Road Salt Can Create a Slippery Slope's featured image

It’s so important for everyone’s safety to salt sidewalks, stairs and driveways in the winter. But sadly, the overuse of road salt has become a critical threat to our freshwater and wildlife. Road salt contains chloride, which is toxic to the environment. While it melts slippery ice conditions, the runoff seeps into the soil, flows from roads and parking lots into sewers, and eventually makes its way into our creeks, rivers and wetlands.

In fact, reports from the World Wildlife Federation indicate that in the winter some urban creeks become as salty as the ocean, and come spring create uninhabitable environments for vegetation and freshwater wildlife. It actually changes the chemistry of the freshwater ecosystems. Fish, frogs and mussels aren’t made for salty conditions, and much like we humans would have adverse effects from a change in oxygen levels, salty conditions affect wildlife’s breathing, reproduction and overall health.

We need to find a balance between public safety and environmental stewardship. Here are some simple and effective ideas:

  • Know the Basics. Road salt is only effective between 0 and -10 degrees.
  • Follow this Golden Rule. Salt is only for ice, not snow removal and should be used sparingly. It only takes about 2 ½ tablespoons, the size of a teeny tiny film canister, to clear a full square metre!
  • Shovel regularly, especially after a snowfall, and keep drains clear to help prevent icy conditions.
  • Consider organic salt-free deicers. They may cost a little bit more than salt but will do the job just as well. Look for products without sodium or chloride in their ingredients.
  • Sand, ash from the fireplace, kitty litter and coffee grinds may provide some relief. Sprinkled over icy surfaces they will provide traction and although they won’t quickly melt the ice, their dark colour will absorb heat from the sun helping snow and ice to melt during the day.

Did you know? In 2019, the City of Calgary expanded its beet brine program, and the City of Winnipeg followed suit by expanding its pilot program. Pre-treating their roads with beet, pickle or cheese brine when they know icy conditions are coming has allowed them to reduce road salt application significantly. If you don’t mind a bright purple driveway, this may be the solution for you too!

At MOLLY MAID, we are more than happy to assist you with your cleaning needs—from stubborn kitchen stains to bathroom deep cleans, there is no job too big or small! Contact us today for a free, no-obligation estimate.