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Black ice on the roads will send cars spinning out of control.  On sidewalks, black ice can cause pedestrians to fall without warning. But what is black ice, anyway? Black ice is just a more compact and smoother version of regular ice. And, as previously mentioned, it poses a significant risk to drivers and pedestrians during the winter months. Here is a comprehensive guide to removing black ice to ensure safety on your property in cold weather.

It’s important to note that due to the reflective nature of black ice, it is much less able to absorb heat from the sun, so you shouldn’t expect it to simply melt like other ice might. With this in mind, it’s best to take an aggressive approach to black ice removal since it is less likely to go away on its own. 

There are a few different approaches to removing black ice.

  1. Sand

On a small scale, sand may be a good option. Sprinkle some dark sand on any areas of concern to improve traction and promote heat absorption from the sun. This can, however, cause some unevenness in whatever surface you treat, so if that will be annoying, another method may be best.

  1. De-icing Salt

De-icing salt is another common option. Applying salt to surfaces affected by black ice will break the bond of the ice to the pavement. This method is most effective when followed with a scraper or shovel to break up the ice. It is generally recommended to wait 30 minutes to an hour after laying the ice to begin chipping. As the ice melts in reaction to the salt, it also dilutes the salt making it less effective between treatments. 

  1. Rock Salt (NaCl)

This type of salt is best used in temperatures between 15 F and 32 F. Rock Salt is not as effective in temperatures below 15 F.

  1. Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)

Calcium chloride is very effective in temperatures below 15 F and well-below zero but does come at a higher price point. Calcium chloride is so effective because it actually releases heat as it melts into the ice.

Note: De-icing salt can cause harm to waterways, create rust on cars, and damage on concrete. Perpetual use of salt on sidewalks or pavement can eventually cause erosion that makes the surface so rough that it becomes much more difficult to remove packed snow and ice. When using salt isn’t necessary, avoid using it.

General Ice Removal Tips:

At colder temps, you can chip ice with an ice scraper if you have to, but this is a pretty slow and difficult process. Once temperatures begin to rise closer to 32 F, and especially in sunny conditions, it will be much easier to start chipping the ice away with a shovel since the bond with the pavement is usually broken at this point. 

Now you can chip off larger chunks of the ice, starting at the edges and working your way into the middle. Push broken pieces away from the main mass of the ice as they will melt or evaporate more quickly this way.

Another ice removal tip is to push any remaining ice into the grass bordering the pavement. This way, water will be more likely to drain into the soil and you avoid the risk of any melted ice refreezing back onto the pavement.

If it rains on packed snow, ice, or black ice, you need to act fast! Melting and refreezing will only cause the ice to be bonded to the sidewalk or pavement even stronger than it was before. If you know a sleet or rain is coming on ice or snow, it’s good to get in front of the snow or ice first.

Contact Jeremy Swenson Consulting today for more information on how to stay safe from ice and black ice this winter season!

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