Using Sidewalk Salt Responsibly

Salt can make sidewalks and roadways safer, but it also harms pets and wildlife, pollutes drinking water, and corrodes buildings, cars and bridges. Use salt wisely by following these steps:

1. Shovel

Clear walkways before snow turns to ice, and before you apply salt. The more snow you clear manually, the less salt you’ll need.

snow shovel graphic

2. Select

Salt doesn’t melt ice if the pavement is below 15 degrees, so use sand for traction when it’s too cold, or choose a different de-icer.

Switch to sand when it gets too cold

3. Scatter

Use salt only where it’s critical. When you apply salt to pavement, leave plenty of space between granules. A 12-ounce coffee cup of salt is enough to cover 10 sidewalk squares or a 20-foot driveway.

Scatter salt evenly

4. Sweep

Clean up leftover salt, sand, and de-icer to save and reuse as needed.

Switch to sand when it gets too cold

The high cost of salt

Plow truck spreading saltMinnesota uses about 350,000 tons of salt a year in winter maintenance. That costs tax payers 25 million dollars a year, but the damages are estimated at 375 million dollars per year. That much salt permanently pollutes more than a quarter trillion gallons of water, affects our lakes, streams and ground water, has lasting impacts on roads, bridges, buildings, and vehicles, and can harm pets, people, wildlife and plants.

Salt and Deicer Comparison

Virtually all salt and deicer compounds and blends are damaging to the environment as well as harmful to concrete, metal and other materials. Some will work in lower temperatures than others. Here is a comparison of some common deicers and their various properties.

Melting AgentLowest Melting Temp.*Things to Know
Urea20°FPromotes algae growth in waterways; over-application can harm plants; pet-safe; slow-acting
Sodium Chloride (NaCl)15°FHarmful to plants; harmful to concrete; very corrosive to metal; cheap and abundant
Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2)-10°FHarmful to plants; corrosive to metal; relatively high cost
Potassium Acetate (KAc)-15°FCan cause surface slickness; lowers oxygen levels in waterways; biodegradable; relatively high-cost
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)-20°FCorrosive to metal; leaves slimy residue; less harmful to concrete
SandNo meltingProvides traction only; potential pollutant; can be swept up and re-used

Comparison table courtesy MWMO


Learn more about state and metro-wide efforts to protect lake, streams and groundwater from chloride contamination:

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