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How to Pre-treat and Prevent Ice Like a Pro

It’s possible to prevent ice buildup—without the mess, and without harm to pets, property, or environment.

image of road being deiced PlaySafe

If you’ve ever seen road crews spraying liquid de-icer before a storm, you may have wondered: “If the pros have a way to prevent ice from forming, why am I out here hauling these heavy bags, spreading messy pellets all over my property, then waiting an hour or two for it to activate before I go back out to clean it up again?”. That’s a very good question. Now, thanks to PlaySAFE Ice Blocker, a Professional Grade product designed for residential applications, you too can prevent ice buildup—without the mess, and without harm to pets, property, or environment. Read on to find out more.

The Scoop on Ice-Melting Salts

Most homeowners are painfully aware that hacking away at the ice that forms on walkways, driveways, and decks following a winter storm can be a dangerous, back-breaking chore. And they are also aware that ice poses a real hazard to passersby, causing slips and falls. But what most homeowners may not be aware of is that the chloride-based products they employ to help melt that ice can actually do more harm than good. That’s because 95% of all pelleted deicers contain one or more of three caustic chloride salts (magnesium chloride, sodium chloride, or calcium chloride). While these granules sometimes help with melting ice, they’re toxic to pets, plants, and lawns, hard on concrete, corrosive to metals, and ultimately can wash down storm drains, poisoning our waterways.

image of man pouring liquid ice melt into a container PlaySafe

Prevention Is the Best Protection

For decades, homeowners have dutifully gone out after a storm, sprinkling copious amounts of chloride-based products around their property in hopes of easing ice removal, without knowing that these products were not particularly safe for their four-legged friends—and in cold weather, they weren’t particularly effective, either. Now, thanks to a new-to-the-home-market, anti-icing pretreatment liquid product, homeowners have the ability to prevent ice before it forms in the first place.

PlaySAFE is an easy-to-apply, acetate-based liquid, based on a formula that the aviation industry, commercial users, and state highway departments have relied on for nearly 30 years. Unlike granular deicers that don’t work until they dissolve into a liquid (and in colder temps may not melt at all), PlaySAFE blocks ice from bonding to surfaces—sort of like cooking spray on a frying pan, without the slippery residue. And best of all, it’s chloride-free, making it a pet-friendly and plant-safe solution.

How It Works

Whenever you hear your local weather people announce that crews are out pretreating roads and bridges, you should be outside too. Grab your pump sprayer and apply PlaySAFE lightly on walkways just before snowfall (tip: It can be applied up to 48 hours before snowfall begins, but the fresher the better). When precipitation starts, the chemicals in PlaySAFE react to form a ½-inch layer of slush that you can easily broom or shovel away to an ice- and slip-free surface, even in really cold weather (-15°F). Rock salt, by the way, is only effective down to 22°F, and urea-based ice melts (which were long considered the gold standard for pet safety) lose all practical effectiveness below 20°F—not to mention that they are significantly more expensive than any chloride-based ice melt.

PlaySAFE will keep ice from bonding to most surfaces, including wood, brick, and concrete. Applying a little extra between cracks or spaces in concrete will help protect against freeze-thaw damage. It’s even safe to apply to decks, as it is noncorrosive to deck screws, metal railings, and hardware. And once applied, it stays put, unlike pellets, which can blow or bounce away and get tracked into your house on the bottom of your shoes (or your pet’s paws!).

PlaySafe ice treatment PlaySafe

What if You Miss the Weather Forecast

PlaySAFE can assist as an ice melt, if the ice is thin. Just spray directly onto ice; as soon as the solution starts to penetrate, you’ll hear the ice begin to crackle. Depending on ice thickness, you may need to reapply every 15 to 20 minutes until all the ice dissolves. PlaySAFE is most effective at room temperature, so be sure to store it indoors for best results. But be warned, liquids have a tendency to sheet across thicker ice, lessening effectiveness. Liquids are excellent anti-icers but are less effective as deicers. The key to defeating ice is to prevent it from forming in the first place.

Small white dog PlaySafe

If You Love Your Pets, Read the Label

Don’t pay a premium for a safety measure that doesn’t exist: A cute dog on the label is no guarantee of a pet-safe product, as pelleted products are not required to disclose their chemical composition—even when safety claims are made. Almost all are salt based, making most granular ice melts either painful to pets’ paws or toxic to their tummies. Pets that lick the product from their paws, or drink from a puddle of melted snow, for example, can easily ingest enough to cause gastric upset and diarrhea. The pellets left behind are easily tracked into your home or your car, making a mess of your flooring and posing a risk for children and pets. And unlike pelleted pet-“safe” products, PlaySAFE ingredients—calcium magnesium acetate, potassium acetate, and water—are totally safe for your pet’s paws, its tummy, and our planet. Remember, if it’s not chloride-free, it’s not pet-safe.

Read more about pet-safe PlaySAFE here, as featured in the Jan/Feb issue of This Old House Magazine.

Easy on Your Wallet—and Your Back

PlaySAFE is cost-effective, too. Just one gallon covers 2,000 square feet and equals the melting power of up to 100 pounds of pellets when applied before snowfall as an anti-icer. Switch to PlaySAFE and stop grunting as you lug those 50-pound bags from your shopping cart to your car to your garage, and out to a slippery sidewalk.

PlaySafe ice treatment PlaySafe

No one has ever fallen on ice that wasn’t there. For more information on safer, smarter, gentler PlaySAFE, visit