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- Ice melt is an essential part of your winter inventory if you live anywhere it snows.
- Quality ice melts work quickly, keep ice from refreezing, are effective in temperatures well below zero, and won’t damage your property (or the environment).
- Green Gobbler’s 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt is the option that suits most people’s needs. It handles ice in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, can be used in solid form or mixed with warm water to create an ice-blasting spray, and is easier on concrete than many of its competitors.
Shovels, snowblowers, and plows might take care of snow, but they’re no match for ice. While it’s up to you whether or not to salt your driveway, cities often require residents to keep the public walkways in front of their residences safe and ice-free to prevent slip-and-fall accidents.
Regardless of your area’s population density, if you live anywhere it happens to snow, it’s always a good idea to have some ice melt on hand.
We’ve researched dozens of snow and ice melts to bring you our top five recommendations based on performance in extreme temperatures, versatility, affordability, pet-friendliness, and environmental impact. For further information on the different salts used in ice melts, and which ones are best suited to your particular needs and climate, check out our explainer here.
Here are the best snow and ice melts in 2021
- Best overall: Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt Pellets
- Best with color: Blue Heat Snow and Ice Melter
- Best on a budget: Snow Joe Professional Strength Calcium Chloride Pellets
- Best for long-lasting coverage: Pellets of Fire Snow & Ice Melter
- Best for pets and the environment: Play Safe Ice Blocker
The best overall
Whether you live in an arctic tundra or an area that just gets an occasional snowfall, the Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt Pellets will work quickly to make your driveway and sidewalk safer.
Pros: Melts ice in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, acts quickly, has a variety of alternate uses
Cons: Has trouble with thick ice, can damage plants and grass if overused
There are a few features that make the Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt Pellets special. First, of the many types of ice melters, calcium chloride is effective in the lowest temps. Green Gobbler claims its pellets work in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Secondly, you can use this melter in solid form or mix it with warm water (2.5 pounds of pellets per gallon of water) to create a sprayable defense against ice.
As I was researching ice melting salts for personal use, Green Gobbler sent me pellets to test, but unfortunately, they arrived a couple of days after our only significant snowfall so far that season, and I’d already removed the snow and ice. But I was impressed with how quickly it melted the remaining snow when I applied just a minimal amount.
The bucket did come with the wrong label on it. Instead of ice melt, it stated that the product was “Dust Down Pro.” The ingredients, however, were the same. Calcium chloride is a multi-use product that is also effective for keeping the dust down along unpaved drives, so once winter is over, you might consider using your leftover pellets for dust control.
The best with color
If you have a hard time telling where you have and have not spread salt, the blue color of Blue Heat Snow and Ice Melter will help.
Pros: Light-blue tint for easy visibility, effective in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit, acts quickly
Cons: Harmful to pets if ingested
In addition to its blue coloration, Blue Heat Snow and Ice Melter is unique because it consists of a blend of salts: calcium chloride, sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, and ferric chloride.
We weren’t able to find the specific percentages of each, but at least at one time, the label listed the calcium chloride content as 52%, which is enough to lower the minimum effective temperature of these pellets to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since Blue Heat is a blend, it exhibits the advantages of each of the individual salts while minimizing potential damage to concrete, plants, and animals. And, the coloration helps you avoid spreading melter in areas where it could be harmful.
The best on a budget
The Snow Joe Professional Strength Calcium Chloride Pellets provide a great balance between affordability, versatility, and performance.
Pros: Affordable, multiple uses, effective in temps as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit
Cons: Seals on bags are sometimes ineffective
Like our top pick, the Snow Joe Calcium Chloride Pellets are almost completely comprised of pure calcium chloride. The concentration is just slightly lower at 94% instead of 96%. So, Snow Joe only rates it as effective to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, which should be good enough for just about anywhere.
