Salt use best practices

Clear snow and ice and use de-icing salt effectively. This is part two of the course.

Protect our waters

Be safe around ice

Safety comes first when you walk, roll and drive on ice. Remember, applying more salt does not mean more melting.

Protect the earth

There are no environmentally friendly alternatives to salt that can melt snow and ice. However, we can use the best practices to help protect the earth from salt (chloride).

The best way to remove snow and ice

Physically remove snow and Ice. This helps protect our:

  • Waters
  • Wildlife
  • Infrastructure

It's also more cost effective.

Safety around ice during winter

Walk or roll slowly

Walk or roll slowly and carefully in slippery and icy spots. 

Drive slowly

Slow down when you're driving. Drive for the weather, whether it's snowy or icy conditions.

Keep your distance

When driving, make sure to give plow drivers plenty of space to do their work. 

Be patient with salt

Give the salt some time to melt the ice.

Note: just because you do not see salt on the road or sidewalk does not mean someone has not applied it.

Find common ice spots

Figure out what's causing common ice spots. Help get rid of icy spots by fixing the cause.

Some things that may cause ice spots:

  • A rain gutter down spout pointed towards your driveway
  • A low spot in your concrete
  • Melting ice drip from a roof, awning or other objects

Spread the word

Best practices for de-icing

Snow and ice removal best practices

Remove snow physically first

Your first tool for snow and ice removal should always be physical removal.

Tools to remove ice

  • Shovel
  • Ice chisel
  • Snow blower
  • Broom
  • Leaf blower

Note: Never put snow down storm drains or gutters.

When to remove snow

Shovel snow promptly after snowfall. This helps to prevent compact ice from forming.

Handling ice without salt

Break up ice using an ice chisel instead of using salt.

Use sand

  • If ice persists, spread a light layer of sand on top of ice.
  • Sand provides traction, but does not melt ice.
  • Sweep up sand for reuse after ice melts naturally.

The City offers free sand for residents.

Get free sand for sidewalks

Avoid using salt

A spoon of salt over a bucket of water

One teaspoon of salt pollutes five gallons of water forever. Avoid salt and protect our waters.

Salt use best practices

Before you use salt

Always use physical removal of snow and ice first. If ice remains after physical removal, use salt sparingly.

Where to apply salt

  • Only apply salt on ice.
  • Do not apply salt on bare pavement.
  • If you see salt on bare pavement, it's not doing any melting work. It will wash away into our lakes and rivers. 


How to apply salt

  • Spot treat salt - apply salt in specific icy problem areas.
  • Use a light spread
    • More salt does not mean more melting.
    • Space each grain of salt about three inches apart.
    • See manufacturer labeled directions on how to best apply salt.
  • Remove extra salt - sweep up extra salt to reuse later.

Applying salt to large areas

A 150 square foot area, the area of a parking stall, only needs eight ounces of salt. Eight ounces is a small coffee cup of salt.

How to store salt

  • Store salt in covered or airtight containers. This helps to maintain quality and avoid leaking.
  • Post signs near your salt containers. Use signs to remind everyone on best application practices. 
  • See Salt mini-course resources for posters
salt spread out
A good salt spread has each grain at about three inches apart.
Pile of rock salt on sidewalk
Salt should not be in visible piles. Sweep up and reuse leftover salt after ice melts.
Shoveling out snow
Remove snow physically to reduce the need to use salt.

How well salt melts at different temperatures

Note: do not apply salt on very cold days. Use sand for traction on icy spots.

Salt and pavement temperature 

How well salt can melt ice depends on the pavement temperature. Pavement temperature refers to the temperature of the ground. This may be different than the air temperature we use to describe the weather outside. Knowing pavement temperature is best.

The air temperature is close enough if you do not have a way to measure the pavement of temperature.

The table is a general guideline for how well salt will work in different temperatures. 

How well salt works in different temperatures

Air temp Warm winter day Cold winter day Very cold winter day

Pavement temp

Over 15 degrees F 

Over 0 degrees F

Below 0 degrees F

How well salt works

Salt will work.

Salt will not work as well. Salt will not work. Use sand instead.

Learn more

You can learn more on how different salt blends work in colder pavement temperatures. 

Visit Minnesota Pollution Control Agency


  • Safety first. Walk slowly and carefully on icy ground.
  • Shovel and scrape promptly and often. Clear walkways before snow turns to ice and avoid using salt. 
  • Scatter salt lightly only where needed. Aim for three inches of space between salt grains.
  • Reduce applying. Salt only goes on icy spots. Do not put salt on bare pavement that has no ice. 
  • Sweep up and reuse leftover salt after ice melts. Leftover salt is a sign of over salting. 

Contact us

Salt Mini-Course Program

Surface Water & Sewers Regulatory Team
Public Works