What’s the most eco-friendly way to deal with wintry ice on sidewalks, driveways, porches and steps? Most people stock up on bags of salty de-icer, and then start throwing handfuls of it around when snow starts falling, thinking “More is better.”
There are two problems with this approach.
First, many common de-icers are loaded with potent chemicals like urea, potassium nitrate, rock salt, and table salt. These chemicals can be very harsh on the paws of outdoor cats and dogs, and our pets may even ingest them by licking at the de-icing compound.
Second, people have a tendency to ignore the application directions and use way too much product. When the ice melts, the chemicals run off the streets and sidewalks and into storm drains, where they can contaminate lakes, rivers, and streams. The salty de-icer can corrode cars and trucks. It can flood lawns and gardens, too, killing grass and harming tree roots.
Three Eco-Friendly De-icing Options
What you can use are products you can get at your local hardware store that are salt-free, pet-safe, and won’t pollute our waterways. Here are three to consider:
SafePaw Ice Melter – This is recommended by the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as veterinarians, animal hospitals, shelters, and humane societies. Gaia, its manufacturer, says the product is unique not just because it melts the ice and provides traction. It’s also a dark green color, which helps it attract solar heat to accelerate melting during the day.
Snow Joe Melt – This product uses calcium magnesium acetate rather than sodium chloride or potassium nitrate, and it claims that a smaller amount of the product will do the same job as more potent salts. The product packaging reminds people to use the product in the limited amounts recommended to avoid having a negative environmental impact on run-off or plants.
Natural Alternative Ice Melt – This ice melt is manufactured by NaturaLawn of America, a company that made its mark in organic-based lawn care. It claims its blend of four de-icing ingredients is non-toxic and biodegradable, which is safer for fish and pets. It won’t promote algae growth in watersheds, and it’s not harsh on plants or lawns, either. Plus, the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters Association recommends it because it is less corrosive than other options.
First and foremost, always shovel snow frequently so you can keep paths and steps safely cleared. There’s no point throwing any ice melt product on snow. It needs to be on pavement or the walkway or a thin layer of ice, because it’s best preventing ice from forming in the first place.
Pay extra attention to the area right around your door, your deck or porch, steps, and of course, your sidewalk. Even if you don’t see ice, it could be there in the form of “black” ice, which is very treacherous. It also helps to wear boots with soles offer good traction. You can also add traction to your boots with a device like Yaktrax, a spring-coil system that straps around the bottom of your boot or shoe to reduce slipping.
Have you tried any of these eco-friendly de-icers? Share your experience with us in the comments below!