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5 Environmentally Friendly Ways to Melt Ice at Your Facilities

January 15, 2020 9:50 AM by Tennant Company

Posted in Best Practices

a person wearing snow boots walking on a icy sidewalk

Living with Snow

We’ve just entered the official winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that many of us are dealing with snow, slush, and ice on our roads, parking lots and sidewalks. The U.S Department of Transportation reports 70% of United States roads are located in snowy regions, which means they receive over 5” of snowfall annually. Additionally, nearly 70% of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions.

For facilities managers and maintenance professionals, ice can be one of the more dangerous hazards that need to be addressed. Slippery areas can lead to slip and fall accidents and injuries for building occupants and visitors. With varying degrees of temperature change, the forming of ice on pathways is a constant job to maintain and upkeep.

So how do most manage this task efficiently and effectively?

One of the most common ways to de-ice outdoor surfaces is to sprinkle rock salt on them. The salt used on roads and other icy areas is halite, which is a natural mined mineral form of salt. Rock salt is much coarser than table salt, but it is the same sodium chloride molecule that makes it. While rock salt is helpful in melting ice, there is mounting evidence that it’s also harming the environment.


Just 1 teaspoon of road salt pollutes 5 gallons of water forever. ¹


How Salt Impacts the Environment

According to a article, a recent study suggests that salt concentrations in many U.S. lakes will fall outside the bounds necessary for healthy aquatic plants, animals and microorganisms —and for good-tasting drinking water —by 2050.


After road are salted, the salt flows into lakes and streams as the snow and ice melts, and once snow is in a body of water, it’s nearly impossible to remove. Additionally, chloride – a mineral in salt that contaminates water – is also toxic to fish, aquatic life and birds. Salt can also hurt your pooch’s paws or cause problems if ingested.

And while salt is harmful to animals, it can also impact groundwater by making drinking water taste salty, and cause corrosion to bridges, vehicles and other structures.


blue salt rock on black asphalt walkway

Rock salt is an effective way to melt ice, but also flows into our lakes, streams, and other water sources. 

brown sand and kitty litter mixture sprinkled on sidewalk as an alternative to salt

One salt-free option is sand, however, it only helps provide additional traction on walkways, and becomes ineffective if covered with snow.

Shoveling or snow blowing snow in a timely manner is the best, and most environmentally friendly, way to prevent snow and ice build-up. 


Did you know? Salt becomes ineffective below 15°Fahrenheit.



Alternative Solutions to Salt for De-Icing

We obviously need to keep our facility’s walkways slip-free, so what is the more eco-friendly solution? Here are some options:

Organic Salt-Free Deicer: Salt substitutes offer the same benefit of salt without the environmental damage and can easily be purchased from your local hardware store.

Alfalfa Meal: Commonly used as fertilizer, Alfalfa Meal is 100% natural and another great alternative to salt for deicing walkways. According to Farmers’ Almanac, the dry and grainy texture will provide additional traction while melting ice. 

Sand, kitty litter or sawdust: While these are not deicers, they will provide additional traction if they are sprinkled directly on top of ice. However, if they get covered with snow, they will not be effective.

Heated mats: Placing heated mats on your stairs or walkways can help ensure no ice will build up in commonly used areas. In addition to lowering the maintenance you can reduce the potential for slip and fall issues at your facility.

It should be noted that heated mats could be viewed as an investment due to the price point. The money invested on these heated mats in theory will decrease cost for other on-going snow removal materials.

Shoveling and snow blowing: Consistent shoveling and snow removal is the best way to prevent ice from building up on your walkways and parking lots in the first place. Shoveling and snow blowing often ensures snow won’t compact and freeze.

Safe and Environmentally Conscious

Businesses often have pressure to keep costs low while also keeping floors and walkways clean and dry, which can be a challenging task. With proper attention and care to removing snow in the first place, a limited amount of salt or salt-free alternatives will be needed; saving money and protecting the environment.


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