As the temperature has been regularly rising above and falling below zero, Calgary’s pathways and sidewalks are treacherous with patches of ice. Although we never leave the southeast residential and commercial properties we serve without making sure each surface has been cleared down to the bare concrete, with weather like this (which has been very nice!) it’s inevitable that in between visits ice will begin to develop.
The good news is that this is the perfect type of weather to make use of deicing agents, a.k.a. salt. Although we do use deicing agents when warranted, they’re not something we overly rely on. We know too many commercial and residential snow removal companies that simply throw down pounds of salt and call that a job well done. The problem with that, though, is not only is it lazy, deicing agents work best only under certain conditions. In addition, the overuse of deicing agents is actually bad for the environment.
The Ideal Conditions for Deicing Agents
Deicing agents for pathways and walkways are most commonly made with sodium chloride, calcium chloride, or a combination of the two. Chloride is a deicing agent that works by lowering the freezing point of water from zero degrees to about -10 degrees Celsius. This creates a salty brine that is able to actually separate a layer of ice from the pavement below. If you have ever used a deicing agent, you may have witnessed ice appear to lift off of sidewalks and pathways and develop several holes. This is the chloride at work.
Because the freezing point of water has been reduced to -10 degrees Celsius, deicing agents are the most effective down to that temperature. To illustrate this, the City of Calgaryonly usessalt to de-ice the roads when the road surface temperature is between zero and -10 degrees Celsius and expected to remain that way for several days. When the road surface temperature is -5 degree Celsius and the forecast is for the temperature to dip further, road salt ceases to be effective and the City applies a “sanding chip” mixture, which is 3% salt and 97% gravel.
Interestingly, Calgary has also been known to use beet juice to melt ice on the roads. This organic compound is a beet-brine mixture that also breaks down bonds between ice and roads. It is not damaging to the environment, while salt mixtures unfortunately are.
Clean First, Spread Well Later
Always follow the directions carefully when using any sort of deicing agent. Before starting, it is important to clear away as much snow and ice as possible by hand. This will reduce your overall use of salt as well as help ensure ice doesn’t come back.
Deicing agents are irritants, so it is recommended that those who are applying them wear gloves. Ideally the gloves should be made of leather, nylon, or even rubber to provide the most protection.
Apply the salt in a thin layer, which should be enough to melt thin patches of ice. For thick patches, allow for the ice to melt a bit, and then remove the rest by hand. A heavy-duty broom should be good enough to break down what is left and whisk it away.
Salt and the Environment
The judicious use of salt is vital for reducing its overall impact on the environment. Salt sticks around even after the ice has melted, and will be carried away into the groundwater once the snow has melted too. This contaminates water sources and is harmful to plants and animals (especially dogs!). Be sure to sweep away extra salt that has remained after it’s done its job.
In addition to contaminating groundwater, too much salt can kill plants and will hurt the pads of your pets’ feet. If you have a dog, after you take them for a walk be sure to wash their feet, or else buy them booties for protection. Stores do sell some different types of deicing agents that are not as harmful to dogs, which are less toxic when ingested, and that work just as well as others.
Southeast Calgary Snow Removal by Mirage Landscaping
Residential and commercial snow removal services are our specialty at Mirage Landscaping. We have dozens of both residential and commercial clients who rely on our professionalism and expertise to ensure Calgary’s snow removal bylaws are adhered to and that their properties are safe for all visitors to come and visit. We look forward to the challenge presented by every snowstorm as we hustle to clear your sidewalks, pathways, driveways, and parking lots as quickly as possible. We always clear away snow to the bare pavement, and if ice forms we will only use deicing agents when absolutely necessary.
We have over three decades of experience clearing snow in Calgary’s southeast communities, serving the areas of:
Auburn Bay, Chaparral, Chaparral Valley, Copperfield, Cranston, Douglasdale, Heritage Pointe, Lake Bonavista, Mahogany, McKenzie Lake, Mackenzie Towne, Maple Ridge, New Brighton, Odgen/Lynwood/Millican, Parkland, Riverbend, Sundance, Walden, and Willow Park.