The cheapest and most cost effective way to buy ice melt is in large bags. This can be enough to last you multiple years.
But will the ice melt expire before you get a chance to use it or does ice melt last forever?
Most ice melts will not go bad as they contain chloride-based chemicals that don't expire. Sodium Chloride (rock salt) is a good example of this – it’s commonly used to preserve things. However, if not stored properly all ice melt can lose its effectiveness over time.
Ice melt is great for making driveways and sidewalks safe to walk on and keep communities moving in the winter.
Buying in bulk is the most cost effective way of getting ice melt (and sometimes the only option). Luckily it pretty much never expires.
However, there are some important points to keep in mind if you want to keep your ice melt for a long time. Like how to store it over multiple seasons without it getting wet, clumping together or turning into liquid and getting diluted.
Why Doesn’t Ice Melt Go Bad?
Ice melts salts are chloride-based (or salt-based) – which means that they aren’t going to go off or expire for very long periods (even indefinitely).
Ice melt is usually made from one of the following chloride-based chemicals:
- Calcium Chloride
- Magnesium Chloride
- Sodium Chloride
- Potassium Chloride
The reason people think that ice melts expire is usually down to how they’re stored and how they’re used. Also, companies who make ice melts might put a “best before” or expiration date on their packaging, even though the ice melt can be used long after this expiration date.
All of the chemicals above have hydrophilic properties. This means that water can mix, dissolve or make something wet.
Many salts are also hygroscopic, which means that they can pull water from moisture in the air (which is something to take into account if you have very humid summers).
All of these qualities mean that ice melt can form into clumps if not stored properly and this gives the appearance that it’s going bad or expiring.
If not stored properly then ice melt can turn liquid and leak over your floor. Ice melt that is leaked onto the floor will need to be cleaned up and won't be available to use to melt ice in winter.
How to Store Ice Melt Long Term
You’re going to want to store ice melt in an air-tight container in an area that stays relatively dry throughout the year.
If your ice melt bag is already opened, then you’re going to need to place it in a container that won’t be corroded or degraded over time by its different chemicals.
Suitable containers include:
- Glass Jars
- Ceramic Pots
Metal containers can work, but they have to be a specific kind. Usually, carbon steel based that has been treated in a way as to prevent corrosion.
These are nearly always very expensive but they are leakproof and very hard to damage.
You’ll want to store your ice melt in a location that’s out of the way – usually, a garage, shed, basement, or separate area where this kind of equipment is stored.
You’ll also want to keep your ice melt covered from the sun because certain UV rays can make the salts brittle and they lose their effectiveness.
It’s also recommended that you store ice melt on the ground level and not on top of a shelf because if it tips over and breaks, it can become a hazard and is challenging to clean up.
You should keep ice melt away from children and animals as it can cause significant stomach upset, and if ingested in sufficient quantities, it is poisonous.
Why Proper Storage Is Important
Proper storage is integral to keeping ice melt effective for a long time. It’s not uncommon for people to leave containers of ice melt stored in non-air-tight containers, but you’ll often find most responsible advisers saying to keep it in something airtight.
If ice melt is left out in the open it reacts with the atmosphere around it (this is where the hydrophilic properties come into play).
However, if these reactions happen over a period of a year or several years, then the ice melt's overall effectiveness will significantly reduce.
Not to mention that if there is enough moisture available or if water gets into the ice melt it can cause your ice melt to start leaking – a hazard you really don’t want.
If My Ice Melt Forms Into Blocks Has It Expired?
If ice melt has been left to clump up for a while it can form into hard blocks. This doesn’t mean it’s expired though.
You can use this stuff by breaking it up into smaller clumps, but this does make it trickier to apply.
Ice melt that’s formed into a big clump will still work but it won’t be applied as evenly, and it might not work as quickly on icy surfaces as the stuff that’s retained its usual granular size.
What Can I Do With Leftover Ice Melt?
As mentioned, properly stored, it can last almost indefinitely. So there’s no rush to use it – in fact, using too much ice melt all in one go can be counter productive and possible even damage your drive way or lawn.
You can donate it to anyone who needs it. Don’t worry about having to use up all of your ice melt if you’ve opened a new bag and got loads still to use.
There are plenty of charities or community centers that will accept ice melt all year round for use in the winter.
To conclude, ice melt doesn’t expire as it’s made from salts that can last for a very long time (if not indefinitely).
- Ice melt chemicals will last a very long time but are effective because they’re so reactive with the environment around them.
- If ice melt isn’t stored properly then it will lose its effectiveness over time.
To store ice melt properly:
- Store it in an air-tight container.
- Store in an area that stays relatively dry (like a storage shed, garage, or basement).
- Use a suitable material for the container (plastic, glass, ceramic, carbon steel).
- Keep it covered from UV rays.
- Keep it away from children and animals.