This post contains affiliate links. This means I may make a small commission if you
purchase something. It does NOT change your purchase in any way.
Winter is officially here! It’s brought snowmen, skiing, sledding…and snowy and icy sidewalks and driveways! But before you start dumping ice melter all over the place, find out why you should be using an environmentally friendly ice melter this winter instead!
I don’t know about you but I do NOT need to be slipping and falling on my butt – or any other body part – at this point in my life! 🙂 Oh, and I don’t want my kids getting hurt either! 🙂
Shoveling and clearing sidewalks and driveways right after the storm is ideal (especially if you’ve been cooped up with kids and need to GET OUT!) but sometimes it’s not always feasible. Maybe you didn’t shovel right away ’cause you weren’t home or maybe ’cause it’s too darn cold out there and it’s no fun?! 🙂
When you finally get to it you may find that you’ve got quite a pile to work with or it’s frozen over and you’ve got a (dangerous) sheet of ice. :-0
What Is Ice Melter Made Of?
There are two types of substances typically put down to melt ice. One is rock salt the other is ice melt.
Rock salt is sodium chloride which is basically the same as the stuff in your salt shaker at home – just in bigger pieces.
In a nutshell, rock salt works by melting some of the ice, resulting in a small amount of water. The water can then flow under the ice, breaking up the bond with the driveway or sidewalk. This makes the ice – now slush – easier to shovel away. In addition to melting ice, rock salt also provides some traction to icy surfaces. Rock salt works on temperatures down to 5°F.
(If you are a science nerd like I am, you might enjoy this article from Scientific American. It goes into a lot more technical, scientific detail about how rock salt works!)
Ice melters are typically a blend of sodium chloride (same as rock salt), magnesium chloride pellets, and calcium chloride pellets. Ice melters work the same way as rock salt but because of its make-up is effective in much colder temperatures – down to -15°F.
Effects On the Environment
Both rock salt and ice melters can have harmful effects on the environment. Even though you’re spreading them on sidewalks and driveways it’s easy for them to make their way into the soil or waterways.
When surfaces treated with rock salt or ice melt are then shoveled off into yards and garden beds it’s easy for these substances to get into the soil.
Once in the soil, the salts can absorb water leaving less for the grass and other plants. This can cause dehydration to the vegetation, which may not be evident until warmer weather. In addition, salt spray from cars driving by can cause a salt burn on buds, leaves and small twigs.
As snow melts, ice melt and rock salt can be carried into storm drains and make their way into waterways.
Once in our waterways, higher concentrations of chloride can be toxic to fish and insects. Even lower levels can affect fish and insect populations by reducing reproduction and the survival rates of their young.
In addition to wildlife in waterways, rock salt and ice melt can have harmful impacts on other wildlife as well.
Birds may mistake road salt crystals for seeds or grit which even in very small amounts can cause death. Other wildlife such as deer and moose are attracted to the roadway to eat salt crystals, which can lead to higher incidents of car accidents and wildlife kills.
Lastly, snowmelt, which many animals drink, can contain high levels of sodium and chloride causing dehydration and other symptoms in the animals that drink it.
Ice melters are toxic to dogs (and outdoor cats) if ingested from licking their paws after a walk. Larger quantities can be lethal but even smaller amounts can make your dog pretty sick. Signs that your dog has ingested ice melt include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increased urination
- Quick drop in blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive salivation
- Excessive thirst
Your dog’s (or cat’s) paws can also become irritated from the chemicals in ice melt causing them to burn or crack.
Any easy way to keep your pets safe is to thoroughly wipe their paws off after having been outside just to be safe.
Or grab a pair of cute dog booties for your dog to wear on walks! 🙂 Aren’t these cute?! I don’t think our cats will go for it though! 🙂
Environmentally Friendly Ice Melter Alternatives
There are a number of safer alternatives to rock salt and ice melt on the market. It can be as easy as opting for a different product to keep you safe from taking a tumble AND protect your pets and the environment.
Here are a few products to check out:
Safe Paw is non-toxic and claims to be safe for children, pets, plants and concrete, brick and stone.
Beet-It Ice Melter is enriched with beet extract and claims to be “pet-friendly & safer for vegetation & the environment”.
Natural Rapport Pet and Kid Friendly Ice Melt is formulated to be safer for kids, pets, plants and surfaces.
DIY Ice Melter
If you’re looking to skip store-bought chemical ice melter all together you can always turn to Pinterest for some great DIY tips!
I found a DIY ice melter recipe with just 3 ingredients and simple instructions:
- 1/2 gallon of warm water
- 6 drops of dish soap
- 2 oz. rubbing alcohol
- Add all three ingredients into a container.
- Pour the mixture onto your icy patches
I haven’t tried this myself but it sounds totally doable even if you’re not a big DIY’er!
Let me know if you whip up a batch! 🙂
So that’s the quick scoop on environmentally friendly ice melter – and some super simple ways to swap to an eco-friendlier option! Not hard at all, right?!
I truly believe that with just a little bit of knowledge and some easy tips you can live greener every day!
Happy winter! 🙂
P.S. You may also want to check out my post, “Quick Guide to the Facts On Fire Logs,” this winter!