Fertilizer is often used for gardening, but it contains numerous ingredients that make it useful for other projects. Many people in snowy regions reach for fertilizer to handle their icy driveways, lawns, and so on. However, using a fertilizer with harsh chemicals or incorrect ingredients for the job can cause issues.
Fertilizer with calcium chloride, salt, or nitrogen will melt ice. These compounds break down the ice, increasing the temperature and turning it into water. You can use fertilizer to melt ice on your driveway, sidewalk, lawn, and garden. However, don’t use too much, or you’ll cause fertilizer burns.
In this article, we’ll discuss why people use fertilizer to melt ice, whether or not it’s ecological, and some top-notch tips to get rid of as much ice as possible. We’ll also cover the best fertilizer ingredients for ice melting.
Why Does Fertilizer Melt Ice?
Fertilizer melts ice because it contains various forms of salt, calcium chloride, and nitrogen. All of these ingredients are used in ice-melting chemicals, especially salt. People often salt their driveways before and after a snowstorm. You can sprinkle a thin layer of sodium-based fertilizer on the driveway for the best results.
Boston Building Resources suggests opting for urea-based fertilizers if you’re worried about the corrosive properties of salt-based products. These products can corrode metal surfaces and damage nearby plants and soil.
If your fertilizer doesn’t have any of these chemicals, there’s a high chance that it won’t do anything. Fortunately, almost every fertilizer uses nitrogen as urea. Many of them use salt and calcium chloride. Some fertilizers melt ice down to a specific temperature, so it’s important to know the primary ingredient’s capabilities.
Do All Of Them Melt Ice?
Almost all fertilizers melt ice because they typically contain nitrogen. Nitrogen is added to promote healthy plant growth, but it also melts the ice in the urea form found in fertilizers. Urea is much cheaper than most high-end nitrogen chemicals. This makes it more affordable for large lawns and driveways.
The best way to know if your fertilizer will get rid of ice is to ask yourself these questions:
- Does it have salt, nitrogen, urea, or calcium chloride? Safe paw claims calcium chloride can melt ice down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, while urea-based fertilizers can melt ice down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Salt is highly effective, but it doesn’t get the job done as quickly as calcium chloride.
- How much fertilizer is in the container? It’s best to have at least three to five pounds of fertilizer. A little goes a long way, but if you don’t have several pounds, you won’t be able to melt enough ice to clear your driveway or lawn. Feel free to remove excess fertilizer after the ice melts if you’re worried about nitrogen burns.
- Does the company mention using it to defrost anything? Almost no fertilizer brands list their product as a defroster, but some of them specifically mention not doing it. If the company asks you not to remove ice with their fertilizer, it’s best to find another option. These products often contain higher concentrations of the primary ingredient.
While fertilizer isn’t designed to melt ice, most of the primary ingredients will defrost various surfaces. Always use caution when melting ice or frost with fertilizer. These ingredients can be harmful in high doses. Consider wearing gloves, glasses, and boots when melting ice with urea, nitrogen, and calcium chlorine.
Should You Use Fertilizer To Melt An Icy Driveway?
You should use fertilizer to melt an icy driveway if it’s salt-based, calcium-based, or urea-based. Scrub the fertilizer into the driveway with a broad brush. Do your best to keep the fertilizer away from nearby soil, plants, and other organic material. Make sure the fertilizer doesn’t have harsh artificial dyes or bleaches that could stain the driveway.
You can also use fertilizer to clear nearby sidewalks. However, some cities have limits against using fertilizer as a defroster on anything that’s not your home. We recommend contacting the city to know if you’re permitted to do so. Remove the leftover fertilizer to keep the sidewalks looking clean and stain-free.
Is That Ecological?
Homeowners often wonder if using fertilizer as a defroster is safe for the local environment. After all, these fertilizers use strong ingredients to get the job done. There are a few things to consider when melting ice with fertilizers, including these three issues:
- Getting too much fertilizer on nearby plants and nests can cause long-lasting damage.
- Off-gassing from urea and nitrogen can be unsafe for bees and other productive insects.
- Water runoff from the melted ice can roll down your driveway and end up in the gutter.
Taking the necessary precautions will prevent all of these problems from occurring. either way, using fertilizer or using salt are both not environmental friendly ways to defrost your driveway. If you want to know the most ecological step-by-step process of using fertilizer to melt ice, review the following section.
How to Use Fertilizer to Melt Ice
To use fertilizer to melt ice, follow these directions:
- Choose between salt-based, urea-based, and calcium chloride-based fertilizers. All of these options are excellent, but calcium chloride is the most effective solution. It causes the least amount of harm to nearby soil and concrete. However, urea-based fertilizers are the cheapest option.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of fertilizer over the icy driveway, sidewalk, or soil. You shouldn’t add more than a few pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet. There should be ice and snow visible below the fertilizer. Too much fertilizer will cause long-term damage to the soil and other materials nearby.
- Use a stiff brush to scrub the icy surface and mix the fertilizer into the frost. A brush will mix the fertilizer into the ice. It’ll also thin the ice, making it much more likely to melt. Feel free to brush the ice until it melts or wait until it’s evenly coated and warm from direct sunlight.
