Strategies for Safeguarding Both Guest and the Environment
by Doug Kievit-Kylar, Pollution Prevention Planner
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Chemical deicers work by melting snow and ice and forming a liquid brine. This brine seeps downward to contact paved and other impervious surfaces, spreads outward breaking the bond between ice and cold surfaces, and makes it possible to physically loosen and remove whole sheets of compacted snow and ice. Used in advance of icing conditions this brine can also prevent ice from forming on surfaces.
Salt comes in several forms; sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride to name but a few. Sodium chloride, or simple table salt, has been used for many years as the deicer of choice largely because of its abundance, effectiveness, and its low cost. There are, however, other costs not often factored into calculations used to determine which deicer to use. Salt poses environmental and human health risk as a potential drinking water contaminant, as a desiccant stressing salt-intolerant vegetation, and as a corrosive effecting both metal and concrete. Calcium and magnesium chloride (not sodium chloride) that is carried into the building on the soles of people's feet can seriously stain indoor carpets. For tips on how to best remove these stains, please visit the Salt Institute's Website at: http://www.saltinstitute.org/29.html.
According to researchers at Iowa State University, there are five chemicals commonly used as deicers. Alternative deicers claiming to be more environmentally friendly are often a combination of these five chemicals blended to minimize environmental risks while optimizing performance and cost-effectiveness. Understanding the properties of these five chemicals can help you decide which deicer best suits your circumstances (Iowa State University):
Always follow label directions when using a deicing product. However, any deicer that is mixed with equal parts of sand can help reduce the use of the deicer and provide grit for added traction. You can reduce the amount of sand tracked into the building by choosing deep tray-type doormats with stiff bristles guests can use to "clean" their shoes and boots before entering. Another removable mat placed in the reception area can help protect permanent surfaces beneath them.
Because some plants are more salt-tolerant than others, consult with your landscaper when deciding on which plants to use in beds near walkways and parking lots subject to deicing agents.
Here at the Agency of Natural Resources, the Buildings and Grounds crew uses two blended products for sidewalk deicing. One is a blend of potassium chloride, sodium chloride, urea, and methyl glucoside. This blend is effective to 0 degrees F. The other is a blend of sodium chloride, CMA, sodium silicates, and ethanol amines. This blend is effective to -8 degrees F.
Another alternative to deicers being tried by the State is heated walkways. At the Waterbury State Office Complex, there are now two concrete pads at busy entryways to the building. Embedded within these insulated pads are flexible pipes for carrying hot water. The water gives up its heat to the concrete and prevents snow and ice from accumulating. The energy costs of such a system should be taken into account when considering this novel approach.
Winter Deicing Agents for the
Deicing Compounds and Utah
How Ice Melters Work
Deicing Materials for Slick Sidewalks and Roads
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