how to make homemade ice melt

How to Make Homemade Ice Melt Safe For Wood

In Winter by Jamie

Have you ever thought you were prepared for a winter storm only to realize that you don’t have any ice melt? What can you do in these moments when a storm is already brewing and your local hardware store is fresh out of ice melt? Your front steps or deck may become slippery, but how can you make homemade ice melt safe for wood?

To make wood-safe homemade ice melt, first, fill a jug with a gallon of hot water, then add 10 drops of dish soap, and finally mix in 1/2 a cup of rubbing alcohol. Mix these ingredients together and you now have homemade ice melt that you can pour directly over ice. 

But what ingredients in traditional ice melt can actually damage your wood deck, and how can you make a homemade ice melt that is safe for wood? Let’s take a look at what you can do before a winter storm hits!

What Ingredients in Ice Melt Damages Wood?

Unfortunately, a lot of commercial ice melt can damage wood surfaces, including wooden decks and stairs. You should always buy a wood-safe ice melt and check your commercial ice melt labels before purchasing.

These are some of the ingredients of commercial ice melt that have been known to damage wood:

  • Sodium chloride, or rock salt. This may come as a surprise, given that it is indeed the most common ingredient in most ice melt products. Rock salt is harmful not only for wood, but for the local environment and pets. Rock salt is notorious for drying out wooden products, and it is also dangerous for your pets.
  • Calcium chloride is another salt-based chemical but think of it as extra-strength sodium chloride. Products containing this chemical are even more corrosive than others, and I can’t recommend them for use on your wooden deck or other surfaces.
  • Sand may work in a pinch for melting ice, but it can scratch up any wooden surface that it is applied to. It is also extremely messy and can be tracked throughout your home, deck, and yard.
  • Any other harsh chemicals found in heavy-duty or commercial grade ice melt. Unless your deck is sealed well, wood is very porous, capable of taking in these harsh chemicals. If the bottle doesn’t say that it is safe for wood, chances are, it isn’t. Do yourself a favor and only purchase wood-safe ice melt, or make it yourself at home!

3 Steps How to Make Homemade Ice Melt Safe for Wood

There are many different recipes and ways of making homemade ice melt. Keep in mind there are other ways to make wood non-slip, you can see the alternative options in our article “How to make Outdoor Wooden Steps Non-Slip“. Anyway, whether you want to do it for the safety of your pets and local environment, or you simply need something to work in a pinch, here’s my favorite recipe for homemade ice melt!

1. Fill a Plastic Jug With a Gallon of Hot Water

Hot water is a great quick fix for melting ice, but it isn’t the only component to this homemade ice melt! But first, make sure your wooden area is clear of snow piles. This method is most effective on decks and stairs that are mostly cleared off already. You don’t want to dump this ice melt into any snowdrifts!

2. Add 10 Drops of Dish Soap

Dish soap is a great addition to your homemade ice melt recipe, it doesn’t freeze and it bubbles up to help spread over the ice area. Dawn Dish soap is the most popular option, but other dish soaps should do the trick.

3. Add 1/2 Cup of Rubbing Alcohol

Alcohol is key to this recipe, as it will prevent any ice from refreezing on your wooden surface. You should add a minimum of a half cup of rubbing alcohol per 1 gallon of hot water for best results. The alcohol helps melt the ice and also prevents it from freezing again after pouring it over your steps or deck area. 

Now pour your mixture over any wooden and icy surfaces. You should allow some time for this mixture to work before stepping on the wooden surface. Feel free to experiment with this remedy and find proportions that work best for you! While this solution may not work in extremely cold temperatures, it is a homemade option that is relatively pet safe, and you can whip it together in a pinch!

Other Homemade Ice Melt Recipes

There are a few other homemade ice melt ingredients that you could consider experimenting with. While some of these aren’t recommended for long-term use, you can use them on your wooden surfaces in a pinch!:

  • Sugar is also an excellent de-icer, as it will raise the temperature of whatever surface you apply it to. Use sugar instead of dish soap if you are out of soap. 
  • Baking soda is another great option when mixed with hot water, though it can damage wood after extended use.
  • Sugary sodas, while unconventional, can be poured on your wooden surfaces. While these should not be used frequently in case you damage your local ecosystems, you can use them if you absolutely have to.

Safe-for-Wood Ice Melt Options

Looking for a commercial grade product because the home remedies just aren’t cutting it? It is important to look out for wood-safe ice melt options, and you may wish to find something more environmental and pet-friendly.

Here are my top product recommendations for safe-for-wood ice melt options!

Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt

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These pellets from Green Gobbler are made of magnesium chloride, a much gentler salt than most rock salts. It is unlikely to burn your pet’s paws, and the pellets are easy to spread from a convenient shaker top.

Natural Rapport Pet-Friendly Ice Melt

This product from Natural Rapport is perfect for those of you looking for a more eco-friendly de-icer. It is safe for pets, kids, and won’t damage any wood surface that it is applied to.

Just For Pets Snow & Ice Melter

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If you need a large amount of ice melt and fast, check out this product from Just For Pets. This bucket of ice melt may not be the most convenient container for spreading, but you can always put it in a smaller container. It is free of any and all chloride, making it very safe for pets and wood.

Branch Creek Entry Chloride-Free, Non-Toxic Liquid Ice Melt, and Manual Pump Sprayer Bundle

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If you’re looking for a liquid ice melt that has an included and easy-to-use sprayer, check out this product from Branch Creek. This product is wood and pet-safe and comes with an easy-to-use pump spray bottle for smooth distribution.

Final Thoughts

Finding a reliable and safe wood ice melt can be difficult, especially if you are already experiencing inclement weather. Thankfully, there are many homemade options capable of melting ice and raising the temperature of outdoor surfaces!