Choose Safer De-icing Chemicals

Choose safer de-icing chemicals for the health of your home and the planet. Salt and sand are cheap and available but they aren't good for the environment or for buildings, roads and cars. The articles shares a list of safer de-icing chemicals you can use around your home.

| December 2003/January 2004

  • These safer de-icing chemicals are an eco-friendly choice you can make when removing ice from your property.
    These safer de-icing chemicals are an eco-friendly choice you can make when removing ice from your property.
    Illustration by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • These safer de-icing chemicals are an eco-friendly choice you can make when removing ice from your property.

Physical methods are always better instead of chemicals for de-icing your property. If you must use chemicals we provide a list of safer de-icing chemicals to use around your home.

Choose Safer De-icing Chemicals

Homeowners and street crews use salt and sand on icy sidewalks and roads to make them safer to navigate, mostly because salt and sand are cheap and abundant. But they aren't good for the environment or for buildings, roads and cars.

Even when used in small amounts, salt will leach into surrounding soil, changing the soil's composition and making it hard for plants to survive. Salt potentially can contaminate groundwater, too, and it's highly corrosive to paved surfaces, buildings and cars.

Even though sand is not corrosive, it's still not a great choice for the environment. If sand is not swept up from roads every spring, it can clog storm drains and cause flooding. When it reaches rivers and lakes, sand buries aquatic floor life, fills in natural habitats and clouds water. Sand also absorbs and carries contaminants like oil and grease into bodies of water.



Fortunately, salt and sand aren't the only weapons with which to battle icy weather. But, the first step for any homeowner developing a more environmentally friendly snow removal routine is decreasing your use of chemicals, says Malama Chock, a member of the Salt Use Improvement Team at the University of Michigan. The more you use physical methods instead of chemicals, the better.

But in some climates or areas with heavy traffic, chemical de-icers may be necessary to keep roads and sidewalks safe. If you need a chemical de-icer, liquid sprays are more efficient than granular products because they cover a larger surface area, Chock says. Most importantly, she recommends using chemical de-icers before a storm hits rather than after, a concept called anti-icing. The key is timing the application of de-icers to minimize the possibility of wash-off by rain. You don't have to use nearly as much of a chemical to prevent ice from forming as you do to remove it after it has hardened.





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