Eco-Friendly De-Icing for the Winter

The winter season and its much cooler weather is now upon us. This season, while it offers plenty of fun activities if you don’t mind the cold, also brings in plenty of snow and ice. In order to combat slippery sidewalks and street, many people turn to traditional de-icers. Perhaps you have even sprinkled some in your driveway to keep it from freezing over. However, not all de-icers are made equal.

Dangers of Conventional De Icers

The most common de-icer is either rock salt or table salt. While this certainly does a great job of melting the ice and ensuring the water doesn’t refreeze, it isn’t very sustainable:

  1. When the water melts, the salt runs off into the closest body of water killing local, aquatic wildlife.
  2. Excess salt builds up in the soil and then prevents plants from absorbing moisture and nutrients.
  3. Salts can also leach heavy metals and make their way into our water supplies.
  4. It can burn the paws of dogs and corrode the metal on vehicles and signs.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can de-ice your driveway and sidewalk in a natural way without harming the environment.

Shoveling/Snow Blow


Perhaps the best way to minimize snow and ice buildup is to simply shovel it away. The sooner you get to it after the snowfall the better chances you have of reducing ice formation. Plus, shoveling is a great way to stay in shape! Of course, if you are unable to manually shovel, you can always get an electric snow blower. These let you clean up the snow quickly and without the drawbacks of air and noise pollution of the gas models. Snow blowers are best used on driveways that are paved as stones can break the blades.

Find Eco-Friendly De-Icing Agents

There are plenty of good de-icers you can use that does just as good a job as conventional ones. Look for de-icers that are made from calcium magnesium acetate or calcium chloride. Not only are these non-toxic, they also can add nutrients to the ground, which in turn fertilizes your plants. As with more traditional de-icers, you should sprinkle some before a snowstorm to prevent snow and ice buildup. Of course, there are some downsides to these de-icers as well. Calcium chloride is corrosive to metals and can leave harmful residue on shoes and carpets. Calcium magnesium acetate can dilute when the snow melts and eventually refreeze.

Make Your Own De-Icer


If you want to go all natural, you can make your own de-icer at home with ingredients you have on hand. All you need is some water, dish soap and rubbing alcohol. This is great for when you need to quickly melt some ice. Unfortunately, it’s not great for keeping things unfrozen as the alcohol will evaporate quickly and all you have left is soapy water, which will of course refreeze.

Some other great natural de-icers include: pickle brine, cheese brine and salt with beet juice or molasses. All of these are great for pre-treatment of your driveway as they prevent ice from initially forming and, of course, to melt ice that has already formed. In fact, these are so effective that many cities are already using these ingredients as large-scale de-icers.

Try Some Alfalfa Meal

You can find this at your local hardware store or local nursery as it is used as a fertilizer. Not only does this provide traction when you spread it around it also melts the ice and is great for your plants since it contains nitrogen.

Install a Radiant Heat Driveway


If you plan on installing a new driveway or replacing your old one, look into installing radiant heat into it. While not as sustainable or natural as simply shoveling, it does a great job of de-icing your driveway without the use of salts. Also, since it requires electricity (you’re basically running electric wires through your driveway) if you happen to lose power during a big snowstorm, this method won’t work. Also, it does have a rather large upfront cost so it might not be economically feasible for everyone.

As you can see, the most sustainable way to keep your property ice free is to apply some good old fashioned elbow grease. Of course, while there are different de-icing methods available, most of them have some drawbacks to them. So this winter, consider investing in a good pair of winter boots, a shovel or electric snow blower, gloves and a good jacket. You’ll be much more environmentally friendly and be in better shape than before.

Like what we’re doing? Want to share your story or tell others? Do you have a green business in Calgary and want to get in front of a large local audience? Let’s build a green community together!