Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
September 2013 Feature 7
solar evaporation deicing

Deicing Products Go Green

As the desire for sustainable solutions grows, ice melt options prove responsible.

September 11, 2013

There’s no question that the trend toward green is taking hold in the maintenance industry.

Some maintenance professionals require the use of products that are proven safe for the environment, and they look for objective third-party verification of this claim.

Others select environmentally friendly products whenever they can.

And everyone is interested in how these products are produced, ensuring that natural resources and the environment are conserved.   

Like many companies, there are ways for a salt production company to protect the environment, conserve energy, increase efficiency, reduce waste and deliver effective products that are also environmentally-friendly.

That might seem difficult to accomplish within the deicing industry, however traditional production processes, certain transportation methods and recent advances in product formulations make ice melt more environmentally friendly than people think.

Environmentally-friendly Products  

Deicing minerals such as salt and magnesium chloride are naturally occurring elements that are effective at melting ice.

Magnesium chloride, in particular, offers several environmental advantages. It provides superior ice melting capability — down to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 32 degrees Celsius.

It is also safer for pets, vegetation and concrete, which is particularly important for professionals who are responsible for maintaining landscaping and concrete as well as removing ice and snow.

Two deicing products produced by our company that contain magnesium chloride have received the Design for the Environment (DfE) label – a distinction awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to products that meet stringent guidelines for environmental safety.

The EPA’s DfE label is awarded after the agency’s review team screens each ingredient contained in a product and finds each to pose the least concern among similar products in its class.

In the case of these deicers, the DfE label indicates the use of natural, environmentally-friendly additives; the ability to achieve safe, clear surfaces with less overall product use; and the use of a non-staining colorant that improves the precision of application.

Earth-friendly Production

Salt, a key ingredient in many deicers, occurs naturally and is produced through several methods, including underground mining.

Salt mining is safer for the environment than many other forms of mining because it produces virtually no waste.

The only thing removed from the mines is salt, and whatever we can’t use is left underground.

Since no water is used in the rock salt mining process, there’s no water runoff or risk of groundwater contamination.   

Solar evaporation is another process by which minerals are produced.

In fact, solar evaporation is the oldest and most energy-efficient method of mineral production, and it’s the process by which we produce the magnesium chloride used in our deicers.

For more than 40 years, our solar production facility in the Great Salt Lake in Utah has used the sun as the primary source of energy for an evaporation process that produces minerals such as salt and magnesium chloride.

High saline water is drawn from the Great Salt Lake’s most remote areas into shallow solar evaporation ponds.

The sun naturally evaporates the water in these ponds over a three-year period, leaving behind naturally occurring minerals that are then processed to make ice melt and other products.

It’s a very green way to produce all-natural deicers.

In fact, achieving the same annual evaporation rates without solar power would require burning 14 million tons of coal and releasing 37 million tons of carbon dioxide. 

While solar evaporation is already an environmentally-friendly production process, we found a way to make the process even more efficient with patent-pending, pond-sealing technology.

Initiated by our team of engineers, we pioneered a way to increase the amount of minerals we harvest from these ponds without increasing our water use.

By creating an impermeable barrier between the pond water and the lake, we reduce brine loss and retain more of the most concentrated brine for evaporation.

Green Transportation

Water transportation is one of the greenest ways to move bulky materials.

It minimizes emissions and uses four times less fuel compared with transporting an equal amount of product over the same distance by truck.

Ships and barges deliver rock salt to our packaging facilities where it is produced into deicing products.

These packaging facilities are located at ports on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River so that they can efficiently receive rock salt shipments from our Goderich mine on Lake Huron and our Cote Blanche mine in Louisiana.

For the growing number of maintenance professionals who prefer environmentally friendly products and production processes, the deicing industry is making it easier to clear surfaces with a clear conscience.


Rob Peterson is business director of deicing at North American Salt Company, a Compass Minerals Company, which manufactures and markets the Safe Step® Pro Series® line of deicers for maintenance professionals. Safe Step Pro Series 960 Choice Formula and Safe Step Pro Series 750 Magnesium Chloride have both received the EPA’s DfE certification. For more information visit