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Melting Ice Safely

scientific plant service ice-melitng products

Learn how you can use ice-melting products safely this winter.

Every winter, people apply ice-melting materials to sidewalks, driveways, and steps, often without knowledge of proper application methods and knowing what substances they are applying. Improper use of deicing products can damage both your home and the environment.

  • Overusing some deicers can accelerate the freeze and thaw cycles that damage concrete.
  • Some deicers corrode metal, causing damage.
  • Salts and chemicals in many deicers can damage plants near where the deicer is applied.

Refer to the table below for many of the ice-melting products currently on the market, along with information concerning their effectiveness and safety.

How Deicing Affects the Bay 

While the runoff from your sidewalk may not cause much harm, the combined runoff from sidewalks, driveways, roads, and parking lots can create harmful levels of salts and nutrients that ultimately empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law prohibits using fertilizer to melt ice and snow. The nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer harm streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Ice-Melting Products

ProductMinimum Working Temp (˚F)SpeedDamages Concrete and Metal?Harms Plants
Magnesium Chloride-13Very FastNoModerately
Calcium Chloride-22FastYes*Yes
Sodium Chloride18ModerateYes*Yes
Potassium Chloride25SlowOK on old concreteModerately


*Sodium and calcium chloride are especially damaging to newly poured concrete. These chemicals should also not be applied to brick or stone surfaces.

Ice-melting products are their most effective when spread thinly and evenly over the surface before ice forms. To aid the melting of an ice layer and help with sure footing, mix the deicing product with wet sand and/or ashes.

Salt Damage to Plants

Fortunately, plant damage caused by deicers can often be treated. Salt damage symptoms include:

  • Poor or stunted growth in the spring
  • Dieback on evergreens
  • Marginal leaf browning or leaf scorch on deciduous trees and shrubs

The majority of salt problems can be treated by soaking the affected area with an inch of water three to four times in spring. You may add gypsum to the soil to reduce high sodium levels. Soil replacement may be an option for small areas. If you want to confirm suspected salt damage, test your soil for a detailed report.


Information from the University of Maryland

Scientific Plant Service Is Your Go-To Source In Landscape Healthcare

Scientific Plant Service, located in Baltimore, is a privately owned corporation, chartered in Maryland in 1957 by Frank J. Burke. We started as a full-service Arborists specializing in the care of shade trees and ornamental shrubs, but today we are a Lawn Care company that is a huge part of the community. From aquatic environments and snow management to deer and mole control, SPS has services tailored specifically for your lawn and landscape.

We offer services in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia, including: Harford, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Calvert counties in MD, as well as Loudoun County, Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church in VA. For more information, contact us online, or call us at 410-321-0970. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 12th, 2024 at . Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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