Rock Salt on AsphaltSalt and other snow melting chemicals are often the go-to for eliminating snow and ice. Combined with plowing or shoveling, this can be a highly effective approach. However when using these chemicals it is important to be aware of their potential for harm.

Many common salts and chemicals used for melting snow and ice are dangerous to plants, pets and wildlife, and children. In addition to their toxicity, salts and chemicals can damage concrete, paving stones, and other surfaces.

When using snow melting chemicals and salts, care should be taken to protect plants and your lawn. Many snow melting products contain dyes to make application easier, this should also help you keep the chemicals away from plants.

If you have pets or children, make certain your snow melting chemical is not toxic. Ensure that salts and other chemicals are not tracked indoors or ingested. Again, colored chemicals are easy to spot and can be helpful in protecting children and animals.

An often overlooked risk of using snow melting chemicals is the damage that some products inflict on concrete and other surfaces. Chemicals can weaken concrete — eating away at rebar, increasing pitting and spalling, and shortening the lifespan of the surface. Asphalt and pavers are also susceptible to damage from these products.

To prevent damage to your surface, carefully follow the instructions for product use. Avoid overuse of the chemical and ensure the product is safe for your surface material. For details on the hazards associated with specific chemicals, check out this article from Consumer Reports.