The Dos and Don’ts of De-Icing: Winter Maintenance Tips You Need

As the mercury dips and the landscape is painted with frost, the beauty of winter is often accompanied by the slick, treacherous challenge of ice. 

Whether it’s a driveway that leads you home, a parking lot that welcomes your customers, or the sidewalks where the neighborhood kids play, failing to de-ice these areas can turn them into hazardous zones. 

However not all de-icing methods are created equal, and doing it improperly can be just as perilous as not doing it at all. Before the next frost sets in, let’s arm ourselves with the knowledge to keep our landscapes safe and accessible, all while preserving their integrity.

Why De-Icing is Important

A sheet of ice is more than a slippery inconvenience; it’s a liability. For homeowners, it can mean the risk of family members suffering from falls. For businesses, it implies potential lawsuits from customers who take a tumble in the parking lot. And for everyone, there’s the risk of long-term damage to the very surfaces we’re trying to make safe. 

Effective de-icing is essential not only for immediate safety but also to prevent costly repairs caused by aggressive or improper de-icing techniques.

Dos and Don’ts of De-Icing

Embarking on the de-icing process without a clear plan is like stepping onto the ice itself – you need to tread carefully. The right strategies ensure safety and protect your property, while the wrong ones can lead to damage that only becomes apparent when the spring thaw arrives.

Do #1: Choose the Right De-Icing Material

The shelves are stocked with a variety of de-icing materials, from rock salt to calcium chloride, and each has its place. 

Rock salt is the old standby, effective and economical, but it can be harsh on plants and concrete and loses its efficacy below 15°F (-9°C). 

Calcium chloride, on the other hand, can melt ice in temperatures as low as -25°F (-32°C), and it’s less harmful to vegetation. But it can be more expensive. 

Selecting the right de-icer for your climate, the environmental impact, and the surfaces you’re treating is critical to ensure that you’re not causing more harm than good.

Do #2: Apply De-Icer Before the Storm

The saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure‘ holds true in de-icing. 

Applying a de-icer before snowfall or an ice storm can prevent ice from bonding to the surface, making it easier to remove afterward. This proactive approach can reduce the amount of de-icing product needed and the physical effort to clear the ice. It’s about staying ahead of the weather, not just chasing after it.

Do #3: Use the Right Equipment

When the ice won’t budge with preventative measures, it’s time to bring out the tools. But not just any shovel will do. A plastic shovel or a snow blower with rubber blades is less likely to gouge your surfaces than metal tools. And when it comes to breaking up thick ice, opt for a blunt-edged ice chopper rather than a sharp, potentially surface-damaging pick. 

Equip yourself with the right tools, and you’ll be able to clear the ice more effectively and with less risk of damaging your driveway, parking lot, or sidewalk.

Do #4: Spread De-Icer Evenly and at the Recommended Rate

Applying de-icer haphazardly can lead to uneven melting and refreezing, which only exacerbates the problem. It’s vital to spread your chosen de-icing product evenly across surfaces, ensuring a uniform melting process. 

Additionally, more de-icer doesn’t necessarily mean better results; it can harm your landscaping and lead to runoff that damages local waterways. Stick to the manufacturer’s recommended rate of application. This ensures that you use just enough to melt the ice without causing unnecessary environmental harm or damage to your property.

Don’t #1: Wait Until Ice Forms Before Taking Action

Delaying de-icing until after ice has formed is a common mistake. By then, it’s often too late to prevent the bond between ice and surface, making removal much more difficult and requiring more de-icer or salt, which can be detrimental to the environment and your surfaces. Always monitor the weather and apply preventative measures before the ice settles in.

Don’t #2: Neglect to Clear Snow Before De-Icing

Neglecting to clear snow before de-icing can result in the de-icing product being less effective or wasted altogether. Snow can act as an insulating blanket over the ice, meaning you’ll need more de-icer to break through to the ice layer. Clear away as much snow as possible before applying a de-icer to ensure that it works directly on the ice.

Don’t #3: Use De-Icing Products on Damaged Concrete

Applying de-icing products to cracked or damaged concrete can exacerbate the damage. Water from melted ice can seep into cracks and refreeze, leading to expansion and further deterioration. Repair any damage to concrete surfaces before the cold weather sets in to prevent this issue and avoid using de-icers on areas that are already compromised.

Don’t #4: Forget to Protect Landscaping and Adjacent Areas

While focusing on de-icing, it’s easy to forget about the surrounding landscaping and structures. 

De-icing products can be harmful to plants and can corrode metal or damage other materials. Take measures to protect these areas, such as covering plants with burlap sacks and being mindful of where de-icer might run off. Consider using more eco-friendly options like sand or coffee grounds for traction in sensitive areas.


De-icing is an essential part of winter maintenance that, when done correctly, can save time, protect your investment, and most importantly, keep people safe. 

Remember to choose the right de-icing material, apply it before the storm, use the correct equipment, and spread it evenly at the recommended rate. Avoid waiting until ice forms, neglecting to clear snow before de-icing, using products on damaged concrete, and forgetting about the safety of your landscaping. 

By following these dos and don’ts, your driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks will remain safe and intact throughout the coldest months. As you prepare for winter’s chill, arm yourself with these tips, and your winter landscape will be less about icy perils and more about the serene beauty of the season.