Is It Safe to Use Ice Melt for Wood Decks?
Published on July 21, 2023
If you have a wooden deck, winter can be an excruciating time. All that snow and water will not only risk damage to the wood and the structure itself. A frozen wooden deck can pose a serious safety hazard too.
Unfortunately, shoveling snow off your wooden deck isn’t really an option. The tip of your shovel can scratch the surface of the decking boards and scrape off the sealant. This creates cracks where the water can seep through and wreak havoc on the wood.
Because of this, many people turn to ice melt to get rid of snow on their wooden decks. But is it safe to use ice melt for wood decks?
To answer that, we need to understand what ice melt is and how it works.
How Does Ice Melt Work?
As its name suggests, ice melt is designed to safely melt snow and ice or prevent them from forming. They’re mostly a blend of sodium chloride, calcium chloride, or magnesium chloride. All of which are just fancy names for different varieties of salt.
Ice melt works by lowering the freezing point of water. So when you apply it before a snowstorm, it prevents the buildup of ice. While applying it on top of snow breaks it down into liquid slush. It also loosens the bond between the ice and the surface beneath making it easier to remove.
Although they’re designed to melt ice, not all of them work the same. There are different types of ice melt and each is designed for different applications. Some work better in very low temperatures while others have to be applied in layers to be effective. This is why choosing the right type of ice melt is essential in effectively getting rid of snow on your wooden deck.
Should You Use Ice Melt for Wood Decks?
The short answer is it depends on the type of ice melt you use. In most cases, ice melt is a safer option than a metal shovel. But some types of ice melt can do more harm than good.
For one, wood is very porous, and dissolved salt tends to seep into porous objects. Since most ice melts are made of salt, it can be very damaging to your wooden deck.
In addition, solid ice melts have coarse textures. When applied directly to your wooden deck, it can scratch the wood’s surface. Once moisture seeps into those exposed surfaces, it can cause your decking boards to twist and buckle.
That said, an ice melt is still your best option if you want to safely clear all that piled-up snow on your wooden deck. The key is to choose an ice melt brand or variety that will cause the least damage to your deck.
What Kind of Ice Melt is Safe for Wood Decks?
As mentioned, the standard salt-based ice melt can be damaging for your wooden deck. But there are types of ice melts that are considered safe for wooden decks. In general, you should steer clear of ice melts that contain:
- Sodium chloride. More commonly known as rock salt, this type of salt is great at absorbing moisture from the environment. As a result, it dries out the wood which leads to corrosion and discoloration. Besides, its jagged edges can cause deep scratches on your wood which, I’m sure, won’t be a welcome sight come summer.
- Calcium chloride. While many people recommend calcium chloride for wood decks, they aren’t really advisable. This is especially true if your decking boards are made of treated cedar and spruce. Calcium chloride gets easily absorbed in these surfaces causing them to deteriorate faster.
- Sand. Some ice melts are applied with sand to increase traction and reduce slipperiness. But sand, like table salt, is coarse. As such, there’s a good chance it can scratch or damage your dek’s surface.
- Magnesium chloride. Compared to rock salt, magnesium chloride is a much safer option for your wooden deck. But you should avoid it if you have some furry friend running around as it can cause vomiting and upset stomach in dogs.
To be on the safe side, avoid using salt-based ice melts altogether. There are lots of salt-free ice melt options available in the market right now. Or if you have the time, you can make your own salt-free ice melt at home too. Whatever floats your boat.
Homemade Ice Melt for Wood Decks
A homemade ice melt for wood decks can be made by mixing one part water with two parts vinegar in a spray bottle. Adding a few drops of dish soap and shaking well helps create the mixture. This homemade solution can be sprayed on icy patches of the wood deck to help melt the ice and provide better traction.
It’s important to use caution when using any liquid on a wood deck, as excessive moisture can potentially damage the wood. Test your homemade ice melt in a small hidden area first and avoid over-saturating. Quickly clean up any excess solution to prevent prolonged exposure to the wood.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Does ice melt damage wood floors?
Yes, ice melt can damage wood floors. The chemicals in ice melt can seep into wood and cause discoloration, warping, and cracks. It’s best to protect your wood floors from direct contact with ice melt and promptly clean up any spills to prevent damage.
What can you substitute for ice melt?
If you don’t have ice melt, you can use alternative substances like sand, kitty litter, or even table salt substitutes. Spread them on icy areas to improve traction and aid in melting ice. Remember that this alternative may not be as effective as ice melt. And may not prevent damage to surfaces.
What kind of ice melt is safe for wood decks?
The kind of ice melt that is safe for wood decks is the one that is labeled free from chemicals like calcium chloride or rock salt, which can harm the wood. Choose ice melts with ingredients like magnesium chloride or potassium chloride, as they are safer for wood.
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About The Author
Experience, exploration, and knowledge are the hallmarks of writer Rei Bayucca. Her dedication to crafting articles that both inspire and educate will leave you thinking long after you’ve finished reading.