What Amount of Ice Melt Is Really Needed?

What Amount of Ice Melt Is Really Needed

Be prepared for this winter season by using proven ice melt spreading strategy to keep areas safe while you save time, money, and product.

Ice Melt: The Fast-Melting, Long-Lasting Winter Sidekick

Where there’s winter, there’s ice melt. Liquid ice melt and granular ice melt are the must-have products to get you through the heavy precipitation of the season. You can use both products as pre-treatment and post-treatment for snowstorms and icy conditions, whether it’s for anti-icing or deicing.

Anti-icing is a proactive strategy to prevent ice bond from forming between accumulation and the surface, typically executed by Direct Liquid Application up to 48 hours before a storm. Anti-icing appears like wet stripes on dry pavement; the wet areas reduce the bond between snow and ice and the pavement while the dry areas maintain friction. It’s important to note that the success of anti-icing is entirely dependent on important factors like the type of weather event, application rate, liquid deicer, and spread pattern.

Deicing is a reactive snow and ice control strategy of applying deicer on top of compacted snow or ice to soften and break an existing ice-to-pavement bond to expedite clearing, quickly and efficiently. Only use deicing after snow has been mechanically removed. The success of using a deicer depends upon the pavement temperature. If warm weather is near after a storm, a deicer is not needed. However, if the pavement temperature continues to drop and becomes too cold, deicers will not help; it’s time to switch to an abrasive like sand, if necessary.

The fast-melting and long-lasting action of ice melt ultimately keep critical areas safe for both high and low foot or vehicle traffic. But, how do I apply ice melt and how much do I need to be effective this season?

Let’s break it down.

You Don’t Have to Hear a Crunch to Know Your Footing is Safe

Although it’s easy to feel like the more granular ice melt and rock salt, the safe, you’re only doing yourself a disservice by overusing this winter season. It’s important to keep areas safe for others, whether on foot or in vehicles, but overusing and not assessing the level of service goal are some of the biggest mistakes most make. You don’t always need to hear that *crunch*! Save money by using less of your inventory and save time by keeping track of products used, amounts used, and overall effectiveness so application is well-thought-out and more efficient for winter seasons (and storms) to come. 

As the industry moves toward more sophisticated and manufactured ice melts that are more effective (and perhaps more costly), adopting the ‘less is more’ mindset will help keep expenses in check.

Spread Patterns 

Granular Ice Melt Spread Pattern

Focus on spreading salt in the middle of pathways as opposed to spreading it to the edge of the sidewalks or parking lot corners. The salt spread should resemble sprinkles of salt, not piles or blankets.

Proper salt application

Excessive salt application

Liquid Ice Melt Spread Pattern

Spread patterns for liquid ice melt vary upon the time of application (before, during, or after a storm) and if it is mixed with granular ice melt. 

Maintenance Strategies

The Smart Salting for Property Management Manual, written and published by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Fortin Consulting, Inc., states that ice melt maintenance is entirely dependent on the level of service goal, known as LOS. Levels of service include bare pavement or non-bare pavement. Ice melt strategies will differ for both, so determining the LOS goal prior to application will help reduce work, salt, and risk. 

Bare Pavement

A bare pavement LOS goal commonly looks like high-traffic, high-speed, or high-risk areas like interstates or sidewalks in front of schools. This LOS takes the most effort and chemicals to achieve the goal. 

The most efficient maintenance strategy includes 3 steps, as stated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Fortin Consulting, Inc.:

Step 1: Anti-Icing: Apply liquid deicer application immediately before the storm to create a microlayer of melting under snow and ice; this melting layer reduces the bond between snow and ice and the pavement, so mechanical snow removal is easier. 

Step 2: Mechanical snow removal: Remove snow early, aggressive, and often after anti-icing is complete to reduce compaction in high foot and vehicle traffic areas. Snow removal should always happen before deicing to improve the efficiency of the deicer. Tools used for mechanical snow removal are dependent on the snow conditions. Wet snow may require scoop shovels and plows, dry snow may be removed with blowers.

Step 3: Deicing: Deicer application during or after the storm, only if needed

An inefficient maintenance strategy would be applying deicers without removing snow beforehand. 

Remove snow before deicing!

Non-Bare Pavement

Winter maintenance service on non-bare pavement looks a bit different. Lower traffic, lower risk, and lower speed areas are often considered non-bare pavement levels of service, as specified in the Smart Salting for Property Management Manual. It’s not common for a bare pavement level of service to be used on a non-bare pavement level, because performing a bare pavement level of surface on an area that does not need it entails extra salt, extra cost, and perhaps extra damage. A good question to ask when considering non-bare pavement maintenance is How clear do sidewalks, steps, and parking lots need to be to accommodate users?

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Fortin Consulting, Inc., only two steps are necessary for the non-bare pavement level of service:

Step 1: Mechanical snow removal: This is the main strategy and the most effective approach. Mechanically remove snow from common non-bare pavement areas, like front porch steps or home walkways, after a storm. 

Step 2: Deicing or abrasives: Apply deicers to the areas where snow has first been removed, only if needed. If the pavement temperature continues to drop, you may need to use abrasives instead, like sand or rock chips, to create traction on top of snow and ice. Abrasives do not melt snow and ice; they only provide traction. 

Assessing the level of service you need to provide for clients will ultimately save you time and money while lowering the chance of risks and damage. 

Application Rates

Using an appropriate amount of ice melt really does depend on the area, weather conditions, and the upkeep with the storm. Your application rate may differ slightly based on the level of service goals and the spread pattern you’re adhering to (remember, sprinkles…not piles!) There are numerous variables that go into figuring an appropriate amount of ice melt needed, but as stated in the Smart Salting for Property Management Manual, if you need more than 4 pounds per 1000 square feet, you may need to revisit maintenance strategies. 

Salt and ice melt takes time to work, so applying more will only waste products and money! 

Communication Regarding Maintenance 

For business owners, contractors, distributors, and property management, it’s essential to inform staff, occupants, and property users of LOS goals and expectations. Adhering to maintenance strategies based on LOS goals keeps others safe while keeping costs down and effectiveness up. Use signs and posters with short, education messages to reiterate safety. In-person communication is another great way to inform others that new levels of service may lack an overabundance of a product that they may be used to seeing, due to anti-icing products being less visible or certain maintenance strategies calling for less granular ice melt. 

Emphasize that your practices are entirely effective in providing safe surfaces for others, even if customers see less salt!

*Please Note Again: These application rates, tips, and strategies are suggested starting points only by Reinders and the informative guide from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Fortin Consulting, Inc.; field conditions vary and require adjustments in order to maximize performance.

Reinders is here to make sure you have a safe and productive winter season. We have an experienced and knowledgeable team of ice melt experts ready to answer application inquiries, provide product recommendations, and share best practices when it comes to appropriate applications of liquid ice melt or granular ice melt. Visit our Winter Products page for more!


Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Fortin Consulting, Inc. “Smart Salting for Property Management Manual.” 2020. PDF file.

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