Top 7 Alternatives to Salt for De-Icing Stairs

Instead of using traditional salt for de-icing outside stairs and steps, it’s best to use a pet-safe deicer that won’t harm plants and animals. In addition to salt-free deicers, magnesium chloride and calcium chloride products melt ice at lower temperatures than salt and won’t kill nearby plants. Potassium formate is a salt alternative that melts salt even during extreme cold. In a pinch, you can make your own deicer from rubbing alcohol and hot water. Alternatively, you can spread kitty litter or towels on top of icy stairs to add traction.

Alternatives to salt for de-icing stairs

Can You Use Table Salt On Icy Steps?

You should never use table salt, rock salt, sea salt, or water softening salt tablets to de-ice steps. Salt is a terrible deicer. First, it is ineffective at melting ice when temperatures go below 15℉ (-10℃). Second, it corrodes wood and concrete steps. Third, it is harmful to your pets’ paws if they walk on salted stairs. Finally, salt runoff from traditional deicers kills nearby plants and grass.

  • Avoid table salt and all salt-based deicers—including rock salt.
  • Traditional salt (sodium chloride) is a poor deicer that damages your steps.
  • There are several better deicers on the market that outperform salt.

Instead of rock salt or table salt, use an environmentally friendly deicer. There are several options for melting ice off your steps that work at lower temperatures than salt, won’t damage your steps, and are safe for pets and plants.

How to De-Ice Stairs Without Salt [7 Methods]

If you are trying to thaw or melt icy surfaces on your stairs or porch steps during the winter months, it’s best to avoid salt. Instead, consider using one of these options. The tips below include high-quality products as well as homemade deicers.

Pet-Safe Deicer

This pet-safe deicer is our number one choice for melting ice on stairs. It melts ice and snow at temperatures down to -2℉ (-19℃). This makes it far more effective in cold weather than traditional salt deicers. Plus, this deicer won’t harm pets or plants. In contrast, if your furry friends walk on stairs treated with salt, their paws can crack, bleed, or develop chemical burns. As an added bonus, our chosen pet-friendly deicer won’t corrode metal, wood, or concrete stairs.

Top Pet-Safe Ice Melt
Safe Paw Ice Melt | Child, Plant, Dog Paw & Pet Safe | 100% Salt and Chloride Free | Non-Toxic
  • Guaranteed to melt at low temperatures (-2°F).
  • Vet recommended formula that is safe for your pets and their paws.
  • Non-corrosive and long shelf for long-term effective results.
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Magnesium Chloride

If you want to keep wooden steps ice-free, then try a Magnesium Chloride deicer. This gentle deicer doesn’t corrode wood or concrete. Plus, it’s safe for pets. Salt deicers run off into your yard or garden and kill plants. Magnesium chloride, on the other hand, won’t kill grass or garden plants. Plus, it works quickly. Magnesium Chloride melts ice twice as fast as rock salt.

Fast Acting Ice Melt
Green Gobbler Ice Melt | Pet-Safe and Fast Acting | Magnesium Chloride Ice Melt Pellets | Safe Around Plants
  • Melts snow and ice in frigid cold temperatures (as low as -10°F).
  • Safe for pets and the environment and won't harm paws or plants.
  • Small, round pellets make for easy dispersal on driveways and steps.
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Calcium Chloride

If you’re facing extreme winter cold, don’t bother with rock salt or other sodium chloride products. Calcium chloride is the answer you’re looking for. It melts ice at temperatures as low as -25°F (-32°C). Salt stops melting ice when temperatures go below 15℉ (-10℃). Although calcium chloride is damaging to wooden stairs, it works great for concrete. You’ll melt through the ice without damaging paved surfaces.

Potassium Formate

If you have to clear ice off steps quickly, use this potassium formate liquid deicer. It was designed for use on airplane runways in extreme conditions, so it melts ice even when air temperatures go as low as -63°F (-53°C). Like some of the other entries on this list, potassium formate won’t kill plants growing near your stairs. These factors make it a far better choice than salt.

Safe Around Plants
Potassium Formate Liquid Deicer | Bare Ground Winter Bare Ground Solutions | PoFo-5G Clear Way
  • Melts ice without chlorine while being non-conductive.
  • Fully biodegradable.
  • Non-toxic and safe around pets and plants.
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Rubbing Alcohol

If you need to melt ice in a hurry, you can make your own deicer by making a 50/50 mix of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and hot water. Then, pour the mixture on your icy stairs. This will melt the ice quickly. The rubbing alcohol mixed with the water will prevent the mixture from refreezing, making sure your steps remain ice-free. This is great for concrete steps but use this tactic sparingly with wood. Rubbing alcohol can discolor wooden stairs.

Cat Litter

Instead of deicing your stairs, it’s often the quickest and safest to add traction to icy steps. To do this, spread kitty litter on top of the snow and ice. The litter will freeze to the steps, providing traction so you can safely go up and down your stairs. This gets the job done in seconds, so you don’t have to wait for a deicer to work. However, you may want to consider adding something permanent to your steps to prevent slipping.


One downside of using cat litter, sand, or gravel to add traction to icy steps is that foot traffic can cause these gritty substances to gouge the steps. This is especially common when trying to melt snow and ice on a wooden deck. One great alternative is to lay an old towel on top of each step. In a few minutes, the towel will freeze to the ice on the step. The towel will add traction but won’t risk damaging your steps. Once you have more time you can spread deicer and clear off the steps.

How Do You Melt Ice On Stairs Without Salt?

If you don’t have salt, or if you’re looking for a more safe and effective product to make your icy steps safe, the best options are:

  • Pet-safe deicer that does not contain salt.
  • Magnesium-chloride-based deicer that is safe for pets and plants.
  • Calcium chloride for deicing in low temperatures.
  • Potassium formate for deicing stairs quickly in low temperatures.
  • A homemade mixture of rubbing alcohol and boiling water.
  • Sprinkling cat litter on your steps to add traction to the icy surface.
  • Laying an old towel over each icy step to make a non-slip surface.

Using a high-quality deicer requires planning and having the materials on hand, so you should order a good deicer before winter arrives. If you find yourself facing icy stairs without any deicer on hand, it’s time for a quick homemade fix for the time being. All of these options are much safer and more effective than salt.

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