De-icing in a lawn.

Is De-Icing a Good Idea for Your Lawn?

De-icing products can effectively melt ice, but is applying it to your lawn a good idea? In this article, we will discuss what de-icing means, the pros and cons of applying de-icers on your lawn, and more.

What to Know About De-Icing

What Is De-Icing?

De-icing isn’t new for many who have been living through Canada’s typically snowy winters. It’s one of the ways to keep walking surfaces free of snow and reduce the risk of debilitating falls and vehicular accidents. It’s also the answer to the common question of how to melt ice on a lawn.

De-icing products are mostly made of salt derivatives. These compounds lower the freezing point of water. You can use de-icers in three ways. The first is by applying it before snowfall to reduce snow build-up. You can also apply the product to melt the snow left after cleaning it manually. Lastly, you can use the product to break down ice after it starts to accumulate.

The best thing about de-icing is that you’ll see results in less than 30 minutes of application. The fast effect makes de-icers a popular snow removal option. De-icers work wonders on pavement and concrete sidewalks. But if you plan to use it in or near your lawn or garden, take caution and learn more about it beforehand.

Pros and Cons of Using De-Icing Products on a Lawn

It’s always a best practice to weigh de-icer advantages and disadvantages if you plan to use it on your lawn. Let’s look at the pros and cons of using de-icing products on your lawn.

The advantages of de-icing products include time and labor efficiency. Unlike shoveling, applying de-icers does not take as much time. You only have to spread a thin layer of the product evenly on a surface and wait for it to take effect. It will melt the ice within about 15 to 30 minutes. De-icers are also relatively affordable and widely available.

On the downside, using de-icers containing salt can seriously injure or kill plants. When spring comes, you may even need to reseed areas. Additionally, de-icing compounds that accumulate because of poor drainage can compromise soil quality. Sodium causes clay particles in the soil to expand, which increases soil compaction and reduces water infiltration. If the substance concentration becomes extremely high, the soil’s physical structure may even become unsuitable for some grass species.

With the turf’s health on the line, it’s apparent that the cons of using de-icers on lawns outweigh the pros.

The good news is that you can now find de-icing products specially formulated to be safe for the environment.

Does ice melter damage grass? Yes, some ice melting compounds harm grass and other plants. It will depend on the type of ice melter you use. Find some common alternatives to damaging de-icing products below. 

Alternatives to De-Icing Products That Are Safer for Your Lawn

Sodium chloride or rock salt is perhaps the most widely used de-icing material because it’s cheap. Unfortunately, it’s not the best choice for lawns because it’s deadly for grass. Therefore, you have to use an alternative to remove snow from your lawn without causing any damage.

Although more expensive and often harder to find, these products will melt the snow without burning grass.

  • Magnesium Chloride – This de-icer can work well down to -17 degrees Celsius and is a widely-used ice melt product on roadways. Although it is less harmful to plants than sodium chloride, magnesium chloride can cause significant damage to concrete.
  • Calcium Chloride – It’s a relatively safe choice for landscapes and lawns if applied properly. It can melt ice up to -31°C, which makes it ideal for colder areas. But it’s corrosive, so be careful when using it near anything metal.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate – This is another fairly safe de-icer for plants, mainly because it does not contain chloride, nitrogen, or urea and has low corrosive properties. It performs best at a temperature of at least -28°C.

The de-icing products above may be safer for plants, but that doesn’t mean they won’t harm the grass at all. Proper application is necessary to ensure the ice melt products won’t burn the plants.

If you practice organic lawn care, there are other natural options for handling snow, such as sugar beet juice, vinegar, and coffee grounds. Some may also recommend sand and kitty litter. You can use both, but only for adding traction to slippery areas on your property. They don’t melt snow and ice.

If you haven’t planted turfgrass yet, are planning to reseed your entire lawn, and don’t want to worry constantly about the grass getting salt damage, consider planting a more salt-tolerant variety like fine fescue grass.

How to De-Ice Your Lawn Safely and Effectively

Learning and practicing the proper way to apply de-icing products is crucial to preventing or minimizing possible plant damage. But even if you know how to de-ice your lawn properly, the lawn won’t be completely safe from damage if there’s poor drainage. So before de-icing, ensure your lawn has fully functioning drainage.

Before going outdoors to de-ice, thoroughly read the label on the product packaging. Labels usually contain instructions on product application. When you’re ready, you can use a mechanical spreader, especially when applying de-icer on large areas. Spreading the product manually also works, but ensure you wear gloves or use a cup.

Wash your hands properly after handling any de-icer, including the natural alternatives. Also, clean your tools, especially the spreader.

Common Issues That Can Arise From Not Properly De-Icing Your Lawn

Improper application of de-icer products can lead to a host of problems. Burning grass is just one of them. Another issue you might cause is compromising water quality. If you use sodium chloride and don’t follow the proper method of de-icing, the salt can end up in waterways and affect fish and marine life. A high amount of chloride is toxic to fish, amphibians, and aquatic bugs.

Aside from that, excessive use of de-icing salts can corrode metals and degrade concrete. So you may end up with more expensive repair and maintenance issues if you don’t properly de-ice your lawn.

With all these risks, it may seem like waiting for warmer temperatures is the best way to melt the snow naturally. While it’s possible, not de-icing your lawn also comes with risks. When snow accumulates on the lawn, it will compress the grass. Over time, grass blades are likely to bend over and become matted. It may also result in other problems like snow mold. You’ll likely end up calling an expert in lawn care near you to fix the damage.

Don’t Let Snow and Ice Ruin Your Lawn

Proper de-icing is just one of many tasks necessary to minimize winter damage to your lawn. You have to do many other tasks, including feeding the lawn with winterizing fertilizer, aerating compacted soil, and cutting the grass to the right height. All these preparations will ensure your grass sleeps well in the winter and bounces back in the spring.

All the necessary tasks to keep your lawn beautiful and healthy may be a bit overwhelming. When taking care of your lawn in winter becomes a bit of a hassle, you can rely on lawn care professionals like LawnMart to do the heavy lifting. This way, you can stay indoors and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while watching the snowfall or your favorite TV show.

Whether you need help de-icing your property or preparing your lawn for winter, you can count on us. Learn more about our lawn care services or contact us for a free quote today.

Michael Schäfer

President – LawnMart Inc.

Years of Experience: 31 Years

  • Land Class 1 and 3 Licenses Since 1993
  • Pest Control Operator License Since 1995
  • PIC Accredited Pest Technician Examiner Since 2004
  • Biting Flies Control License Since 2020

Michael Schäfer is President and Founder of LawnMart Inc. After training privately under Dr. Larry Whiddell of Ohio State University, he became a Lawn Technician at Barefoot Grass Lawn Services (1993) and leveled up to Tree/Shrub Care Manager before taking over all Canadian operations as Area Manager. In 1996, Michael founded LawnMart Inc., which has since grown into a multi-award-winning company that cares for thousands of lawns in the Golden Horseshoe area.