The Effects of Different Substances on Melting Ice While Protecting the Lawn

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Updated on Mar 18, 2010




Middle School

Difficulty of Project



$ 20-25

Safety Issues

Wear safety glasses, apron and plastic gloves.

Material Availability

Readily available from local pet supply and hardware store

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

2 weeks. This includes collection, recording and analysis of data, summary of results and completion of bibliography.


To determine the effects of different substances such as road salt, calcium chloride, sand, kitty litter, calcium magnesium acetate and Safe Paw (a commercial eco-friendly product) on melting ice while protecting the lawn.

Materials and Equipment required

  • rock salt
  • sand
  • kitty litter
  • calcium magnesium acetate
  • Safe Paw
  • 6 glass jars
  • 6 trays of ice cubes
  • 6 plastic spoons
  • measuring cup
  • 6 small segments of lawn, approximately the same size
  • clock or watch
  • plastic gloves
  • apron
  • safety glasses
  • paper toweling and liquid soap for cleanup


Background Information

On the information level, this experiment serves to acquaint students with current information in the application of basic knowledge in chemistry and its practical applications to daily life such as the melting of ice following rain and snow storms. The research in this area serves to illustrate the continuous advances and improvements made as in this case when we move from the use of rather hazardous materials to those which are eco- friendly, namely, non- toxic and non – corrosive. This project is an excellent teaching tool demonstrating how field of chemistry advances to bring better and safer products for our use.

This science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing such as the importance of the use of a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, of data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings. They take on the role of scientists and in the process they learn to act as one.

Research Terms

  • melting point
  • boiling point
  • freezing point
  • melting properties
  • standard atmospheric pressure
  • endothermic reaction
  • eco-friendly
  • corrosive
  • non-corrosive
  • rock salt
  • table salt

Research Questions

  • What is rock salt?
  • How does rock salt work?
  • Which component of rock salt can be toxic to the environment?
  • What is calcium magnesium acetate?
  • What is the chemical composition of Safe Paw?
  • What is the significance of the name Safe Paw?
  • How were the terms boiling point, freezing point, melting point determined?
  • What is meant by standard atmospheric pressure?
  • What is an endothermic reaction?
  • Why do we prefer using eco friendly chemicals?

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

  • What is a control? A control is the variable that is not changed in the experiment.
  • What purpose does a control serve? It is used to make comparisons as to what changed or possibly caused the change.
  • What are variables? Variables are factors that can be changed in an experiment.
  • What is an independent variable? The independent variable is the one that is changed in the experiment.
  • What is a dependent variable? The dependent variable is the one that changes as a result of the change in the independent variable.

Experimental Procedure

  1. State the problem you are going to investigate in this science fair project.
  2. Create the data sheets you will use to record your observations.
  3. Gather all your materials.
  4. Put on your safety glasses, plastic gloves and apron.
  5. Gather all your materials.
  6. Start by cutting a large piece of grass into seven pieces of approximately the same size. Place each sample in a jar. Add five ice cubes to each jar. Label the jars in terms of each of the substances you are testing such as rock salt, calcium chloride etc. Make certain to label the last jar as the control.
  7. Now measure off twelve ounces of each substance to be tested and place each substance in its jar. For example, what you have in each jar is a grass segment covered with ice cubes and twelve ounces of an ice melting substance.
  8. Observe each one noting how long each took to melt the ice cubes. Record your data in your chart.
  9. Carefully observe the grass in each jar and record what changes occurred. Record your observations compare all of the jars with the control. Record your findings.
  10. Record your conclusion.
  11. Prepare your report and include all of the following: a clear statement of the problem, your hypothesis, namely what did you predict would occur, and a list of the materials used. Include the safety precautions taken. Describe the procedures used. Include all the data that were gathered. Include all charts. Explain the purpose of the control. Formulate your conclusions. For dramatic value, you may include photos of the materials used or of you in the process of conducting this investigation. Include a bibliography of sources you used. You may wish to assess what you did and describe what you would do differently if you were to do this project again. You may wish to expand this research next year. What other materials might you investigate for this purpose?

Charting and or Graphing Data

In each section of the experiment, use charts to display the obtained data such the following sample

Substances Used

Amount of Time to Melt

Effects on Ice & Grass Samples

Rock Salt

Calcium chloride


Kitty Litter

Calcium Magnesium Acetate

Safe Paw



  1. Carew, Betty: Safe alternatives to salt for melting
  2. Wroth, Katherine: The rundown on eco-friendly ice melt
Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled Ć¢Now That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Book."