Winter storm

As Chicago Faces Frigid Cold, Here's What Kind of Salt You Should Use on Driveways, Sidewalks

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Thursday’s winter storm caused temperatures in the Chicago area to plummet well-below freezing, and with several days of subzero wind chills and frigid air temps in the forecast, you’ll need to work a bit harder to clear ice and snow from driveways and sidewalks.

While you may have ready access to regular rock salt, it’s not going to be enough to power through the frozen mess on the concrete around your home. That’s because sodium chloride is only effective at melting snow and ice if the temperature is above 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and Chicago won’t get above that mark until next week, according to forecast models.

Fortunately, there are other compounds that will work when the temperatures drop below freezing. Bags of ice melt that contain calcium chloride, magnesium chloride or potassium chloride are all effect in temperatures as low as 25 degrees below zero, according to the NBC 5 Storm Team.

You’ll still want to check the labels on your ice melt, as some brands only use those compounds as a covering of sodium chloride and aren’t quite as effective.

When using ice melting agents, there are several things to keep in mind, as those compounds can do damage to plants, grass and concrete over time.

Experts recommend using a light hand when spreading ice melt, as it doesn’t take a lot to actually melt snow and ice.

Any ice melting agent left over after snow is cleared should be shoveled up and disposed of, according to experts.

The other thing to keep in mind is the safety of your pets. While some ice melts are advertised as “pet-friendly,” it’s still a good idea to wipe your pet’s paws when they come back inside from a walk.

Consumer Reports recommends that pet owners use a “rinse tray” near their door, wiping an animal’s paws off in room-temperature water and then gently drying with a towel.

Salt can cause burns and inflammation, and can make animals sick if it’s ingested or absorbed into skin, according to experts.

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