Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Ice Melt of 2021

The class of 2021 ready to bring a little spring to you winter walkway...
Credit: Laura Casner
By Nick Miley and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Jan 15, 2021
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Need a good ice breaker? Our hands-on review of 2021's best ice melt will provide you with all the information necessary to pick the preferred product for your needs the first time around. We looked at everything from chemical reaction to the traction that the products provide. We also assessed concerns regarding pet safety, damage to surfaces such as concrete, and potential harm to vegetation. This comprehensive review will have you spreading deicer quicker than you can say Jack Frost.


1

Best Overall Ice Melt


Prestone Driveway Heat


Active Ingredient: Calcium Chloride | Concrete Damage Risk: Low
Limits refreeze
Can be used as liquid spray
Relatively expensive
Hard to see color

The fast-acting Prestone Driveway Heat is easily the best deicing product in the class. This product warrants such distinction not just because it is extremely effective but also because it poses few concerns to flora, fauna, and concrete. The calcium chloride formula creates an exothermic reaction when it comes in contact with moisture which is great for extremely cold weather (down to a constant -25º F). Moreover, the size of the grains works well in hand-crank seeders if you're trying to cover a large area. For the most part, there isn't a concern about damage to concrete, especially if the concrete is older than a year.

While we found that Driveway Heat to be a leader in the class, it isn't without shortcomings. Of chief concern is the heat produced when the calcium chloride takes off. The reaction generates enough heat to burn the skin of animals and humans alike. While we don't want to give the impression that this product is akin to napalm, the risk warrants the use of gloves and precautions with furry family members. Finally, the product is fine-grained and white of color which makes it difficult to see and easy to over-apply. That said, Driveway Heat has the best ratio of pros to cons, making it an easy choice when Frosty Snowman comes to town.

This calcium chloride's exothermic reaction is guaranteed to bring...
This calcium chloride's exothermic reaction is guaranteed to bring the heat.
Credit: Laura Casner

2

An All-Around Quality Ice Melt


Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt


Active Ingredient: Magnesium Chloride | Concrete Damage Risk: Low
Fast-acting
Limited impact on vegetation
Can gum-up seeders
Not long-lasting

Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt is fast-acting in conditions with temperatures as low as -5º F. The active ingredient Magnesium Chloride helps to prevent refreeze and, in contrast to calcium chloride, is considered to be better suited to concrete that is less than a year old. Additionally, this product poses less risk to pets and vegetation. Also, this product comes in a variety of sizes (10 - 50 lbs), so there's a package to suit the needs of users ranging from the hardened northerner to the fair-weather lowlander.

It's a fact that magnesium chloride is less harsh than calcium chloride but, as a consequence, its exothermic reaction is not as energetic and thus is not as effective. As such, the Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt will be used in greater quantities to perform the same amount of work. In such cases, a hand seeder is an optimal tool to evenly distribute deicer across a surface. However, the fine grain of Green Gobbler is susceptible to clogging such tools. That said, this product is easy to clean-up and less likely to agitate the skin of humans and animals when compared to calcium chloride.

If you are concerned about little fluffy's tinder paws and are...
If you are concerned about little fluffy's tinder paws and are willing to sacrifice a little performance to help protect them, magnesium chloride is a good alternative to calcium chloride.
Credit: Laura Casner

3

A Good Choice for Pets


Safe Paw Ice Melt


Active Ingredient: Urea | Concrete Damage Risk: Low
Non-corrosive
Reduced toxicity
Less effective in low temperatures
Slow to activate

As the name implies, Safe Paw Ice Melt has taken measures to decrease the risks posed to dogs — and animals in general — when the product is in use. This reduction in danger is mainly the result of the lower temperatures produced by the product. Case in point, the formula is only effective down to ~20º F, making it better suited to mild winter weather. Another feature of Safe Paw is its course, green-colored grains which offer increased visibility to help limit overuse as well as a measure of traction to reduce the likelihood of slips and falls.

