Most of the popular deicing products sold are chloride-based products which contain salt with different combinations. Sodium chloride, otherwise known as salt, is the most widely used deicing material. Sodium chloride is an effective deicer, is inexpensive, readily available and easily stored. Chloride which is present in many of the common de-icing materials can damage vegetation, destroy soil’s structure and produce erosion, can damage and kill vegetation and can contribute to automobile corrosion.
Common de-icing materials:
- Sodium chloride – Otherwise known as rock salt, is sometimes mixed with sand or other materials. It is most widely available.
- Potassium chloride – This product melts snow to 20 degrees F.
- Magnesium chloride - This product is effective to 5 degrees F. This product is considered less toxic to the environment.
- Calcium chloride - This product has the lowest temperature threshold, working to –25 degrees. This product tends to be easier on plant material if excessive amounts are applied. This product is considered less toxic to the environment.
- Beet Molasses – De-sugared sugar beet molasses is a agricultural byproduct that is created when sugar beets are used to make commercial grade sugar. A form of beet brine has become a useful tool for many highway departments.
- Reduce salt use by adding sand for traction, although care is needed to avoid clogging storm drains. Natural clay cat litter also works well for this purpose.
- Clear walkways and other areas before the snow turns to ice and avoid the need for chemical deicers.
- Track the weather and only apply deicers when a storm is imminent. If a winter storm does not occur, sweep any unused material and store it for later use.
- Only use deicers in critical areas and apply the least mount necessary to get the job done.
- Apply salt at the right time. Don’t wait until snow is falling to get started. It takes more salt to melt accumulated snow than it does to prevent accumulation.
- Apply salt where it will do most good, like hills, curves, shaded sections of road, and bridges. Use discretion when applying salt near sensitive streams or in drinking water source water protection areas.
- More salt isn’t necessarily better. Warmer roads need less salt, and when it is below 10º F salt will not help at all. Applying less salt is also a more economical choice. Snow clean-up costs are reduced, as are damages to cars, roads, and bridges.
- If your source of drinking water is from you own private well, avoid applying salt near the well head.
- Don’t use fertilizers as melting agents. Runoff can increase nutrient pollution.
- Natural products such as wood chips, ash, sand, bird seed, cat litter and sunflower seeds will not melt ice but they can provide traction on slippery surfaces.
So when the next big winter storm strikes, strike back, but in an environmentally friendly way. For more questions regarding Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District programs and/or technical assistance on water or soil questions, visit http://warrenswcd.com or call, 513-695-1337.
- K-State Research and Extension - https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/stories/2017/12/winter-deicing-landscapes.html
- PennState Extension - https://extension.psu.edu/watershed-friendly-deicing
- Minnesota Stormwater Manual - https://stormwater.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/How_salt_works_and_overview_of_deicing_chemicals
- Oklahoma State University - https://news.okstate.edu/articles/agricultural-sciences-natural-resources/2019/gedon_deicing.html