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Green Impressions Outdoor Living

By Joe Schill • December 6, 2016

Don't Damage Your Natural Stone Walkways With Rock Salt.

It's that time of year when you never know what kind of weather you'll wake up to. Therefore, it's wise to be prepared for snow, ice, and other conditions that could be hazardous to your family or household guests. Every year hundreds of Ohio residents slip and fall on icy walkways, and some of them suffer serious injuries. To avoid anything detrimental happening to your family and friends, make a plan to keep your natural stone walkways clear of ice and snow this winter.


One of the most common materials used to deice walkways is rock salt. Before you go out and stock up on rock salt, however, be aware that this material is corrosive and will slowly break down concrete and natural stone over time. It has also been known to cause flagstone to flack and crack.

When you've worked hard to design and install beautiful landscaping complete with natural stone walkways, the last thing you want to do is apply a substance to it that will damage it. Let's take a look at just how harmful rock salt can be to your natural stone walkways.

  • Rock salt degrades mortar. Many walkways contain mortared joints. If your walkways are comprised of bricks, pavers, or flagstone, you probably have some kind of mortar holding each piece in place. When you repeatedly apply rock salt to walkways or porches that contain mortar, the mortar breaks down, slowly but surely, and eventually, the stones or bricks are loose. Loose stones and bricks are hazards in themselves, and you'd hate to have to tear out the whole walkway and construct it once again.
  • Rock salt causes discoloration. Have you ever seen a beautiful flagstone patio with white dots scattered here and there? Those dots were probably caused by rock salt. Rock salt acts like a bleach on natural stone walkways. Just as you'd notice discoloration if you sprinkled bleach over a colored shirt, you'll see discoloration on your walkways when you use rock salt.
  • Rock salt damages surrounding vegetation. If you have carefully cultivated vegetation in and around your natural stone walkways, you could inadvertently damage that vegetation by deicing the walkways with rock salt. Salt accumulates in the soil and damages the roots. Additionally, rock salt may enter plant cells or the spaces between the cells, causing them to lose cold hardiness. This makes your plants more susceptible to being killed by freezing.

Clearly, rock salt is not the best choice for keeping your natural stone walkways free of ice. But what's the alternative?

Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)
Today, CMA is the most widely tested and used deicer of the acetate-based deicers. It's commonly used at airports because it works so well and is much more environmentally friendly than salt-based deicers. CMA is a natural acid, soluble in water. It shares chemical properties with vinegar. It's about as corrosive to your walkways as tap water.

CMA deicer is safe for pets and plants. You won't have to worry about damaging the vegetation around your natural stone walkways or keeping your pets away from it. It's biodegradable, and it also reduces chloride corrosion.

You can buy bags or jugs of CMA deicer at home improvement stores. You can sprinkle CMA directly on your walkways or dissolve it in water and pour it on. It works best at temperatures over 20-degrees Fahrenheit, but it will act as a bond-breaker to temperatures near 0-degrees Fahrenheit.

For more expert information about keeping your natural stone walkways clear while still protecting your family and friends, contact us at Green Impressions. We look forward to hearing from you.

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