Shortage of Ice-Melt? Oh no! What about my concrete and plants?
Our local news recently ran a story on a shortage of ice-melt. I also saw a story on the TV citing lack of availability to the city due to difficulty in shipping from Utah. Interestingly, my dad happened to tell me that in Springfield, IL he went to a local home improvement store and they were out of their pricier ice melt which supposedly was less harmful to concrete. The employee of the store told my father that he should just purchase 10/10/10 fertilizer as it would not harm the concrete either.
If the concrete fails, we can fix it, but was the guy at the store right?
An extremely helpful article from jlgardencenter.com had this to say,
"fertilizers often are assumed to be safe for plants and turf because they are fertilizers. How-ever, the application rates for fertilizers used as ice melters are much higher than the rates for normal feeding. Damage could occur if the fertilizer is over applied.
As a general rule, fertilizers are usually safer for plants, but some fertilizers can be more damaging to concrete than salt is.
Urea is probably the safest garden fertilizer to use to melt ice. It does not damage concrete. In fact, airports often use Urea on its runways because is does not harm the concrete or damage the airplanes.
Ammonium sulphate is very harmful to concrete because the sulfur it contains reacts with concrete to create a mild acid; sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid damages concrete worse than table salt does. You can use Ammonia Sulphate to melt ice on asphalt and other non-concrete surfaces but do not use it on concrete sidewalks, steps, or driveways. It is also corrosive to metal.
Always try to use fertilizers and ice melters sparing- ly. One way to use less salt, or ice melter, is to mix a little sand, Utelite, kitty litter, or sawdust with your ice melter."
The article also had some great tips on why concrete gets damaged in the winter which might help you to keep your concrete lasting longer.