While Safe Paw is indeed better suited to households with pets scurrying around, it is less effective at melting ice as a result. That is not to say that this product won't, well, melt ice. It's just that it's not as good at doing so as other products in this review. To be more specific, this product does little to prevent refreezing and it's slow to work in the first place. What this means in a practical situation is that more of the compound will have to be applied more frequently. Yet, the limitations of this product are not necessarily negatives so long as they are understood. For the right user and climate, this product will be more than adequate.

While urea isn't the most powerful ice melter, it is certainly the...
While urea isn't the most powerful ice melter, it is certainly the best for use around pets and mild winter conditions.
Credit: Laura Casner

4

A Great Blended Formula Ice Melt


Natural Rapport Pet Friendly Ice Melt


Active Ingredient: Blend | Concrete Damage Risk: Low - Med
Added traction agent
Relatively inexpensive
Can gunk up hand seeders
Dye may stain surfaces

Natural Rapport Pet Friendly Ice Melt is a blend of, among other things, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. This combination helps to keep the price low while maintaining much of the reactive oomph of calcium chloride. Benefits include refreeze prevention, fast reaction time, and reduced application rates as compared to magnesium chloride alone.

As you may have deduced from reading between the lines above, the blending, or diluting of the calcium chloride reduces the exothermic reaction. Thus, the blended formula is less useful in extremely cold situations, maxing out its effectiveness around -5º F. That said, this stuff is a good compromise if you're looking for affordability, reasonable reliability, and considerations for pets.

Blended deicers try to capture the strength of industrial deicers...
Blended deicers try to capture the strength of industrial deicers while avoiding the risk to flora and fauna. This product strikes a reasonably good balance between both of these desires.
Credit: Laura Casner

5

A Decent Ice Melt in a Durable Pail


Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride


Active Ingredient: Calcium Chloride | Concrete Damage Risk: Low
Good in extreme cold
Useful in seed spreader
Poor value
Harmful if over-applied

Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride is one heck of a product. It's great in super cold scenarios, particularly if you require fast melting action. This formula is good down to a teeth-chattering - 25º F. The awesome exothermic heat-producing reaction is long-lasting and requires less product than competing formulas. Given the presumed needs of a customer interested in such a powerful deicer, it's nice that this product can reliably be scattered with a hand seeder or as a liquid spray when added to water.

As with other calcium chloride products, Green Gobbler is expensive. It isn't without some environmental concerns either. For one, it is easy to over-apply it if you're not familiar with its use. Overspreading can lead to lawn damage and corrosion of concrete in certain scenarios. Moreover, the high heat produced can cause skin irritation or worse. Despite these concerns, a well-informed user in need of some serious deicer will find this product quite effective and reasonably manageable.

This is a heavy-hitting deicer power by calcium chloride. Make no...
This is a heavy-hitting deicer power by calcium chloride. Make no mistake, this product will bring the heat in all but the coldest conditions.
Credit: Laura Casner

6

A Decent Alternative to Pure Rock Salt


DART Keep It Green


Active Ingredient: Blend | Concrete Damage Risk: Med-High
Provides traction
Fairly quick-acting
Bad for pet
Bad for vegetation

Dart Keep It Green ice melt is a blend of sodium chloride, urea, calcium magnesium acetate, and a time-release fertilizer. While this ingredients list might have you feeling like you forgot to study for your chemistry exam, all you really need to know is that the main ingredient is rock salt. Rock salt has the benefit of being pretty fast-acting and it adds grippy texture to slippery surfaces. Additionally, the Keep It Green formula is dyed green to increase visibility and limit over application.

While the Keep It Green mix is better than straight-up salt, it is still a rock salt product with all the risks and concerns that salt poses. For one, it's corrosive and should not be used on driveways less than three years old. Additionally, rock salt presents health risks to animals that include skin irritation, dehydration, vomiting, and, in extreme cases, death. Moreover, it's basically poison for plants. As far as functional limitations are concerned, the Dart blend lacks refreeze prevention properties and it is only effective down to about 20º F. Nonetheless, this is a decent product when used in appropriate situations with the proper precautions.

