Freezing overnight temperatures can turn melting snow into a sheet of ice, causing roads, walkways, driveways, and decks to become dangerous. Many opt for products to help curb those slippery surfaces, and in Tahoe — where we care a great deal about our lakes, our rivers, our soil, and our pets — it’s important to consider which product is right for you.

Primarily, there are two choices: rock salt or a product called ice melt. Rock salt is also known as halite, the mineral form of sodium chloride.

It works by lowering the freezing point of water, and is effective down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. It partially melts the top layer of ice, forming a saltwater solution, which can freely flow under the ice and break the bond between ice and the pavement or deck surface.

Ice melt, on the other hand, is typically a blend of sodium chloride, magnesium chloride pellets, and calcium chloride pellets. This is generally regarded as the best performing product when it comes to melting ice, and works down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Some products, like Blue Ice Melt, even have instant melting power.

Though both options help curb the slip-factor, anything, when used in high quantity, has its dangers. Rock salt is potentially harmful to plant life and dangerous when ingested by pets. Ice melt creates a chemical heating reaction, which can burn a pet’s paws when walked upon.

Neither of the above options are said to have a long-term effect on surfaces or soil if used in modest quantities around the home but should not be used in areas that drain into lakes or rivers. If protecting your pets is your main goal, there is a dog-approved variety of ice melt available. Urea-based ice melts are generally approved as pet safe, and only cause salivation and mild gastrointestinal irritation when ingested in small quantities.

One such product is Sure Paws, made by Safe Step and labeled as 100-percent organic, all natural, and salt free. It’s nontoxic, safe for pets and skin, safe for the environment, and less harmful to plants and grass, so this may be a good choice if you have to use lots of the stuff in a large area.

Whatever your choice, it’s most important to use your buying power smartly. Is it a safe product you’re looking for? Don’t be shy to read labels. Wanting to buy in quantity to save money? Take the extra time to call around to stores for the best price. Be an advocate for products you believe in, and you’re sure to make a more responsible buying choice that’s right for you, your home, and your budget.