If there is deep snow or ice buildup on your wooden deck, the best way to tackle it is by first sweeping or shoveling as much snow off the deck as possible. Then, spread a salt-free deicer that won’t damage your deck. Make sure to avoid using rock salt because this can ruin wood, concrete, and composite decking. Also, do not spread sand or gravel on your wood deck. It may provide traction now, but it can scratch your deck boards as the ice melts.
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Does Ice Melt Damage Wood Decks?
Common ice melt products that contain sodium chloride will damage and corrode your wood deck. Sodium chloride is found in rock salt, table salt, and water softener tablets. It will damage your wood, causing cracks, splitting, and discoloration. Therefore, these typical deicers should be avoided when you treat your deck and stop ice from forming on your wooden steps.
- Do not use rock salt, table salt, or water softener pellets to melt ice on your wood deck.
- Standard salt deicers are made of sodium chloride, which will cause your wood deck to discolor, crack, and corrode.
- Choose a salt-free deicer or a gentle form of salt, such as calcium chloride.
There are several products that are far better for eating through ice on your deck. Some deicers contain no form of salt at all, making them safe for use on wood decks. Others (such as magnesium chloride and calcium chloride) are far less harmful to wood decks than sodium chloride. We’ll cover our favorite products in the list below.
7 Tips for Melting Snow and Ice on Your Wood Deck
If your deck is under a deep layer of snow, it can seem like a daunting task to reclaim your outdoor space. However, there are several tactics that will melt snow and ice without damaging your deck. Below are the do’s and don’t’s of getting rid of heavy snow and the layer of ice that forms beneath it.
Sweep or Shovel Before Spreading Ice Melt
An ice melt product spread on top of deep snow will work slowly. You may even lose faith in your deicer and give up on it. The truth is, deicer struggles when spread on large snowbanks. To make melting snow and ice easier, first, get rid of as much of the loose snow as possible.
- Ice melt spread on top of deep snow will work slowly.
- To make removing snow and ice easier, use a push broom or shovel to clear loose snow off your deck and steps.
- If you are using a shovel, opt for a plastic one. Metal shovels can damage deck material.
We recommend using a push broom to sweep snow off your deck when possible. It takes a lot less work than shoveling and there’s a much lower chance of scratching your wood or composite deck surface. If the snow is so deep you have to shovel it off your deck, use a plastic shovel. Metal shovels can scrape and gouge your deck.
Use a Salt-Free Deicer
To prevent damage to the wood of your deck, search for a gentle, salt-free deicer. These products don’t contain any sodium chloride, so they won’t cause your deck timbers to split. Plus, they’re far more effective than the competition. Our favorite salt-free deicer works at temperatures as low as -2℉ (-19℃). In comparison, rock salt stops melting snow and ice if temperatures get down to 15℉ (-9℃).
- Use a salt-free ice melt for wood decks to prevent wood corrosion.
- Salt-free deicers work at temperatures as low as -2℉ (-19℃).
- Rock salt stops working if the temperature goes down to 15℉ (-9℃).
- Salt-free deicers are safe for pets.
- Rock salt can cause painful chemical burns to your pet’s paws.
Another massive benefit of salt-free deicers is the fact that they’re safe for pets. Traditional salt deicers are harmful to your pet’s paws. If your furry friend walks on a surface treated with rock salt, their paw pads can actually suffer chemical burns. Use a pet-safe, salt-free deicer to keep your loved ones safe.
Battle Harsh Winter Weather with Magnesium Chloride
If you live in a region where the winter season brings very low temperatures and heavy snow, opt for a powerful deicer. Our top choice is this Magnesium Chloride deicer because it:
- Melts snow and ice at temperatures as low as -10℉ (-23℃).
- Won’t damage your wood deck.
- Is pet-safe.
Other options for deck deicers are ice melters with calcium chloride or potassium chloride. However, these are either slightly harsher on wood than magnesium chloride and often more expensive. This makes magnesium chloride a great choice for melting snow and ice in the coldest part of the winter season.
