What to Know About Using Magnesium Chloride for Ice Removal

Kristi Pahr
Written by Kristi Pahr
Updated January 7, 2022
Woman shoveling snow in yard
Photo: Guido Mieth / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Magnesium chloride is effective at melting ice at low temperatures.

  • It’s also more effective than rock salt. 

  • However, it can be more expensive than other options.

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No one likes to go slipping and sliding down a set of icy stairs in the winter. You can keep outdoor surfaces safe during the iciest of months with the careful application of deicers like magnesium chloride. However, if you’re unsure if this compound is right for you and your family, we’ve broken down what it is and rounded up some pros and cons to know before you buy a bucket. 

What Is Magnesium Chloride Ice Melt?

Magnesium chloride is a naturally occurring salt that lowers the freezing point of water. When applied to ice, the compound causes the ice to melt. It then mixes with the water resulting in a solution called brine. This brine spreads, causing the ice to melt more quickly and prevent more ice from forming, creating a safe walking or driving surface during icy winter months.

This salt is processed from saltwater and comes as a flakey, white compound. You can find magnesium chloride in small and large quantities at most home improvement stores.

Benefits of Magnesium Chloride Ice Melt

Winter walk path with gate
Photo: Maryia Tsikhanava / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

When it comes to making your walkway safe for snowball fights and heading out to the car, magnesium chloride has some major ice-melting benefits. 

Effective at Low Temperatures

Magnesium chloride is an effective solution for icy walkways, stairs, and driveways down to about -5 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Less Corrosive

Magnesium chloride causes less corrosive damage to concrete, stone, tiles, and outdoor vegetation than some other ice removers. Since it’s naturally occurring, magnesium chloride is considered environmentally friendly.

Leaves Less Residue

Ice melt and rock salt products can be messy. When the salts dissolve into a brine, they can adhere to shoes and leave unsightly messes on indoor surfaces. Magnesium chloride leaves less residue than other products and is less likely to make it from the outdoors to the indoors.

More Effective Than Rock Salt

Magnesium chloride can melt ice and snow twice as fast as rock salt, another common deicer. The quicker action means magnesium chloride is better for heavily trafficked areas.

Gentle on Landscaping and Vegetation

Salts from deicers build up over the winter. When snow and ice begin to melt and the water runs off, these salts can damage grass and other vegetation. Magnesium chloride is gentler on greenery than other options, resulting in less damage to your outdoor green spaces.

Gentler on Skin

Magnesium chloride is less likely to cause skin irritation than other deicing options, making it a safer choice if you have pets or children who may come into contact with the material. Also, it is less likely to damage your skin during application, though wearing gloves and eye protection is still advised.

Cons of Magnesium Chloride

However, depending on your needs, magnesium chloride may not be the ice melt solution for you.

Cost

Magnesium chloride is more expensive than both calcium chloride and rock salt. Magnesium chloride generally costs $20 for 25 pounds compared to $20 for 50 pounds of calcium chloride or $10 for 50 pounds of rock salt.

Larger Quantities

You’ll need to apply magnesium chloride in higher quantities than other ice melt products like calcium chloride. With the higher cost, magnesium chloride might not be an economical solution if you live in a high-ice area.

FAQs About Magnesium Chloride for Ice Removal

What is the difference between rock salt and ice melt?

Both rock salt and ice melt are naturally occurring salts. Rock salt is sodium chloride, which is the same as table salt. Ice melt products can be made from a combination of salts like magnesium chloride and calcium chloride or can be those salts alone.

Rock salt comes in large crystals, so it helps provide traction on icy surfaces, whereas ice melt products need to be mixed with sand to provide traction. Ice melt products work at lower temperatures than rock salt, so they might be a better choice if you have a harsh winter climate.

How do you minimize the environmental impact of ice melt products?

Magnesium chloride is a relatively gentle ice melt product and, if used correctly, should not cause much damage to your property. The most important thing is to be sure you apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t use too much.

How should you store ice melt?

Store ice melt in an air-tight and water-resistant container away from sunlight.

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