While several ice melt manufacturers tout “green” or eco-friendly blends, there are few green-certified ice melters on the market. Currently, the only third-party green product certifier for ice melt is through the U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Program.

A spokesperson for DfE says there are about 24 trade name green ice melt products made by nine companies, with a mix of institutional and consumer product uses.

According to the requirements, an ice melt product under DfE is one that melts ice and snow at temperatures below the freezing point of water, and not a product that simply aids traction like sand.

To meet the qualifications for certification, an ice melt must show a reduction in sodium and chloride use of at least 30 percent and meet the Pacific Snow Fighters’ criteria for product performance and reduction in corrosiveness to steel. To be acceptable, a corrosion-inhibition chemical product must have a percent effectiveness value of at least 70 percent less than sodium chloride, the website says.

As with all DfE-labeled products, ice melt must meet the requirements in the DfE Standard for Safer Products, including their safer ingredient criteria, as well as the DfE supplemental criteria for ice melts specifically. Currently, DfE-certified ice melt:
• Cannot contain cyanide as an anti-caking agent;
• Must function at temperatures less than zero degrees Fahrenheit; and
• Be labeled under a DfE partnership agreement in which the product manufacturer has agreed to a customer education/training plan to ensure proper product use and application and use. 

“The primary benefit of a DfE-labeled ice melt is the decrease in sodium and chloride that would be released to the environment during use, excesses or imbalances of these chemicals in the environment can be harmful to animal and plant life,” an EPA spokesperson says. 

Effectiveness Of Green Ice Melt

It’s clear that customers are embracing “green” products overall, yet distributors say green ice melt can be a hard sell.

In addition to acknowledging green ice melts’ higher price tags, some custodial managers just don’t believe the product is effective, says Charles Moody, president at Solutex Inc., in Sterling, Va.

“There are still some perceptions that ‘green’ doesn’t work,” says Moody. “But it’s very effective. Just educate your customers on the facts, and on the melting points.”

Certified green ice melt blends that are made with calcium chloride and magnesium chloride actually have lower ice melting points than rock salt alone. Because these elements also draw in moisture more quickly than sodium chloride (which creates the chemical reaction needed to melt ice), it also melts the ice faster.

Though it depends on the specific ice melt blend, green ice melting points vary from about 0 degrees Fahrenheit to below minus 15 degrees. Contrarily, rock salt begins to lose its effectiveness at temperatures under 15 degrees Fahrenheit. 

End users should look beyond what is printed on the bag and read the information contained on the safety data sheet to gauge melting points and ingredient lists, says Moody. They should also make sure to follow the instructions for application.

In the end, choosing an eco-friendly ice melt is better for the environment.

“Ice melt is just like any other green product; it can fall into [problems] where the words ‘green, pet-safe, eco-’ can be misleading,” says Moody. “It’s a non-regulated product so there isn’t as much scrutiny, which is why a third-party certification is so important.” 

STEPHANIE S. BEECHER is the associate editor of Contracting Profits magazine, a sister publication to Facility Cleaning Decisions.

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Ice Melt's Place In A Green Cleaning Program