Consumer Reports: How much ice melt should you use?

You probably put down ice melt today or yesterday in preparation for the bitter cold. It can be a quick fix for the perils of winter ice, but it also has a downside.

Consumer Reports says there are plenty of reasons to take care with how much ice melt you use and exactly how you use it.

Winter's beauty can take your breath away with its gentle flakes. Or it can land you in an emergency room with a broken wrist from its slippery ice.

A little ice melt can make a big difference. But the home team at Consumer Reports says take care with how much you use.

"Which ice melt brand really doesn't matter. They're all basically one of three compounds: sodium chloride, magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. And they work slightly differently, but in the end they're all salts and they can all cause the same damage," said Paul Hope, Consumer Reports Home Editor.

Salt can seep into porous pavement, damaging walkways and driveways. Plus, it can harm plants and your pets' paws. So to minimize potential damage - start by using less.

Mixing in an abrasive, such as sand, means you'll use less salt without losing traction.

Layering also helps. A thin layer before a storm and then another light layer during the storm can be effective. And don't put a lot of stock in ice melts claiming to be environmentally friendly.

"Ice melts with a coating on them may of claim to be less damaging, but practically speaking, they're not. Once the coating wears off you're just left with salt anyway," said Hope.

Be just as skeptical of pet-friendly claims.

"They can be more expensive and they might still irritate your pets' paws," said Hope.

A better plan is to set up a 'rinse tray' at your entrance, so after a walk - you can wash any salt, from your pets' paws.

Salt can harm a plant's ability to soak up necessary nutrients, so you don't want to shovel salty mush onto your lawn - nor do you want to leave it sitting on your driveway.

So once the ice melts, scrape up what's left of the salt and trash it.

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