What kind of ice melt should I use?
You have a few options when it comes to ice melt. Calcium chloride is the best option. It melts ice even at extreme sub-zero temperatures, won’t harm your plants, and is less toxic than rock salt, but it’s also pricier.
Rock salt is the cheapest, but it is more toxic, won’t work in extreme cold, and can clog spreaders more easily. Magnesium chloride is the least toxic option and works at temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whichever ice melt you choose, make sure you use it as directed as all of the above can eat away at wood, steel, and concrete.
Can I use my fertilizer spreader to spread salt?
While they operate similarly, I would not recommend putting rock salt in a fertilizer/seed spreader. Dedicated salt spreaders are designed to store corrosive salt and endure icy winter conditions.
They typically have hoppers made from thick durable plastic that sit on heavy gauge steel frames and have pneumatic rubber wheels with heavy tread that can grip slick paved surfaces. They also come equipped with metal moving parts that are capable of chopping up hard salt without wearing down.
Using a fertilizer spreader to spread salt once or twice won’t break it, but it won’t work as well and may short its lifespan long-term.
If you want one spreader to do double duty, it would probably make more sense to use a salt spreader to spread seed or fertilizer. That said, fertilizer/seed spreaders often give you more precise control of the spread direction and quantity, which comes in handy when you have specific patches to cover and you want to be precise. Keep in mind that adding too much fertilizer to a lawn can burn it out.
If you do put fertilizer in your salt spreader (or vice versa), make sure to clean out the salt thoroughly before putting any seed or fertilizer in the hopper. Any lingering salt in the mix will dry out grass, damaging your lawn.
Bottom line: We would recommend buying two separate spreaders, despite their similarities.
Can I use rock salt in my salt spreader?
Most salt spreaders designed for residential use aren’t built to handle rock salt, while many professional level salt spreaders are. Check with the manufacturer to find out what types of de-icer are compatible with your salt spreader before loading it with rock salt, as it can damage the spreader’s impeller.
If rock salt isn’t compatible with your spreader, use a different type of ice melt, such as potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, or calcium chloride.