Do you know what type of ice melt you should be using? Did you even know there are different types?
All of the ice melts are manufactured to be used on the ground. Pre-storm application is ideal but if you are unable to do so, try to get it as close to the ground as possible to be most affective. Clear away as much snow as possible before applying.
Thin areas of ice should melt within a few minutes, with the thicker patches taking much longer. For more substantial patches, once it melts a bit you may be able to break it up with a broom or shovel to remove off your walkways and driveway.
Sodium Chloride aka Rock Salt and Calcium Chloride is very harmful to concrete and vegetation. Both work well down to about 20-25 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to wear protective gloves as these are also very dangerous to your skin.
Potassium Chloride & Magnesium Chloride are both environmentally safe but where as Potassium Chloride only works above 17 degrees, Magnesium Chloride is good for much lower temps. As with most things, the more versatile and superior a product is the price goes up. Magnesium Chloride will come with a heftier price tag, but it is usually worth it.
Use a track mat at all entranceways so the salt/ice melt is not tracked inside. It is very harmful to carpeting and hardwood flooring. If it does get into your home or building, clean up right away by vacuuming and/or mopping.
Most of these ice melting products keep well over time. So stock up in the spring when it is on clearance.
I’ll leave you with a little extra reading…. Why do we even put salt on sidewalks?