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Pros and Cons of De-icing Agents

Pros and Cons of De-icing agents.

Have you ever considered the pros and cons of using de-icing agents? The benefits are great, but they can also cause a lot of damage, so consider the different types for your location to minimize any negative effects that may be caused.



Minimize the Risk – Slick sidewalks and roads are hazardous. Deicing agents are useful because they both melt snow and ice and add traction to slippery surfaces.

Ease of Clearing – Removing compacted snow and ice with shovels or snow blowers is not always an easy task.  De-icers can help by “undercutting” or loosening the snow and ice, which aids in the clearing process.

Reduced Winter Services Cost – The largest portion of winter services cost is labor.  Utilizing de-icing agents reduces the labor cost by limiting the constant attention required to keep a safer surface


Cons – (Provided by – Turf iNfo for the North Central US  |  University of Nebraska – Lincoln    turf.unl.edu)

Vegetation – Salt applied to surfaces may run off and enter soil, or be splashed by vehicles and snow plows onto the surface of vegetation adjacent to the treated area. In soil, salts reduce the availability of water to plants, and significantly increase water stress during spring and summer months. This effect has been referred to as chemical drought. Salts deposited directly on foliage may also burn and kill the affected parts, or the entire plant. This is commonly observed where salts from winter maintenance damage evergreen trees and shrubs adjacent to roadways. The sodium and chloride components in certain salts are especially damaging to vegetation.

Hardscape – Salts are corrosive and accelerate rusting of metal railings, grates, drains, and door frames, and underground utility lines if they are not properly protected. Salts may also cause scaling, or flaking of surface layers from concrete. Salt solutions enter void spaces in concrete and expand by 10 to 20% in volume when they freeze. The pressure exerted by this expansion fractures the surface of concrete. Porous brick, masonry, and natural stone are especially vulnerable to damage and should be avoided in areas where deicing salts are used. Concrete which is properly formulated for environments where freeze-thaw cycles are common resists scaling caused by deicing salts. Corrosion resistant paints and sealers will also minimize the impact of deicing compounds on the hardscape, and are recommended for areas where deicing salts are used.

Indoor Surfaces (floors and carpets) – Residues from deicing chemicals are frequently tracked into buildings and deposited on floors and carpets. Salts degrade wax and other finishes, leaving a dull appearance on floors and requiring more frequent cleaning and maintenance of indoor surfaces. Sodium and potassium chloride salts are relatively easy to remove from floors and carpets. Calcium and magnesium chloride salts, however, leave a greasy film and require wet cleaning with detergents to remove the residue. Abrasive materials such as sand also mar the finish on floors and can be difficult to remove from carpets.

The Environment – Salts move rapidly with water off surfaces and into the surrounding soil. If sufficient water is moving through the soil, components of the salt may leach to ground water. Salt may also run off and enter surface waters, potentially degrading quality and killing fish and other organisms. Certain salts have greater potential for environmental damage than others. For example, nitrogen salts have a high risk for surface and ground water pollution while organic salts (calcium magnesium acetate, CMA) have a high risk for surface water pollution.