Icy Sidewalks. Two words that’ll make you cringe every time you hear them. All I think about when I hear those words is an elderly person falling and breaking a hip.

Needless to say, that would not be good. 

As responsible home dwellers, we need a way to melt the ice off of our sidewalks and walkways so that you, your family members, neighbors, and anyone else walking by do not have the misfortune of slipping on ice and injuring themselves.

A common way to combat the ice in winter is by using salt ice melter. You know, the blue granules you see strewn on sidewalks and walkways.

Everytime I see that weird blue tinge on the sidewalk, I think ‘what is in that stuff?” Well, guess what boys and girls, we’re going to learn about that today. 

On top of that, I am going to offer some environmentally friendly ice melter alternatives. 

So hang on to your hat! It’s going to be a wild ride!

What is ice melt made from?

Ice melt products are made from magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride or sodium chloride. 

Ice melt made from calcium chloride is the most effective, and also the most widely used.

Is ice melt bad for the environment?

Yes. It is inevitable that there will be surface runoff into the storm sewers once the warmer temperatures arrive and the snow and ice melt. The runoff contains calcium chloride (or whichever chloride the ice melt is made from).

Chloride, sodium, calcium and other components of ice melter products accumulate and can be readily measured in surface water, groundwater and soil near roadways and parking lots where deicers are used.

This negatively affects the water quality and aquatic life by adding excessive chlorine, metal contaminants, and ferrocyanide additives into the waterways. Salt ice melter also negatively affects the soil and plant life it comes in contact with.

Is calcium chloride environmentally friendly?

No. As mentioned above, the chloride ends up in the waterways and soil, as do the other components of the ice melt.

Although chlorides are already present in the natural environment, application of ice melting materials can result in local spikes in chloride concentrations in nearby bodies of water and soil.

What can be used instead of salt to melt ice?

There are a few choices when it comes to more environmentally friendly ice melters. 

Wood Ash

Fireplace ashes work to create traction with ice melting effects. Wood ash contains potash (potassium salts) which will help de-ice and melt snow in moderate conditions.

Homemade Deicer

This can be made with ingredients you might have kicking around your house right now. All you need is:

  • a bucket 
  • half-gallon of hot water
  • six drops of dish soap
  • ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol

Combine all of the ingredients in the bucket.

Once you pour the homemade ice melt mixture onto your sidewalk or driveway, the snow and ice will begin to bubble up and melt. Just keep a shovel handy to scrape away any leftover pieces of ice.

Alfalfa meal ice melt

Alfalfa meal is commonly used as fertilizer. It contains nitrogen, but not enough to risk harm to plants or your local water system. Alfalfa meal has a dry, grainy texture that provides traction while it goes to work melting snow and ice. 

Bags of alfalfa can be purchased at most gardening stores.

Sugar Beet Juicesugar beet deicer

On its own, or used to dilute salt solutions, the juice from sugar beets can lower the freezing point of water, and help to deice slippery roads, driveways and sidewalks.

The odorless and virtually colorless substance is completely harmless to humans, animals, plants, cars, fabrics, and water systems.

But you can’t open a jar of beets and pour it on your driveway to get the same results. It requires a special purchase from office suppliers, garden centers, or Amazon.

Organic salt-free deicer

Here is the annoying thing. When I was researching organic salt-free deicer, I came across a few articles that mentioned it, so clicked on them. Well, all of the articles simply mentioned that organic salt-free deicer is a more environmentally friendly alternative to salt ice melter.

No further details were given and for the life of me, I can’t find a brand that is organic and does not contain some form of salt or chloride ingredient.

So, unfortunately I have no useful information for you to put in this article about organic salt-free deicer.

If you know of a brand or are currently using some, please let me know in the comments below so I can update this section with something useful. Thanks!

Safe paw ice melt safe paw ice melt

Safe Paw Ice Melt is designed to be non-toxic and safe for pets.  Active ingredients are carbonyl diamine and a glycol admixture.

Features include:

  • Non-toxic, guaranteed safe for pets
  • Concentrated pellets cover twice the area of rock salt
  • Timed-release formulation helps prevent re-icing for up to three days
  • Safe for animals, children, vegetation, concrete brick, and stone

While not perfectly green, this is a pretty good alternative to traditional salt ice melts. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly commercial de-icer, Safe Paw ice melt is a decent choice.

Ecomelt

Despite the name, ECOMELT contains 98% sodium chloride. Don’t believe me? Check out their MSDS here.

Told ya!

So, no, not an environmentally friendly ice melter.

What is the best ice melter?

In my opinion, I would try the homemade/natural options like alfalfa meal before I forged ahead to buy a commercial product.

If I had to buy a commercial product, I would start with sugar beet juice to see if that worked well. 

You can probably see my train of thought here, I would start with natural and work my way to commercial if the natural de-icers did not work well. 

That being said, I don’t generally de-ice. I use kitty litter, sand, or gravel to provide traction on ice as opposed to actual de-icing my walkway.

What do you do to de-ice your walkways and sidewalks? Do you bother to de-ice or just provide traction like I choose to do? Let me know in the comments below.

Cheers, and have an awesome day!

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