Safe De-Icers

Pass (on) the Salt

By Sue Ide ISSP certified Sustainability Professional

Picture a sunny Sunday morning after an historic snowstorm; the storm has created a beautiful, silver world. You and your neighbors are out in your driveways, helping each other dig out for an hour or two.

Now most of the snow has been removed. It’s time for walking the dogs and making snowmen and snow angels. You reach for the deicer, so the rest of the snow won’t turn into dangerous, slippery ice on your driveway and walks.

But wait — is that stuff safe for your kids and pets?

The most common deicer is Sodium Chloride or rock salt (NaCl). Sodium chloride contains 67% chlorides and about 30% sodium, and it is a toxic substance.​

Melting snow or water from the melted ice contains deicer; any pet that walks through it or drinks it may have symptoms like: (1)

  • Increases in thirst, consumption of water and urine output

  • Mental confusion

  • Staggering gait

  • Coma

  • Seizures

 

Each year, up to 12 million tons of salt is used in the United States; New York State is ranked as the largest user of road salts. (2)

Road salt runoff enters drinking water supplies and waterways, where high levels of chloride harm the health and reproduction of fish and other aquatic organisms. In addition, roadside plants and vegetation are damaged by the runoff and sprays, resulting in plant dehydration and nutrient imbalance. (2)

Safer alternatives (3)

 

Alfalfa meal is not only a highly effective deicer, it also aids traction. You can use it around your yard and garden without fear: it’s a great, organic fertilizer. You can find Alfalfa meal powder at your local gardening store at a reasonable cost.

Juice from sugar beets is a terrific deicer. Like alfalfa meal, it’s safe for your plants and surfaces, and it’s non-toxic to children and pets. As a liquid, it requires fewer cleanups than salt or alfalfa meal.

Sugar beet juice is effective even in below-zero temperatures, when many salt-based deicers are not. And you can keep your costs low by growing beets in your garden and storing the juice for the winter.

Check them out to learn how to protect your children, pets, soil, and water.

​What about windshield deicer? (4)

Windshield washer fluid contains methanol (methyl alcohol), which is even more toxic. But you can easily make your own safe, inexpensive deicer.

Combine two parts rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) with one part water in a spray bottle. Add a teaspoon of dish soap per three cups of the mixture. Isopropyl alcohol is a much safer alternative than methyl alcohol.

Footnotes:

1  Deicer poisoning: http://www.snowdog.guru/know-symptoms-antifreeze-de-icer-poisoning/

2  Deicer facts: http://www.clm.com/publication.cfm?ID=321

3  Eco-friendly deicer: http://www.sustainabilityconsulting.com/blog/2010/3/1/views-eco-friendly-de-icing-alternatives-to-salt.html

4  http://www.tabithawalkerinsurance.com/blog/homemade_remedies_for_de-icing_your_car.aspx

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