Eco-Friendly Ice Melting Options

woman in pink coat and hat shoveling snow from around her car

In many parts of the country this week, streets and walkways are covered in snow and ice, and everyone is using salt, sand and other chemical de-icers to make their streets safe for travel. But not all de-icers are alike, and some are downright harmful to your pets, your children and your local streams and rivers.

Why Conventional Ice Melt is Bad for the Environment

Rock salt, table salt (NaCl), urea (NH2)2CO), potassium nitrate (KNO3), and even baking soda (NaHCO3) are commonly used de-icers that are cheap and do a good job of melting ice. But when the snow melts and rains fall, the chloride and nitrates in them quickly run off the streets and sidewalks where they kill soil life, grass, trees and other plants they come in contact with.

Eventually these toxic salts run off or leach into the nearest waterway where they can kill frogs, fish and other aquatic life, and pollute groundwater aquifers and wells, too.

Conventional de-icing salts are also notorious for tearing up or burning the paws of dogs and cats who walk on them, for sickening children who play in snow and ice that has been treated with them, and for causing corrosion on driveways, vehicles and roadway structures.

Increasingly cities have been using beet sugar to help melt ice. Beet sugar (or any sugar) increases the effectiveness of ice melting salt so you can use much less of it—which is great for watersheds and city budgets—but all beet sugar is genetically engineered, so its use encourages more GMO, glyphosate-resistant sugarbeets to be planted.

And more GMO sugarbeets means a lot more toxic glyphosate (Round-up) in the environment and on our dinnerplates, more soil fertility destroyed, more herbicide resistant superweeds, more genetic contamination of organic sugarbeets, beets and Swiss chard, and a greater monopoly over our seed supply by Monsanto. Yikes!

Eco Friendly Ice Melting Salt

Fortunately, it’s easy to be safe and sustainable when dealing with winter snow and ice. Instead of using conventional ice melting salt this winter, pick up some “Pet-Safe” de-icer, which is non-toxic enough to be consumed by pets who might lick it off their paws. If you can go one step further and buy “Chloride-Free” ice melt, it costs a bit more, but it is the safest for waterways and wildlife.

In addition to these labels, look for products that are specifically made from:

  • Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) (safest, but most expensive)
  • Magnesium chloride (MgCl2)
  • Potassium chloride (KCl)

When these de-icing products run off with the snowmelt, the calcium, magnesium or potassium they contain can actually fertilize the plants they come into contact with. Good pet-safe and chloride-free ice melt brands include:

All of these eco-friendly de-icing salts are non-toxic and non-corrosive, so they won’t harm people, pets or property. Some of these products can be applied right before a snowstorm to help prevent the build up of ice and snow.

TIP: Mix your de-icing salt with a little sugar, and it’ll work even better!

Skip the Salt

Do you really need to melt the ice, or can you just make it safe to walk on? Sand, sawdust, and kitty litter (non-clumping) are proven ways to add traction to a slippery surface for very little money and virtually no environmental harm. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep a bag of kitty litter in the trunk of your car, in case you get stuck on ice.

Lastly, here’s an easy, eco-friendly recipe to help prevent ice build-up on your car windows.

woman in pink coat and hat shoveling snow from around her car
5 from 1 vote

Vinegar Window De-Icer

Here's a safe, cheap, non-toxic recipe to help prevent ice build-up on your car windows.
Makes32 oz.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
This recipe may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Equipment


Ingredients
  


Instructions
 

  • Mix 3 cups of white vinegar and 1 cup of lukewarm water in a bowl or pot.
  • Stir the mixture with a spoon and use a funnel to fill a spray bottle with the solution.
  • Liberally spray the vinegar and water solution on to your car’s windshields, side windows and outer mirrors before you go to bed. The vinegar and water solution will help keep ice from forming on your car’s windshield overnight, even if they get covered with snow.


This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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22 thoughts on “Eco-Friendly Ice Melting Options”

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  1. Every winter i buy tubes of sand and keep dry sand near every entrance and walkway. i also put 8 60-lb. tubes in my small 4WD Nissan for extra the weight which keeps me stable on slippery surfaces. I call tubes of sand “the Cheapest Health Insurance” you can buy. Lastly, having sand in my vehicle allows me to be the hero when somebody gets stuck in snow!

  2. What do you think of Ecos Ice Melt? I see it sold in my area. I’d like your opinion, since it has other ingredients you don’t mention.

  3. Isn’t vinegar bad for the car’s finish? In other imperfect attempts, I also got “magnet marks” on my car from protective magnetic windshield devices.

  4. Avatar photo
    Wastewater Engineer

    This is helpful. Another thing to keep in mind is that many areas in snow belt states are experiencing increasing chlorides in groundwater as a result of decades of salting the roads. In those areas, although CaCl2 and KCl are improvements over NaCl, CMA (or even epsom salts in a pinch) would be the better choice.

  5. I appreciate the vinegar recipe for the windshields! Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Please join us again this week! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/01/an-enchanted-childhood-playschool_26.html

    1. hmmm… wrong link (playschool + blogging = craziness lol) http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-funky-junky-windchime-at-eco-kids.html

  6. Love the white vinegar de-icer tip. We’ve been putting sheets and towels over the car windshields but now we’ll be trying this! Thanks! Stevie @ ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

    1. Sheets and towels work great too, especially if you get a really heavy or long ice storm. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Avatar photo
    Nancy@livininthegreen

    Thanks for the tip! It’s good to hear about a product that I can find easily/locally and is helpful too. 🙂

  8. Avatar photo
    Kathy @ Mind Body and Sole

    Wow! I had no idea that the pet safe de-icers could fertilize as well! 🙂 Thank you for sharing this on Wildcrafting Wednesday! A couple weeks ago we got hit with 32″ of snow in just over 2 days, so glad I got the pet safe stuff! 🙂

  9. We don’t have a garage, so the thought of not having to scrape icy windshields every morning sounds very appealing. The fact that it’s eco friendly makes it even nicer. Thanks for sharing a simple, easy, and eco-friendly idea!

  10. Thanks for the tip. I have a very steep North facing driveway. I have known that the ice melt stuff I’ve been using is BAD, but could find no other way to get my car up the hill. I’ll head to my hardware after school today and see if I can find some of the pet safe stuff.

  11. This is an awesome tip. Thank you for supporting a greener environment!

    Hopping by and following your lovely blog’s twitter, FB, G+ and Pinterest. I blog @ Getting Healthy with Essential Oils

    I am also inviting you to join Tiddle Diddle Handmade Shoppe’s first giveaway event.

  12. I’ve always heard that Epsom salt was ok to use. It consists of magnesium sulfate. Which can actually be beneficial to your soil and garden.

    1. Epsom salt will work in a pinch, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as sugar, regular salt or commercial ice melters. This is because Epsom salts are hydrated salts that don’t produce any chemical heat when they are dissolved in water. Plus epsom salts can be much more expensive than safe ice melters like Calcium Magnesium Acetate.

      While MgSO4 (Epsom salt) is not toxic to plants, the sulfate does lower the pH of the soil if you apply a lot, which can harm plants that won’t tolerate acid soils. You will want to be cautious about that if you use Epsom salts.

  13. Avatar photo
    Wendy (The Local Cook)

    Thanks for the great tips – I haven’t really thought about the de-icer as a pollutant, but you’re totally right.

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