Using Ice and Snow Melts on Composite Decking
To prevent a slippery deck during winter storms, homeowners might be tempted to use snow or ice melt products. However, certain products may cause harm to your composite deck. It’s important to understand which products are safe for different outdoor spaces and which ones could leave lasting damage.
How Ice Melts Work
Before putting down snow or ice melts on your deck, it’s important to know how they work. Ice melt products release heat and create a brine to melt snow and keep ice from forming. They can work in conjunction with your other snow removal processes, such as snow blowing or shoveling, or by themselves.
There are a few types of ice and snow melts to choose from, including pellets, which are small and round, granules (like rock salt) and liquid. All can help de-ice your deck, but pellets and liquid may be less harmful for your deck than granules. This type of ice melt is often made of an abrasive material that can leave marks and cause permanent damage to the surface of your deck.
Tip: Don’t use sand on your composite deck either. It can also be abrasive and scratch the surface.
What’s in Ice Melts?
There are four main chemical components of ice melts:
- Sodium chloride
- Calcium chloride
- Magnesium chloride
- Calcium magnesium chloride
One may be better than another for your climate, though all will work to melt ice and snow. Additionally, some ice melt products are specifically made safe for animals, children, and other materials in your outdoor space. Look for products labeled “safe for children and pets,” “safe for flagstone,” and “safe for concrete.”
Tip: Chloride components aren’t the only ingredients in some ice melt products. Some have tints or colors added, too. Avoid these types of ice melts, as they may cause a slight discoloration of your deck.
Ice Melts for Different Climates
Ice and snow melts work slower as temperatures drop. If you live in a colder climate like the Northeast, you may want to use a calcium chloride ice melt. It is the fastest component for melting snow and ice on your composite deck and works in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it can burn the skin, and may be harmful to pets and plants, so wear gloves while using it.
If you live in a region with a more moderate climate, you may not need to use such strong ice or snow removal products on your deck. Magnesium chloride-based melts are less corrosive than others and may be best in climates with temperatures of -5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. However, these melts may also cause damage to plants.
Calcium magnesium chloride and sodium chloride ice melts are less effective than the others as they work best in climates with temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. However, one is safer than the other. Calcium magnesium chloride is biodegradable and low-corrosive, and is safe for pets and plants. Sodium chloride, on the other hand, can cause damage to concrete, wood and plants, and is toxic to animals.
Tip: As soon as a winter storm begins, you can put down ice and snow melts. It may help prevent snow and ice from building up on your deck.
Safest Ice Melts for Composite Decking
Calcium chloride melts are best for very cold climates and composite decks. While this component can potentially cause refreezing surfaces on wood decks, it won’t cause a slippery composite deck. Even better, it’s the safest component for a composite deck because it won’t scratch the surface.
FYI: DuraLife’s Polypropylene deck boards contain excellent moisture and thermal resistance, minimizing expansion and contraction problems.
For best results, remove snow with a plastic shovel (not metal) and then lay down ice and snow melts in a thin layer over the surface of your deck.
After the Storm Clears
When the weather breaks and warmer temperatures are on their way, it’s important to clean your deck and rid it of any leftover ice and snow melts residue. For composite decking, use warm water and a non-bleach dish soap with a regular kitchen sponge to get rid of any substances. If residue or stains persist, try using alcohol wipes.
The right ice and snow melts can help prevent scratches and slippery surfaces on your composite deck. Look for products with a calcium chloride base in the form of pellets or liquid, and that are labeled safe for children, pets, and the materials in your outdoor spaces. Ice and snow melts can help keep your composite deck safe and enjoyable during the winter and beyond.