and snow buildup on roofs can cause significant damage. We note that these 3-inch-round calcium chloride tablets, which come 60 to a 14-pound pail, can effectively melt through most accumulated ice. The manufacturer says these hockey puck-like tablets are most effective by melting snow to form channels, which carry water off the roof and into gutters.
The trick for best effectiveness is how to get the tablets onto your roof, since the manufacturer says you need one tablet for every square foot of roof. Randomly throwing them onto your roof can be haphazard. If your roof is particularly high, you might need to do this with a ladder.
Price at time of publish: $41
Intended Surfaces: Roof | Type: Tablets | Size: 60 tablets per 14-pound pail | Use around pets/plants with caution? No/No
Best for Driveways
Prestone Driveway Heat Concentrated Ice Melter
Safe for concrete
Effective in very cold climates
Should not be used around pets
Anyone who has a driveway knows how necessary it is to keep the surface clear of ice. If you need to de-ice your driveway quickly, this product is highly recommended. As a pure calcium chloride formula, the Prestone product effectively works more rapidly and in colder temperatures—down to minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit—than many blended products. It is considered less damaging to concrete than highly effective rock salt (sodium chloride), because you can use less of it on the same-size area.
While it is okay to use carefully, as directed, around vegetation, this isn’t the best option if you have pets who run around on your driveway. Calcium chloride can irritate pet paws and can be harmful if ingested, such as by licking paws.
The manufacturer specifies that you shouldn’t use this product on concrete that’s less than one year old, has exposed cracks, or is composed of stone, or brick masonry.
Price at time of publish: $11
Intended Surfaces: Driveways | Type: Pellets | Size: 20 pounds | Use around pets/plants with caution? Yes/No
ECOS Ice Melt Compound
Magnesium chloride is main ingredient
Does not need a spreader
Many ingredients, for effectiveness
Not great for concrete
May need to reapply frequently
This ice melt is part of ECOS’s line of what they position as environmentally friendly home products for cleaning and upkeep. The manufacturer has positioned this product to be environmentally friendly by combining a slew of ice-melting chemicals, with magnesium chloride as the main ingredient. Others include calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride (ordinary salt). But each by itself can irritate pet paws and cause various harm to concrete surfaces.
We like that this product is sold in 6.5-pound containers you can easily pour from, reducing the need for a separate spreader. It’s best to sprinkle this product on the targeted surface before the snow falls and ice forms, then again at various intervals. This also means you use the product more, requiring more frequent purchases.
Price at time of publish: $17
Intended Surfaces: Driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, walkways other than concrete | Type: Pellets | Size: 6.5 pounds | Use around pets/plants with caution? Yes/Yes
Covington Naturals Liquid Ice Melt
Can be used around pets, plants
Doesn’t track inside
Works in very cold temperatures
Stores through multiple seasons
Other alternatives cost less
Requires a separate sprayer
You can use this mostly magnesium chloride ice melt up to 24 hours before ice even forms; the manufacturer recommends spraying it in an even, thin layer. If there is ice under snow, clear the snow away, and this product is designed to melt the ice quickly and efficiently, in temperatures as low as minus-30 degrees Fahrenheit. You can store the ice melt from one winter to the next if you have any left over at the end of the season. Applying this product requires a pump sprayer (not included).
Because this is a liquid, you needn’t worry about bringing in unmelted pellets into the house, where pets can eat them. However, we remind that despite manufacturer claims, no ice melt is truly “pet safe” or “pet friendly.” Magnesium chloride, like other chlorides used in ice melts, can harm pets if they ingest it, such as by licking paws coated with the liquid. We strongly recommend that despite manufacturer claims, you keep pets away from treated surfaces.
Price at time of publish $60
Intended Surfaces: Driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, walkways | Type: Liquid spray | Size: 6.5 pounds | Use around pets/plants with caution? No/No
Our top pick is Green Gobbler Pet-Safe Ice Melt. It's one of the most effective and easy to use, and you can use it around pets and plants, in small applications as directed. For a more budget-friendly option, look at the Road Runner Ice Melt for something that is also easy to apply right from the bag and goes easier on your vegetation.
What to Look for in an Ice Melt
Ice melts generally come as pellets or liquid sprays. Pellets are distributed straight from the bag or bucket, by hand or scoop, and should be applied in an even layer. Sprays generally can be applied using a garden sprayer, which should be confined to ice melt substance only and not then used for applying other chemicals, such as weed killer. You may need to purchase a separate sprayer for liquids.
Remember the word “chloride.” Sodium chloride (common table salt) not only is a food seasoner but also a well-regarded ice melt. But other salts are equally effective and not as corrosive to paved surfaces and concrete.
Besides sodium chloride, commonly sold as rock salt, the most common chlorides used in ice melts include magnesium chloride and calcium chloride. Some products combine multiple chlorides; calcium magnesium acetate, for example, combines calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. All of these can corrode surfaces, such as concrete and asphalt, if applied in too-high concentrations.
Sodium chloride (rock salt) is the least costly ice melt. It is more corrosive to concrete than other chloride ice melts. It also doesn’t melt ice as fast and is less effective at lower temperatures. Sodium chloride also irritates pet paws and can harm pets if ingested, such as when they lick their paws to get the stuff off.
Magnesium chloride is less corrosive than rock salt and milder than calcium chloride, but that means you need to apply more of it. Magnesium chloride is also considered less pet-dangerous than other chlorides.
Calcium chloride creates heat as it absorbs moisture, thus melting ice more quickly than rock salt. It is considered less corrosive to concrete, although it can irritate skin and thus is more dangerous to pets than magnesium chloride.
Potassium chloride is infrequently used, because it melts ice slower than other chlorides and can damage concrete. It also becomes ineffective at temperatures below 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some ice melts work better on different surfaces or are configured for particular surfaces such as concrete and asphalt. Concrete is one of the most sensitive surfaces to freezing and thawing, which makes concrete-friendly options that use calcium chloride the best options. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride also are effective on asphalt.
Based on their ingredients, ice melt pellets or sprays are effective until the temperature drops to a certain level. Calcium chloride can be effective as low as minus-25 degrees Fahrenheit. Magnesium chloride loses effectiveness at about 0 degrees Fahrenheit, but when added to calcium chloride (calcium magnesium acetate), it also can be effective at minus-25. Sodium chloride is least effective in extreme cold, at only 15 degrees above zero Fahrenheit.
Environmental and Safety Impact
Most ice melts use some combination of chlorides. In certain quantities, all chlorides can harm plants. Some products add dyes to show where you have spread the ice melt. Those can stain surfaces and contaminate water.
Most ice melts start working in around 30 minutes, depending on the temperature and depth of ice.
How does ice melt work?
Some ice melts create heat as they combine with ice, which turns it into water. As the water melts, the solution spreads out over nearby surfaces and causes them to melt as well. Other ice melts break down the bonds between the ice and the surfaces they lie on, which are typically colder than the air. That allows the warmer air to melt the ice. Rock salt reacts with the ice to break the bonds between water molecules. That makes them move more rapidly, raising the ice’s temperature above freezing, causing the ice to melt.
When should you put down ice melt?
The best time to put ice melt down is before it snows or freezes, to keep ice from forming. You can also apply ice melt on top of ice, although you should try to shovel away as much snow as possible to make it most effective.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Melynn, a freelance writer who specializes in home and family products. She has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. After growing up experiencing harsh Midwest winters, Melynn knows the value of ice melt to keep surfaces clear and reduce slipping.