This rock salt and urea blended formula limits the negative impacts...
This rock salt and urea blended formula limits the negative impacts of salts while adding a measure of reaction to slippery surfaces.
Credit: Laura Casner

7

A Decent Pet-Friendly Deicer


Morton Safe-T-Pet Ice Melt


Active Ingredient: Urea | Concrete Damage Risk: Low
Non-corrosive
Low toxicity
Limited use in low temperatures
Some risk to vegetation

Morton Safe-T-Ice Melt is a decent deicer that will reliably melt frozen water down to 20º F. It's also non-corrosive, which means it's safe to use on concrete of any age. As with many other formulas, this product is dyed to make it easier to spread evenly. Additionally, Morton adds a proprietary traction agent that adds a grippy texture between boot sole and frozen ground.

Safe-T-Ice Melt is a reasonably effective product when used in mild winter climates. However, it is relatively slow to act, especially so when compared to products containing calcium chloride. Another consideration is that, while this formula is considered to be pet-safe, it shouldn't be over-applied or allowed to run-off into waterways as it's particularly toxic to aquatic life when concentrated. That said, this product fits nicely into snow and ice removal kits for pet owners who infrequently experience harsh winter weather.

This deicer's active ingredient urea is better than no ice melt at...
This deicer's active ingredient urea is better than no ice melt at all, but not by much. However, it poses little risk to animals, plants, and concrete.
Credit: Laura Casner

8

A Reasonably Effective Blended Salt Formula


Snow Joe AZ-10-EB-JUG Melt-2-Go


Active Ingredient: Blend | Concrete Damage Risk: Med - High
Outer coating is fast-acting
Relatively inexpensive
Risk of staining
Contains rock salt

Snow Joe Melt-2-Go is a blended formula that includes sodium chloride and magnesium chloride. The advantage of the blend is that the salt concentration is reduced and the magnesium chloride coating the salt is more expeditious for liquifying ice. This formula is effective down to 20º F and has been colored green to make it more visible and thus less likely to be overused. The coarse nature of the grains adds a measure of traction to slick walkways, a benefit that is unlikely to be scoffed at by denizens of inclement regions of the planet.

Despite the benefits of the Melt-2-Go formula, there are several concerns that a potential buyer should be aware of before making a purchase. For instance, the blend includes rock salt and all the issues associated with that expedient. Yes, rock salt is effective at reducing water's freezing point but at the cost of being corrosive to concrete as well as posing health concerns to plants and animals. Aside from these maintenance and safety issues, we think that this product offers decent effectiveness and manageable risks to the well-informed user.

This product coats the rock salt grain with fast-acting magnesium...
This product coats the rock salt grain with fast-acting magnesium chloride and dyed green for visibility.
Credit: Laura Casner

9

Ice Melt for Mild Conditions


Purple Heat Premium Snow and Ice Melt: Quad Blend


Active Ingredient: Blend | Concrete Damage Risk: Med - High
Fast-acting coating
Adds grip to surfaces
Not effective in extreme cold
Poses risks to animals

Purple Heat Premium Snow and Ice Melt is essentially rock salt pellets that are covered with magnesium chloride and permeated with purple dye. The benefit of the coating and coloring is that it has a rapid though short-lived heating property as well as increased visibility that aids in even distribution of the product. Additionally, the uneven shape of the rock salt bites into ice and provides purchase for boot soles.

Conversely, rock salt poses several problems that, in certain situations, outweigh its benefits. For example, pet owners should take precautions when using salt products as they pose significant health concerns to our furry friends. Additionally, salt is bad for plants and corrosive to concrete that is less than 3 years cured. Another issue is that salt's ability to lower the freezing temperature of water is only effective to about 20º F. Taken as a whole, we think this product falls into the meh category as there are much better options available.

This ice melt is coated with magnesium chloride which actively...
This ice melt is coated with magnesium chloride which actively creates heat when in contact with moisture. The passive salt core lowers the freezing temperature and adds underfoot traction.
Credit: Laura Casner

Why You Should Trust Us


Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer and Senior Review Editor Nick Miley have lived high in the Central Sierra Nevada for over two collective decades. This duo has seen the worst of what Old Man Winter can deliver when his frosty gaze settles on their stretch of the range. Complementing their personal experiences dealing with truss cracking ice dams and glaciated walkways is years of experimental testing both in the academic and private sectors. They know performance products because they have tested them in real-world scenarios and that knowledge is augmented with hard-nosed research on application and safety concerns.

