Winter Deicing Tips

The cold and snowy winter is already upon us, and the city would like to remind you that there are ways to be environmentally friendly to our lakes and streams while the temperatures are below freezing. Snow melt and stormwater runoff in areas with salt-treated surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks can carry sodium and calcium chlorides into our waterways. The salinity present in the runoff can cause our waterways to become toxic to aquatic life.

Winter Deicing Tips

  • If you must use a deicer, only use enough deicer to break the ice-pavement bond, then remove the slush by shoveling
  • Kitty litter, gravel, and sand don't actually melt snow and ice, but they do provide traction. After the snow, be sure to sweep this material up to prevent it from entering our waterways.
  • The most important step in deicing is to physically remove as much snow and ice as possible before applying a deicer.
    • If you’re unable to physically remove the snow, recruit the neighbor’s teenager to help out.

Environmentally Friendly Deicing Options

There are several environmentally friendly deicing options that can be applied instead of salt:

  • Alfalfa Meal works well by providing traction to walk on, and since it contains nitrogen like Urea it also melts ice. But like urea, it only works moderately well as an ice melter.
  • Beet Juice when mixed with salt can be an effective deicer, and reduces the amount of salt needed by as much as 30%. Beet juice also works to a much lower temperature than salt and has been shown to have no harmful effects to the environment.
  • Calcium Chloride works well at low temperature and is considered less harmful to vegetation. However, this chemical deicer can be harmful to indoor surfaces as it is tracked in as well as to your pet’s paws.
  • Calcium Magnesum Acetate (CMA) is salt free and biodegradable. It will not harm the environment if used in moderation and is less corrosive to concrete and less harmful to vegetation than salt.
  • Propylene Glycol is considered safer for animals than Ethylene Glycol and is often found in “pet friendly” deicers. However, these products are considered to be highly toxic to aquatic organisms by the Environmental Protection Agency, so their use is not recommended.
  • Urea (NH2CO NH2) is primarily used as a fertilizer and is also less harmful to vegetation than salt. While urea works well as a fertilizer, it only works moderately well as an ice melter.

After the snow melt, always be sure to sweep up the excess salt or other materials from the pavement surfaces. This will prevent the material from entering our lakes and streams.