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Loss Control Insights

The Dos and Don’ts of Ice Melt (Updated 2021)

Slip and fall injuries by month on bar chart

According to EMC loss analysis, the average cost of a slip and fall injury exceeds $12,000. And slips and falls are much more likely to occur during the winter months. The least expensive way to reduce the likelihood of these accidents is to use ice melt—which is less than $20 a bag! But before you throw that ice melt on your walkways and parking areas, check out these dos and don’ts.

  • Do Follow Directions


    Reference the application instructions for ice melt safety information. For example, when using calcium or magnesium chloride products, you must wear protective gloves. Additionally, you should always wear appropriate footwear when working outdoors on snowy or icy surfaces. Ice cleats or overshoes with abrasive pads are recommended but remember to take them off when re-entering the building.

  • Do Apply Ice Melt at the Right Time


    Ice melt should be applied before precipitation freezes or immediately after clearing snow. Shoveling the slush layer from walkways after the ice melt has done its job helps reduce concrete damage from water absorption and excess thaw/refreeze cycles. Use a commercial quality sealant to help prevent moisture from seeping into the pores and cracks in concrete frequently treated with ice melt.

    When clearing the slushy mixture, avoid dumping it onto landscaping, down drains or close to bodies of water because ice melt solution can harm the environment. Also avoid applying it to new concrete (poured within the past year) as ice melt can damage uncured concrete.

  • Do Use the Right Kind of Ice Melt


    There are many types of ice melt products on the market, each with unique properties and costs. The cost of these blends goes up as the temperature rating goes down. You may want to have more than one type of ice melt on hand. For example, rock salt may be a good choice for late fall or early spring, but a magnesium/calcium chloride blend may be needed in January or February.

Chemical Name Temperature Rating Pros Cons Cost
Sodium Chloride (rock salt) 20℉ - Most common
- Quick to work
- Reduces slipperiness by creating traction
- Works slowly
- Corrosive: damages vehicles, rebar and steel
- Is the most harmful to landscape plants
- Leaves residue
- Harmful to animals
$
Potassium Chloride 12℉ - Less corrosive to concrete and asphalt
- Works more slowly
- Leaves residue
- Harmful to plants in high concentrations
- Moderately corrosive
$$$
Magnesium Chloride 0℉ - Fast-acting
- Long-lasting
- Better for environment
- Used more often than potassium chloride
- More must be used to be effective
- Safer for plants and animals
- Can cause moderate concrete damage
$$
Calcium Chloride -25℉ - Quick to work
- Less can be used and still be effective
- Long-lasting
- Can kill grass and other plants, leaving brown patches
- Can cause skin irritation
$$$$
Blends Depends on the blend - Typically combines products from several categories to improve functionality - Depends on the blend Depends on the blend

  • Don’t Apply Too Much Ice Melt


    Less is more when it comes to ice melt. Applying excessive amounts of ice melt does not speed thawing, can lead to environmental damage and can result in excess product being tracked inside.

    Although a general rule of thumb is to use a half-cup of ice melt per square yard, every ice melt product is different. So, it is important to read the application instructions before using the product.

    Instead of using a scoop or shovel, use a handheld fertilizer spreader for small areas and a walk-behind spreader for larger areas. This will help evenly distribute the ice melt. You can also use a product with a color additive to help with even distribution.

  • Don’t Track Ice Melt Into Your Facility


    Tracking excess ice melt into buildings is a safety hazard. Not only can it damage floors, but the residue on hard-surface floors can reduce traction by more than 40%, leading to indoor slips and falls.

    To help remove ice melt from shoes and boots, use high quality scraper/wiper mats inside and outside all entrances. Be sure to clean them with an extractor or vacuum throughout the day. Change out saturated mats with dry ones and consider adding extra walk-off mats when necessary.

  • Don’t Improperly Store Ice Melt


    Ice melt absorbs moisture, even from the air. To keep it from degrading, clumping or hardening between uses, store bags in airtight containers away from moisture, air and sunlight.

Correctly applying ice melt is just one component of a comprehensive winter slip and fall program. Download EMC’s Winter Slip and Fall Prevention Program Tech Sheet for additional tips. To develop explore other slip and fall resources, check out the EMC’s Slips and Falls safety topic.

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