The pellets are designed to generate heat for up to 24 hours upon coming into contact with snow and ice. Cost per pound, it’s also the most affordable option on our list. The resealable bag is also user-friendly and easy to store, though, it might come loose, so you may want to invest in a lidded bucket to contain the pellets after opening the bag.
The best for long-lasting coverage
The Pellets of Fire Snow & Ice Melter removes frozen water from a variety of surfaces and keeps it dry for days.
Pros: A little bit goes a long way, works on many surface types, prevents refreezing
Cons: Harmful to pets, the lid of the bucket is a bit cumbersome to open and may arrive cracked.
The Pellets of Fire Snow & Ice Melter is made by Dart Seasonal Products of New Jersey, which also makes Blue Heat. The main differences between them are Pellets of Fire isn’t blue, and has a much higher CaCl 2 content (up to 90%) according to its Material Safety Data Sheet. This makes it effective at lower temperatures: -25 degrees Fahrenheit and above.
It does not attack concrete either. Cost per pound, it’s a little pricey, but you do not need to use as much to have as strong of an effect as other salts. It sticks around to prevent refreezing and gets the job done even when used in small amounts. It comes in a bucket, which is also easy to store.
Just use caution when around pets as the pellets may cause discomfort for dogs if it gets stuck in their paws.
The best for pets and the environment
If you are looking for a salt that goes easy on your concrete and vehicles, and won’t harm pets, Play Safe’s Ice Blocker is your best bet.
Pros: More environmentally-friendly than most salts, effectively melts ice, 100% satisfaction guarantee
Cons: Expensive, may still cause mild irritation to dogs’ paws, doesn’t work well in extreme cold
Play Safe’s Ice Blocker is different from our other options in that it doesn’t contain calcium chloride. Instead, it’s mainly made of calcium magnesium acetate, which is known for being a more environmentally-friendly salt.
However, it’s more of an ice-preventer and isn’t very effective in temperatures below -15 degrees Fahrenheit.
It comes in a user-friendly jug and the organic ingredients reduce damage to concrete, metal, and vehicles.
And, if you’re in need of a proper ice melt in a pinch, consider the next-best option, Road Runner’s Pet-Friendly Ice Melt. Just note that while it won’t cause dogs as much pain as other options, it may still irritate their paws, so use it with caution.
How to choose the right ice melt
There are essentially six different salts that are used as ice melt. Each has its pros and cons. Most brands use a combination of two or more salts, but the right type of salt will depend on the climate you live in and how you plan on using it.
Here are the main types of salts and what they are good for:
- Calcium chloride (CaCl2) is one of the most popular options because it works quickly in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem is it can damage plants and grass if you use too much.
- Magnesium chloride is considered environmentally friendly and better than most for use around pets. It lowers water’s freezing point to -13 degrees Fahrenheit. The downside is that it could damage your concrete, asphalt, and plants.
- Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is less corrosive than salts with chloride, but it’s only effective in temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit and above.
- Rock salt is great because it’s inexpensive, but it’s problematic in a number of ways: it’s damaging to just about any surface, lethal if pets ingest it, and doesn’t work in low temps.
- Potassium chloride is considered safer for pets but is bad for plants and grass, and only works in temperatures 25 degrees Fahrenheit and above.
- Urea/carbonyl diamide is probably the safest option for pets and the environment, but it isn’t very effective when used for de-icing.
Based on our research, calcium chloride is the best salt overall, though it’s a good idea to mix things up over the course of the season. Also, make a point of only applying the salt in the precise spots where you want to remove snow and ice.
After it has done the job, remove any salt that is left over. This will minimize harmful runoff and dangers to pets and kids.
Loading your driveway with salt is inevitably going to do some damage, but one way you can ameliorate the damage is by avoiding using ice melt that contains rock salt and/or calcium chloride, which react with concrete and make it flake.
Ice melt can hurt animals’ paws, and if you have a pet (or someone whose pet might enter the vicinity), it’s best to use a calcium-chloride-free pet-safe option like Play Safe Ice Blocker, which we recommend above.