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Once you get the snow thrower tuned up and your shovels ready for winter, don’t forget to stock up on the proper ice melters for your home. No matter what the forecast is for this winter, you still need to stock up on ice melters that will help you get rid of the snow and ice around your home when it does arrive.

Here is a short course on ice melters to make it easier to pick one that will meet your needs.

Many people just grab a bag of any type of ice melter because they think that they are all the same. And 50 years ago when rock salt was the only product on the market that was true. But today, there are products that work best in extreme cold weather, others that are less harmful to your vegetation, concrete and pets, and others that combine a variety of ingredients to give you a little bit of everything.

The key in choosing the proper product for the job is not to rely just on the fancy packaging or brand name, but to look at the ingredients it is derived from. Some ingredients will only melt ice and snow in warmer temperatures and may damage your concrete, while others will melt snow faster and in subzero temperatures but may harm your grass.

For example, rock salt is made with sodium chloride and is the least expensive option, but it could damage your concrete or pavers and it doesn’t work below 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, it is endothermic, so rather than releasing heat, it must draw heat from the surroundings to dissolve.

At the other end of the price range is calcium chloride. It works more rapidly and releases heat to melt snow and ice. It is an exothermic product that will melt down to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. And while it is less damaging to concrete, it can ruin grass, plants, and is harmful to pets.

For those concerns you can try products that are made from a mixture of ingredients, like those made with potassium chloride, which can melt ice down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit and are less harmful.

There are a lot of brands on the market, but some better ones include SafeStep from North American Salt/Compass Minerals, nasalt.com; Ice Melt from Scotwood Industries, scotwoodindustries.com; and Qik Joe from Milazzo Industries, milazzoindustries.com. If you have pets, North American Salt’s Sure Paws and Safe Pet Ice Melter from Milazzo Industries are popular pet-friendly brands.

One innovative product I’ve found is Ice ‘B Gone Magic from Melters LLC, meltersofmichigan.com. The product starts out as ordinary rock salt, and is treated with a liquid agricultural by-product of the rum and vodka distilling process. Then it is blended with magnesium chloride to make it more effective down to minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

While most of the ice-melting focus is on sidewalks and driveways, many people like to keep ice and snow off their deck so they can use their grill. If you have a composite deck, top manufacturers such as Trex and TimberTech recommend using a plastic shovel to remove snow first and then using calcium chloride or rock salt to melt the snow and ice. If you have a wood deck, the best thing to do is shovel it with a plastic shovel and then use good traction sand or kitty litter, because rock salt or ice melters will damage the wood.

A little prior planning and prompt purchases now will help prevent those slippery sidewalks.

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.

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