Experts emphasize the importance of purchasing the right ice melt formulation for the application and area, rather than simply going with the least expensive option. Product performance can vary greatly depending on the ingredients.

“Besides the slip-and-fall liability situation, a poorly preforming product can lead to over-application, which can cause other problems, such as excessive tracking, corrosion, or damage to vegetation, concrete and the building,” says Loughrey.

Even the best product will perform poorly if not properly used or applied. For example, an ice melt intended for a sidewalk may not deliver the same results when used in a large open area such as a parking lot. Instead, a formulation specifically designed for large areas would be the best choice.

It’s also important to understand that snow and ice melting products aren’t removers.

“Once they’ve done their job of melting through to the pavement, releasing the snow and ice, they should then be physically removed from the area,” Loughrey says. “The misconception that the products will totally remove snow and ice leads to overuse.”

Some departments overuse ice melt, hoping it adds traction in addition to removing snow and ice. A more sustainable and inexpensive option that adds traction is sand. Rather than using ice melt products alone, Loughrey encourages departments to mix it with sand to provide traction throughout the melting process.

Acing Application

The biggest tipoff as to whether the products being used are the best choice for the job is if the product actually melts the snow or ice. First and foremost, follow the product instructions printed on the package to determine proper locations for use, amounts and when products should be used.

Facility cleaning managers need to be proactive and make sure these products are spread in known areas of concern prior to, during and following a weather event. For example, liquid ice melts are commonly used as a pretreatment, while granulated products can be used before, during and after a storm to keep walkways safe.

In addition to timing, department managers must make sure staff is trained on proper quantity of products used. According to Tirado, there are several very common misperceptions about snow and ice melt products, with one of the biggest being the belief that more is better. In fact, he says, less is often more.

When it comes to application, whether departments opt for towable, walk-behind or handheld for tighter areas, mechanical spreaders typically offer greater control and therefore better results, particularly since these can be adjusted for the rate/speed of distribution.

A cloud of dust arising during application indicates that some of the product isn’t sticking around to do any good. On the other hand, too much product lingering on the walkways after an event points to potential overuse, alerting to ineffectiveness or a need for better training. Tracking is another giveaway, say experts.

“If the product and/or its residue are being tracked into the building at an excessive rate, something isn’t right,” says Loughrey. “It could be the product, the application, the outside maintenance or a lack of proper entryway matting.”

The optimal matting system would include an exterior scraper mat, a scraper/wiper mat in the vestibule and a wiper/dryer mat inside the entryway. Exterior and vestibule mats should be as large as the space allows, while the interior mat should be long enough to collect debris and accommodate multiple steps as people head into the building.

Not only do the above tips help reduce ice and snow, they protect interior floors and control budgets. Proper application helps manage product usage, which is important as managers struggle to predict the future needs for ice melt. Despite having a firm grasp on what winter has in store for facilities, experts stress the importance of pre-purchasing snow and ice melts ahead of the need. Stock as much product as storage space allows, before winter gets bad and supplies become scarce.

It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to ice melt. Worse case, departments can store excess product for future storms. Between seasons, store unused ice melt in a cool, dry area away from heat and moisture.

“It’s exceptionally difficult to create surfaces that are free from slippery conditions after a snow or ice storm,” says Tirado. “Multiple steps need to be taken, starting with clear communication with all those involved in property or facility safety. Through consistent and effective monitoring, facility cleaning managers should be able to see what is and isn’t working, making adjustments as needed.”

Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer from Long Beach, California.

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Proper Ice Melt Products Mean Safer Surfaces