Use caution when applying salt de-icer on sidewalks, driveways

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If you get snow in the winter, ice melt may be a staple in your garage. It can be a quick fix for the perils of winter ice, but it also has a downside. Consumer Reports says there are plenty of reasons to take notice of how much ice melt you use and exactly how you use it.

When it comes to ice melt, the brand really doesn’t matter. They’re all basically one of three compounds: sodium chloride, magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. They work slightly differently, but at the end they’re all salts and they can cause the same damage.

Salt can seep into porous pavement, damaging walkways and driveways. Plus, it can harm plants and your pet’s paws.

So what’s the best way to minimize potential damage? Start by using less. Mixing in an abrasive, such as sand, means you’ll use less salt without losing traction.

Layering also helps. A thin layer before a storm and then another light layer during the storm can be effective.

And don’t put a lot of stock in ice melts that are supposed to be environmentally friendly. Manufacturers of ice melts with a coating on them may claim their product is less damaging, but practically speaking, they’re not. Once the coating wears off, you’re left with just salt anyway.

Be just as skeptical of pet-friendly claims. Those products can be more expensive and they still might irritate your pet’s paws. A better plan is to set up a “rinse tray” at your entrance, so after a walk you can wash any salt from your pet’s paws.

Consumer Reports also says it’s equally important to scoop up the salt and throw it away once the ice melts. Salt can harm a plant’s ability to soak up necessary nutrients, so you don’t want to shovel salty mush onto your lawn. Nor do you want to leave it sitting on your driveway. So scrape up what’s left and trash it.

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