What Substances Melt Ice the Fastest?

Written by denise brandenberg
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What Substances Melt Ice the Fastest?
House with icy driveway. (snowy house image by Sandra Henderson from Fotolia.com)

When temperatures hit the freezing mark, ice can accumulate, creating havoc on roadways, driveways, sidewalks and outdoor stairs. Many people look for ways to melt the ice around their homes to prevent slips, falls and injuries. Several types of substances that can melt ice quickly and efficiently are especially helpful when you don't have much time to get rid of the dangerous icy surface.

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Salt melts ice by lowering the melting or freezing point, which is called the point of depression. When you put salt on ice, it can turn ice into liquid, even if the temperature is below freezing. There are two types of salt that can be used: rock salt and table salt. The melting process usually is one of the fastest these methods, and most people use salt because it is a convenient household item. One of the downfalls of this melting method is that salt is one of the most damaging products to plant and soil.


Pouring rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol directly onto ice usually melts it quickly. It works by lowering the freezing point of the ice, turning ice back into liquid. This melting method can be harmful to plants.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride is believed to melt ice more quickly than sodium, but it can attract moisture and create slippery surfaces. It lowers the freezing point of water, too. This melting product typically is more expensive than salt, but it is much less toxic to plants and soil.


Many types of fertiliser can be used to melt ice quickly, such as ammonium nitrate and urea. They typically take longer than salt to work and can be relatively expensive. Fertiliser is better for plants and soil in the yard, though.

Cat Litter and Sand

Cat litter (silica and clay) and sand usually melt ice only if they draw heat from the sun or are mixed with salt. They can be effective because they provide traction to slippery roadways and driveways. These can be fast methods if the sun is out and temperatures are warming up.

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