Safe Alternatives to Salt for Ice Removal

Ice removal and prevention is a recurring problem for property maintenance in Snow Belt areas. Inexpensive salt has been used extensively for years by homeowners, road maintenance crews and municipalities to control ice. Unfortunately this has caused extensive damage to automobiles, road surfaces and the environment.

In researching alternatives to salt for melting ice a number of possibilities come under consideration.  It is important to remove the accumulated snow before walking on it because compacting the snow helps form ice on the surfaces below. A snow-blower is a big help for sidewalks and driveways.

The least invasive but labor intensive way to remove ice is by manually using a dedicated ice removing tool. These scrapers and shovels are manufactured to remove accumulated ice but consideration must be given to the surface beneath the ice. Careful use of these tools is an effective way to remove small patches of ice.

Sand can be used for large areas needing traction and where other methods are too expensive. A bucket of sand should always be carried in the trunks of vehicles in areas experiencing frequent ice and snow storms.

A propane burner, similar to a weed eater, can be used to melt ice but it uses a lot of fuel and the melted water must be removed or it will refreeze.

The safest chemical to use for melting ice as an alternative to salt seems to be calcium chloride acetate (CMA). It is non corrosive and biodegradable. It is most effective if applied to surfaces before the snow starts. Unfortunately it is also three times as expensive as salt.

Urea is another alternative to melt ice. Since it is a fertilizer, too much can burn plants and lawn. It also can cause excessive algae growth.

Calcium chloride is used in very cold climates but it is corrosive to metal and harmful to pet’s paws.

If you have pets and are concerned about using harmful products you might want to investigate pet friendly ice melting products such as Safe Paws. Check this and others out at your local pet supply store and online.

A Canadian company sells a road salt alternative deicer called Blue Heat. The company says the product is environmentally friendly and will not harm plants and lawns. Since the product is made of tiny blue colored pellets it is easier to apply on specific areas. It also leaves no powdery residue. Check it out at

There are not many alternative products available at this time but many new ones are being tested and will be on the market soon. If you are able to control the ice with tools and sand that would be the ultimately environmentally friendly method.