Spread Deicer Before Snow Arrives
Although spreading ice melters on top of snow and ice works, you’ll get the best results from spreading a layer of deicer before a snowstorm arrives. Then, spread more deicer after the snow has fallen. This will help the deicer eat through the snow and ice, melting it so you don’t have to shovel frozen snow.
- After clearing your deck of snow and ice, spread deicer as a preventative measure.
- If you spread deicer prior to snowfall, it will melt snowflakes as they come down.
- A preventative layer of deicer can easily melt away a light snow without you doing any shoveling or sweeping.
A preventative application of deicer on your deck will melt snowflakes as they touch down. This creates a briny layer of snowmelt that, in turn, melts subsequent snowfall. By following this method you can keep your deck clear of snow.
Avoid Rock Salt
Whatever you do, don’t resort to using a standard salt deicer on your wood deck. Rock salt is a form of sodium chloride (the same substance as table salt). It draws out moisture, which can dry out your deck. This results in board shrinkage, splitting, and cracks, not to mention changes in color.
- Rock salt will dry out your wooden deck, causing it to crack and discolor.
- Rock salt contains the same compound as table salt and water softener pellets—never use these products on your wood deck.
- Standard salts also damage concrete, so it’s not a safe ice melt for your patio or driveway either.
Avoid similar hacks that include table salt and water softener pellets. They all contain sodium chloride. In fact, sodium chloride even corrodes concrete. So, if you want to keep snow from sticking to your driveway, rock salt isn’t good for this task either.
Don’t Spread Sand
A common trick for adding traction to an icy deck is to spread sand or gravel. Avoid doing this when possible. Sand and gravel are tough and gritty. Foot traffic on an icy deck with sand can cause the sand to scrape the surface of your deck. This will destroy the finish and leave visible gouges.
- Do not spread sand or gravel on your icy deck in an attempt to add traction.
- Walking on your sand or gravel-covered deck can scratch or gouge the wood.
- If you need to add traction fast and can’t wait to deice the deck, spread kitty litter.
In general, we prefer to recommend gentle deicers on wooden decks, since they won’t harm the wood. However, preventing dangerous slips and falls is important during the winter months. If you must add traction to a slippery deck, use kitty litter. A layer of cat litter will help you get a sure footing, but it’s less likely than sand to scratch the wood.
Avoid Homemade Liquid Deicers
There are a few recipes for homemade deicers online. Some are effective at melting ice, while others are not. However, even the ones that are effective can damage your wooden deck. A mix of vinegar and hot water is not an effective ice melt, but the vinegar can discolor your deck. On the other hand, rubbing alcohol and hot water will melt ice, but the alcohol will also damage any wood it comes in contact with.
- Liquid deicers that combine water with vinegar or alcohol can damage your deck.
- Avoid home remedies for melting ice unless you are certain they won’t discolor your deck’s surface.
Stick with commercial, salt-free deicers for getting rid of snow buildup on your deck. It’s not worthwhile to melt the snow if it will destroy the appearance of your beautiful deck in the process.
How Do You Melt Snow On a Wood Deck?
When snow weather arrives, your deck can quickly be buried. However, you can easily melt snow and ice off your deck by using these tips.
- Use a push broom or plastic snow shovel to clear loose snow off your deck.
- Spread a salt-free deicer to melt through snow.
- In extremely low temperatures, use a magnesium chloride deicer.
- Spread deicer products prior to snowfall when possible—they prevent snow buildup and make snow removal easier.
- Never use a rock salt deicer. It will damage your wooden deck.
- Avoid spreading sand or gravel on the deck to add traction. This can scratch your deck.
- Stay away from homemade liquid deicers that contain vinegar or alcohol. Both these substances can discolor wood.
By choosing the right methods and avoiding common pitfalls, your deck will shrug off snowy weather and emerge in spring just as beautiful as it was in fall.