December 03, 2023

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Understanding Deicers

Understanding Deicers

by Linda Chambers, Soap Warehouse/GCE

Many of you work outside with water which, in the cold temperatures, can freeze into ice. So at some point you could face the issue of having ice in and around your work areas, even when using hot water machines.

Safety of workers and the general public are always important, but particularly when ice can create slipping hazards. In cold weather the first way to avoid this is to limit where and the amount of water that will run out onto walkways and into vehicle areas. Of course, if that is what you are cleaning, water cannot be avoided. However, what you do after the cleaning can help avoid trouble.

Do not allow water to stand in an area. You may need to brush out or blow out puddles. Leave the surface as dry as possible right after cleaning.

To counter the water freezing, you most likely will want to use a deicing product, like ice melt, to keep things safe in pedestrian traffic areas. But there is a right and wrong way to use these products.

Types of Deicers

There are many different types of ice melts to choose from so let’s go over them now.

Nearly all deicers are made from one, or a blend of, five chemical materials: calcium chloride, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and urea. What makes these products different will be how quickly they work and at what temperatures. This is determined by whether the deicer releases or absorbs heat upon contact with snow and ice.

The fastest acting are the exothermic deicers, which release heat via chemical reaction and are effective at the widest range of temperatures. Calcium chloride granules, for instance, are effective down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Faster acting, lower-temp products will cost you more
as a rule.

The slower acting deicers are the endothermic, which are those that need the sun’s heat to break down ice into brine. These work more slowly and, since they depend on the sun, may not work when you need them to. These will be less expensive and have a higher effective temperature range, like sodium chloride granules that only get down to about -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Things To Consider When Using Deicers 

There is also the consideration of residue. You do not want to leave your customer with a mess to clean up after you have cleaned their property so well. Some ice melt, like those containing sodium chloride, will leave a white powdery residue that if tracked into a home or business can damage floor finishes and carpet fibers. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride can leave behind an oily residue that can damage urethane or wax finishes used on wood floors, can be very slippery on hard surfaces, and is a dirt attracter in carpets.

Make sure your customers are aware that you have used a deicing product on their property and in what areas.

Instruct them to wipe their feet so not to track the residue into their location and to rinse the product off once the temperatures have risen enough for ice to no longer be an issue.

If possible, you should do the rinsing to remove the product yourself before leaving the job. But do what is safest.

How to Use Deicers

Application is key to getting the best result at the lowest possible cost. I know it is hard, but the first thing you need to do is read the directions for that specific product. Just because you have used a deicer in the past does not mean the one you are planning on using now is applied in the same way.

Many traditional deicers require you to wear gloves, like with calcium or magnesium chloride, but there are some newer “green” products that are safe to handle. Check to see if the product lists any surface it cannot be applied on, like concrete less than a year old, or asphalt. There are shaker bottles you can use to keep your hands off the products as well.

More is not better with deicers. Read what the coverage ratios are for the product, which can vary greatly – for instance, two pounds per 100 square feet vs. four pounds per 500. I think it is best to use a mechanical spreader and not just your hands or a scoop to get the best distribution of the product. I suggest buying a cheap hand-crank seed spreader and store it with the deicer.

You also do not have to cover the entire work area. Around the edges and a few passes down the middle or in pie cuts will be enough as the product will dissolve with the ice into liquid and spread out treating the entire work area. If you are spreading it out as a preventative while you are working, apply where the water will most likely collect and freeze.

Check out some of the newer deicers that now can come in colors, making it easier to see where they have been applied and are much safer for us, landscape and pets. There are even liquids that you can apply with a pump-up sprayer on top of any areas you get wet to prevent them from freezing over.

The biggest mistake contractors make with deicers is not using them at all. Do not set yourself up for a lawsuit or employee injury just because you don’t want to spend a few dollars to remove or keep ice out of your work area on a job.

Here is to all of you having a safe winter!

About the Author
Linda Chambers is the Brand & Sales Manager for Soap Warehouse brand soaps, part of the Georgia Chemical Equipment (GCE) Company. She enjoys writing articles, blogging, and marketing for the company websites ad social media. To learn more, visit

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