Winter ice and deicers

Using deicers to clear ice and snow from walks and driveways can harm pets, vegetation and the environment. Knowing which type of deicer works best in difference situations can help reduce negative impacts.

Snow and ice are an unchangeable fact of Michigan winters, and this year is no exception. There are many different ways to deal with this precipitation ranging from physical removal to chemical compounds. The first step in dealing with ice and snow on driveways and sidewalks is to determine what you want to accomplish. Do you want to simply increase traction to reduce the potential of a slip and fall? Or do you want to remove ice and snow for a clear, clean pavement?

In every case, Michigan State University Extension recommends that you clear these surfaces of as much snow as possible by shoveling before applying any product. This will allow whatever chemical you choose to work most efficiently while minimizing the amount needed.

The following table outlines the products available, their use and advantages and disadvantages of each.


Made of




Sodium Chloride (rock salt or halite)


Roads, driveways, sidewalks


Keeps moisture from accumulating on surfaces

Damages concrete;

Can kill vegetation;

Harmful to pets;

Not effective below 15 degrees Fahrenheit

Calcium Chloride


Gives off heat as it dissolves which melts quicker than salt

Works well at very low temperatures

(-25 degrees F);

Melts ice, snow on contact;

Not as damaging to vegetation as salt

Costs more;

May damage concrete;

Leaves slimy residue;

Corrosive on metal

Manganese Chloride


Similar to Calcium Chloride

Less corrosive than Calcium Chloride;

Safer for vegetation and on concrete


Potassium Chloride


Works well when mixed equal parts with rock salt

Melts ice to 12 degrees F;

Relatively safe if used properly

More expensive than other products;

Over-application can be harmful to vegetation

Calcium Manganese Acetate (CMA)

Dolomitic limestone and acetic acid (main ingredient in vinegar)

Prevents snow flakes from sticking together on surfaces

Little effect on vegetation or concrete;

Effectiveness decreases below 20 degrees F;

Does not form brine as salt does;

Prevents re-freezing rather than melting snow and ice

Leaves a slush on surfaces



Commonly used as fertilizer

Melts ice down to 15 degrees F

Over-application can harm vegetation

Natural Products


Wood chips

Saw dust

Kitty litter

Effective for gritty, anti-slip qualities;

Often mixed with ice melt products to reduce chemical use

Provides traction for walking, driving

Depending on product used will have spring clean up on driveways and sidewalks

All deicers have some potential to damage vegetation and concrete and corrode metal.

Whichever product or products you choose, take the following precautions:

  • Do not over apply any of these products.
  • Follow label instructions accurately.
  • Wear gloves as ice melt chemicals can irritate your skin.
  • All products will have some environmental impact. Determine which impact you can live with to obtain the results you want.
  • Flush vegetation with water if spills or over use has occurred or damage appears on plants.
  • Do not use deicers on new concrete that has not fully cured.
  • Sweep up any salt or chemical residue as soon as the snow melts in the spring to reduce pollution into local waterways.

And remember spring is coming!

For more information on deicer chemicals on landscape plants, visit Salt damage on landscape plants.

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