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What is Blended Ice Melt and How Does it Work?
In a blended ice melt product, there are four main melting granules: sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. The advantage of blended de-icing materials lies in the fact that they are economically priced and still have the ability to work quickly at low temperatures.
In melting ice and snow, the formation of an ice melting brine is key. Brine acts much like a lighter fluid as it ignites the melting process. The specific chloride, or combination of chlorides, that is applied and also the amount applied dictates the speed and efficiency of the melting process.
Blended ice melt products bring together two or all of the granular chlorides, in different percentages, for an infinite number of melting formulations. All of these blends have their own unique advantages and melting temperatures based upon the percentages of each chloride used. A blend containing high percentages of calcium chloride and magnesium chloride is going to react faster and work to lower temperatures. Calcium and magnesium chloride, in their purest form, react very quickly to begin the melting process. Potassium chloride and sodium chloride are not fast acting and take longer to activate, or in other words, take longer to form a liquid brine.
Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are hygroscopic ice melting materials. Unlike potassium and sodium, they draw heat from the air throughout the melting process, causing a quick formation of a faster, more effective brine for de-icing. Potassium and sodium chloride do not attract heat from the air; instead,they simply react chemically with the snow and ice to lower the melting temperature. This process is slower, and the brine formed is less likely to work as the temperature drops.
When used in combination, chlorides of greater power can cause a synergetic effect to increase the melting performance of less effective chlorides. When calcium and magnesium chloride form a brine, they in turn cause sodium and potassium to form a brine faster than if used alone. It is this effect that allows blended ice melts to compete in performance with many of the stronger,more expensive straight de-icers like 100% calcium chloride and 100% magnesium chloride. Blended ice melting products deliver performance at a reasonable price and without the hazardous environmental effects of using a straight de-icing product