- Wait for an hour or so, ensuring that the ice is melting. The ice doesn’t melt instantly. You have to let the fertilizer set. The more you brush it, the quicker it’ll break down. However, it melts much quicker on a warm day. You might not have much luck if it’s constantly snowing, but the rain can help.
- Spray the remaining ice with a hose or remove it with a brush. Hoses will push the fertilizer into the ice or snow. Using a brush will help turn the ice into a slushy consistency, allowing it to melt and evaporate. Some of the fertilizer will remain, so it needs to be removed manually.
Keep these steps in mind to keep your yard and driveway free of ice. Remember that using too much fertilizer can cause several problems. In fact, excessive amounts of fertilizer could cause more harm than good. For more information about the disadvantages of using fertilizer to get rid of ice, read on.
Downsides of Using Fertilizer as a Defroster
There are only a few downsides to using fertilizer as a defroster. These disadvantages include nitrogen burns, dye staining, soil pH issues, and excessive salt levels. The last thing you want is to ruin your lawn or driveway by using too many harmful chemicals. The good news is that all of these common concerns are easily avoidable.
Here’s an in-depth look at each of the downsides:
- Nitrogen burns: South Coast Today mentions fertilizers can cause nitrogen burns because they contain so much urea. While small amounts of nitrogen can help the soil, too much of it will cause long-term issues. It can burn the grass and cause dry patches, not to mention discoloration throughout the yard.
- Dye stains: While most fertilizers don’t contain artificial dyes, some of them are used to turn grass green. Some people use dyed fertilizers because it makes their lawns look less dry, brown, and yellow. Never use these fertilizers to melt ice because you’ll dye the surface green (especially porous surfaces, like wood).
- Soil pH problems: Fertilizer affects your pool’s pH. Most fertilizers are acidic, so they’ll drastically reduce the soil’s pH. Too much fertilizer could leach into the nearby soil and ruin the grass and other plants. Remember to check the fertilizer’s main ingredients to know if it’s basic or acidic.
- High salt levels: Some fertilizers are salt-based. If there’s too much salt around the lawn, it could eliminate some of the healthy bacteria and insects. Furthermore, saline soil is bad for many plants. It’s best to only use salt-based fertilizers to remove ice on driveways and sidewalks, though a little bit on a lawn won’t cause too much harm.
You can avoid all of these problems by checking the fertilizer’s ingredients. Choose a fertilizer that doesn’t include artificial dyes since they’re much harder to remove. Never use more than a few pounds of fertilizer if you want to avoid salt and nitrogen issues. You can also remove the leftover fertilizer to prevent all of the problems mentioned above.
What’s the Best Fertilizer for Ice Melting?
The best fertilizer for melting ice is anything that’s calcium chloride-based. It melts ice down to a frigid -25 degrees Fahrenheit without damaging the surface below. You can easily remove calcium chloride with a shovel or brush when it’s done melting the ice. Those looking for a cheaper alternative should choose urea-based fertilizers.
Try the Cesco Solutions Urea Fertilizer (available on Amazon.com) for a low-budget urea-based product. It has 46% nitrogen, which is the perfect amount for melting ice. It’s also almost completely water soluble, so it’s perfect for melting ice and washing with a hose. One five-pound bag can treat up to 250 square feet for defrosting purposes.
It’s more important to follow the proper procedures than choose the highest concentration of nitrogen, salt, or calcium chloride. While these ingredients work much better in higher concentrations, improper usage will prevent them from safely getting the job done. You can stain, corrode, and ruin nearby soil.
If you want to get the job done quickly to preserve your plants or clear your driveway, you can try some of the remaining steps below.
How Do You Speed Up the Process?
To speed up the process of melting ice with fertilizer, try these suggestions:
- Mix urea-based fertilizer with sand. Sand helps warm the ice and turn it into water. Mixing sand with urea (a nitrogen-based ingredient) will make it much more effective. The only downside of this combination is that you’ll have to scoop and remove all of the sand when you’re done with it.
- Try calcium chloride-based mulch and fertilizer mixtures. Calcium chloride is very safe and highly effective. You can use mulch with calcium chloride pellets or chemicals to melt the ice. Much like the aforementioned sand combination, you’ll have to remove the mulch when it’s finished melting the ice.
- Pour rubbing alcohol over the fertilizer. Rubbing alcohol and dish soap is one of the most effective mixtures for melting frost and snow. We suggest covering the ice with fertilizer, then pouring a light layer of concentrated rubbing alcohol over it. This combination will rapidly melt the ice, though it can smell quite potent.
- Use the fertilizer at the hottest time of the day. Ice naturally melts in the heat, which is why it melts much quicker with fertilizer. Wait until the sun is over the ice, then coat the ice with fertilizer and brush it for a few minutes. This process is a surefire way to get rid of as much ice as possible.
- Rake the fertilizer into the ice or snow. Raking fertilizer is a well-known method of pushing it into the soil. However, you can use this technique to mix the compound into icy surfaces around your home. It’ll help the ice melt much faster, and it thins the ice, much like the previously mentioned brushing example.
Homeowners and landscapers have used fertilizer to melt ice for many years. It’s a much cheaper alternative to using de-icing chemicals. Always make sure it has nitrogen, calcium, chloride, or salt. Remember that urea is a low-cost form of nitrogen, so it’ll work just as well.