Our evaluation of the various deicing agents relied on research and...
Our analysis isn't academic. We bought and tested these ice melting...
Applying product in the field provides insight into inobvious...

To be specific, all the products in this review were evaluated in the following manner. First, the active ingredients were determined and the products were sorted accordingly. Active ingredients (discussed below) demarcate appropriate usages, temperature ranges as well as safety and environmental concerns. Next, each product was tested for effectiveness on the parking lot and walkways surrounding our lab. Throughout our testing, we took stock of the size, shape, and color of the product and how these characteristics contributed to effectiveness in the melting process and underfoot traction.

Analysis and Test Results


Ice melt is a godsend when Jack Frost makes a visit to your home. However, the products falling under this moniker are not as uniform as a casual glance would suggest. Rather, they come in a wide range of application-specific formulas. While we can't shovel snow and chip ice for you we can help you pick the right product to help you out. To that end, this review sorts the products by active ingredient while at the same time outlining their best use. For clarity, our analysis is split into four sections — chemical make-up, effective temperature, environmental concerns as well as physical characteristics — that examines every aspect of use.

NOTE:
Many manufacturers warn not to use their products on concrete less than 1 year old. In some cases, the concrete needs to be well established (up to 7 years old). Additionally, many deicers can harm plants, animals, and a variety of surface materials. We try to cover each product's restrictions. However, users should always read the manufacturer's directions before use.

Chemical Make-Up


The chemical make-up metric is a sorting of the products according to their active ingredients. Knowing the chemicals and how they get frozen water to melt will simplify the selection process. Perhaps the most well-known deicer is sodium chloride, better known as rock salt. Salt mixed with liquid water effectively lowers the water's freezing point by preventing water crystals from forming. Products such as Dart Keep It Green or Snow Joe Melt-2-Go contain sodium chloride. As will be discussed in more detail below, the thawing effect of salt is relatively limited.

Salt lowers freezing temperatures but not by much. However, it adds...
Salt lowers freezing temperatures but not by much. However, it adds traction to slick surfaces regardless where the mercury has settled.
Credit: Austin Palmer

On the other end of the deicing spectrum is calcium chloride. This chemical absorbs moisture from its surroundings triggering a rapid exothermic reaction which yields heat up to 120º F. The aptly named Prestone Driveway Heat and Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride use this chemical. Much like calcium chloride, magnesium chloride reacts to water and produces heat. However, the reaction is slow and produces temperatures in the 75º - 90º F range.

Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride attack ice with an...
Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride attack ice with an exothermic reaction triggered by moisture. Both agents are fast-acting but the prior produces a significantly higher temperature.
Credit: Austin Palmer

Other active ingredients include urea, which, like salt, prevents water molecules from organizing into crystals and thus lowers the freezing point. Products such as Safe Paw Ice Melt and Morton Safe-T-Pet Ice Melt use urea though it is less effective than salt. It should be noted that many products use a mix of these ingredients — as well as others such as calcium magnesium acetate — to keep costs low, increase effectiveness, and to minimize negative side effects.

Temperature


The temperature metric is an analysis of the products' minimum temperature ratings. Additionally, the metric looks at melting time and longevity (i.e. in situ refreeze prevention). Prestone Driveway Heat and Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride lead the class in all three of these categories. These deicers' prowess is the product of their main ingredient — calcium chloride. Our investigation revealed that these compounds remain effective down to -25º F. Moreover, these deicers kick-off almost immediately, stay hot longer, and help to limit refreezing while in place.

