Choose Nicer Deicers
Think beyond rock salt for ice melters that won't pose a risk to your environment and furry friends
While common rock salt (sodium chloride) is the active ingredient in most low-priced ice melt, its use can be costly: It leaches into soil and waterways, corrodes concrete and metal, and poses a health risk to animals. To find a better choice, depending on where you need to use it, look past bold-print claims on deicer packaging and let the contents do the talking.
Look for: Magnesium or calcium chloride and/or urea
Why: While all chlorides are salts, magnesium and calcium won't harm yards like sodium can. Urea is also in fertilizers—good for plants in small doses.
Product picks: Safe Step Mag Chloride 8300 earned Environmental Protection Agency recognition for ingredients that pose a low risk to the environment (about $10; nasalt.com). WinterGreen is made of urea pellets coated in ice-melting calcium chloride (about $35; ossian.com).
Look for: Potassium acetate, or corn and sugar-beet extracts
Why: Potassium acetate won't corrode paving (though it may make bare areas slick if overapplied). Plant-based extracts act as corrosion inhibitors to deicing chlorides.
Product picks: Potassium acetate–based liquid IceClear (about $30; montereylawngarden.com) and Bare Ground Solution (about $15; bareground.com), with corn extract, can prevent ice or be used later to melt it.
Look for: Propylene glycol
Why: An additive that absorbs water to melt ice, it's nontoxic if ingested and won't irritate skin. But use sparingly; in runoff, it can lower oxygen levels in waterways, potentially harming aquatic life.
Product picks: Safe Paw Ice Melter deices and curbs refreezing for up to three days (about $25; safepaw.com). Safe-T-Pet combines propylene glycol and urea for a pet-safe mix that's kinder to plants, too (about $12; mortonsalt.com).