How to Unclump and Break Up Ice Melt That Has Stuck Together

If it's been a while since you've pulled out the bag or bucket of ice melt you may be annoyed to find it all stuck together in one big clump and you're unable to spread it over your path or driveway as you'd like.

First you need to unclump and break up the ice melt that has gotten stuck together over time and luckily there are a bunch of effective techniques you can use to do this.

This is a pretty common occurrence and you aren't alone here. Here are the best ways to unclump and break up ice melt that has gotten stuck together.

After reading this article, the problem of clumped ice melt should be a thing of the past for you! Let's get started!

1. Drop the Bag a Few Times

The most common and easiest way to quickly break up your ice melt is to lift it as high as you can and drop it onto a hard surface like your garage floor or driveway (if it isn't too slippery).

When the bag of ice melt hits the ground, the force should break up most of the clumps, though you'll probably need to flip it over and repeat the process until it's evenly unclumped. This is the same process people use to break up bags of ice in the summer time that have gotten stuck together and it totally works.

You can just let gravity do it's thing and drop the bag without any force, or you can use effort to throw the bag down harder than gravity for particularly stubborn ice melt clumps.

The only problem with this method is if the bag isn't sealed. If that's the case, the ice melt could go flying everywhere when it hits the ground. It also doesn't work for hard plastic buckets or tubs of ice melt and the containers will break during this process.

2. Drive Over It

A sometimes easier solution than throwing the ice melt on the ground is using your car to drive over it.

The weight of the car and the movement of the tires over the bag should be enough to break up even the toughest clumps. You can drive over it multiple times in different spots to make sure you unclump all of it.

The average car weighs one and a half tons. Therefore, it'll likely exert more than enough pressure to break up the ice melt crystals.

However, before driving over your ice melt, make sure the bag is tough and won't break when you drive over it. Most ice melt bags are so this should be fine and hopefully it's your driveway you're trying to melt ice on anyway so if it does spill a bit the ice melt is in the right area.

3. Smash It With a Brick or Hammer

Dropping a bag of ice melt onto a hard surface is pretty effective at breaking up any clumps for the most part. However, if the bag is too heavy for you to lift, you'll need to consider another method, such as smashing it with a brick or hammer. 

You may not have a spare brick lying around. In that case, the largest hammer you own (or any other similar tool) may be just what you need for smashing up the clumps.

How long you'll need to bash the bag depends on how clumped up the ice melt is, but it shouldn't take more than five minutes. 

Smaller hammers or even bricks will quickly break the ice melt bag material, so if you're wanting to save the bag then you may want to transfer the ice melt into a different (more study) container before bashing it apart.

4. Mix It With Washer Fluid

If you don't have a lot of time to declump a bag of ice melt, you can use washer fluid as a quick way to unclump ice melt. This type of fluid usually comes in large one-gallon (3.78 liters) containers, is inexpensive, and you may already have a container somewhere in your garage. 

Here's how to use washer fluid to unclump ice melt:

  1. Place the ice melt in a large container or pail. 
  2. Add some washer fluid. 
  3. Apply the slushy mixture where you need it. 

5. Break It Up With a Snow Shovel

Once you're done shoveling your sidewalk or driveway, put down your clumpy ice melt, and then hack at it with your snow shovel.

This isn't the fastest method and could take between five and ten minutes to get rid of all the clumps. However, it's a good way to unclump ice melt if you don't have any other tools at your disposal. 

6. Store It in a Warm Place

If you don't need your ice melt right away, and you have another bag of unclumped ice melt you can use in the meantime, place your clumped-up bag of ice melt in a warm place inside your home. After a couple of hours or days, the heat should have penetrated the clumped-up ice melt, making it faster and easier to unclump using the other methods I've outlined before. 

If you don't want to bring the bag of ice melt inside, consider leaving it in your garage and covering it with a tarpaulin or blanket. You might need to wait about a week for the ice melt to thaw, but it'll be easier to break up the clumps after this time. 

How Do I Prevent Ice Melt From Clumping?

I've given you some easy ways of unclumping ice melt. But if you don't want to have the same problem again, is there anything you can do to prevent it? 

You can prevent ice melt from clumping by storing it in a sealed or airtight container, underneath a plastic shroud, and away from moisture and light. 

Keep Ice Melt Away From Moisture and Light

Ice melt is hygroscopic, meaning it readily absorbs moisture around it. When this happens, it can become clumped, so it’s essential to store your ice melt in a dry place. If your area is humid in the summer or rains a lot in the fall, store your unused ice melt bags in a climate-controlled area (such as your basement) to keep them dry and unclumped.  

Light can affect the effectiveness of ice melt, so keep it in a dark place if possible. 

Store Ice Melt in an Airtight Container

Do you have an opened bag of ice melt that you want to use next winter? If so, store it in an airtight container to keep it dry and unclumped.

You might consider an opaque container to help prevent light exposure. You can buy large airtight containers at big box stores to save money. But don't use them to store anything else as certain types of ice melt can be toxic. 

Store Ice Melt Bags Under a Plastic Shroud

Most garages aren't climate-controlled, so if you have a few sealed bags of ice melt that you want to store there until next winter, you can prevent them from clumping by covering them with a plastic shroud or tarpaulin. If you have an old, worn-out camping tent, this is the perfect time to use it! 

Final Thoughts

It's normal for stored ice melt to clump up but, thankfully, there are some easy ways to remove the clumps.

Driving over it is the most effective method, but you can also drop or smash it with a snow shovel or another heavy object. If you're not a fan of brute force, you can mix it with some washer fluid or store it in a warm place to loosen up the clumps.