If you need to melt ice when the temperature is as low as -25...
If you need to melt ice when the temperature is as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit, products containing calcium chloride are the ticket.
Credit: Austin Palmer

Following calcium chloride in order of effective minimum temperatures are magnesium chloride (~0º F), sodium chloride (~20º F), and Urea (~25º F). Despite being a step down from calcium chloride, magnesium chloride is fast-acting, produces relatively high temperatures when exposed to moisture, and limits refreezing. Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt uses unblended magnesium chloride. Both Natural Rapport Pet Safe Ice Melt and Snow Joe Melt-2-Go use a blend of sodium chloride and magnesium chloride as the latter helps to lower the priors relatively high minimum effective temperature rating, slow working time, and lack of refreeze deterrence. Urea is the least effective active ingredient of the bunch. It is frequently used in blends, however, Safe Paw Ice Melt uses an unblended formula.

Products containing urea are best suited to mild winter conditions...
Products containing urea are best suited to mild winter conditions. Our tests revealed that this agent is ineffective below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Credit: Austin Palmer

Environment


The environment metric looks at the surfaces that the deicers in this review are best suited to. Specifically, we want to know if they have the potential to damage concrete and other surfaces such as tile. We also want to know if there are risks to pets and vegetation. Let's start with the latter first. Products such as Safe Paw and Morton Safe-T-Pet Ice Melt pose the least risk to animals as their active ingredient urea does not pose the same dehydration, skin irritation, and gut issues as sodium chloride. Nor does urea pose a risk of burning the skin as do products continuing calcium chloride and magnesium chloride.

Effectively melting ice is just one concern when shopping for a...
Effectively melting ice is just one concern when shopping for a deicing agent. User's should be aware that some products can be harmful to vegetation and underlying surfaces such as concrete and tile. It is important to carefully read the manufacturer's warnings before use.
Credit: Laura Casner

When it comes to concrete corrosion, sodium chloride (salt) products pose the greatest risk. These risks decrease with the age of concrete. So, if you plan to use products like Dart Keep It Green or Snow Joe Melt-2-Go on a concrete driveway or patio, make sure that the concrete is over 3 years old. Likewise, magnesium chloride will damage tile, granite, and limestone if not removed after the ice has melted. As for lawns and other plants, products containing either salt or urea will prove toxic if used excessively.

If you are planning on using a sodium chloride product on concrete...
If you are planning on using a sodium chloride product on concrete make sure that your concrete is at least 3 years old. And, as always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Credit: Austin Palmer

Size, Shape, and Color


As the metric title suggests, this portion of our analysis looks at the pros and cons related to the size, shape, and color of the product. These characteristics are certainly secondary to the issues discussed in the temperature and environment sections. However, size, shape, and color are nonetheless important to consider. Many of these products are dyed to make them more visible thus helping to prevent overuse. Safe Paw, for example, dyes their product green. Unfortunately, expensive and potentially harmful products like Prestone Driveway Heat and Green Gobbler Pet Safe are white and blend in with the ice and snow.

Dyed products help tremendously in the effort to limit...
Dyed products help tremendously in the effort to limit over-application. Our testing showed that green is the most visible color of the lot.
Credit: Laura Casner

Our size analysis focuses on whether or not the product will clog a hand seeder. For those of you unfamiliar with this tool, a hand spreader is just a handheld funnel atop a hand-cranked wheel that throws seed, or in this case deicer, over a surface. It's a great way to get an even distribution of the product across a large area. Fine-grain products such as Prestone Driveway Heat and Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride work great with these machines. The irregular shape of these fine grains also helps them to stay put on an incline.

Fine-grained deicers such as this calcium chloride product do well...
Fine-grained deicers such as this calcium chloride product do well in hand seeders used for even scattering.
Credit: Laura Casner

Some products are shaped into pellets, a shape that does a good job of penetrating ice and working from below but poses the problem of rolling downhill if the surface is firm. Safe Paw and Natural Rapport are examples of products that come in pellet form. Finally, products like Dart Keep It Green and Snow Joe Melt-2-Go that use sodium chloride provide an added measure of traction to slippery surfaces because the salt's angular edges bite into frozen surfaces and add texture.

Conclusion


This hands-on review of ice melt covers everything from the active ingredients and melt-inducing properties to minimum effective temperature and safety concerns. Our comparative analysis makes it easy to select the right product for your particular situation. While this review is no substitute for a helping hand with your ice removal, it will go a long way to speed up the work that lies ahead.

Nick Miley and Austin Palmer