Anti-Icing: The Stripes That Keep You Safe

Anti-icing is a proactive approach to clearing snow and ice. Liquid deicers are sprayed on the roads before a storm.

Have you ever noticed white stripes on the road in the winter? These stripes are the result of anti-icing techniques that help snow fighters clear roads quickly after a storm.

What is Anti-icing?

Anti-icing is a proactive approach to maintaining winter safety. Liquid chemical (such as sodium chloride or magnesium chloride) is applied to roads, bridge decks and parking lots before a forecasted storm to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement.

egg in frying pan
Like grease keeps eggs from sticking to a frying pan, anti-icing prevents snow from sticking to the pavement.

However, deicing is a much more common winter maintenance strategy. Salt (or another chemical) is applied during or after a storm to melt snow and ice. The trucks that plow the streets and spread salt after a storm are de-icing.

Why Anti-Icing Should Become a Common Practice in Winter Maintenance

Anti-icing is the most cost-effective and environmentally safe practice in winter maintenance.

Minnesota Pollution Control

Anti-icing is effective.

Anti-icing applies stripes of liquid chemical to roads and parking lots. Liquids work better than solids at preventing and breaking the bond between ice and pavement. Also, liquids stay on the road instead of bouncing off like solid rock salt often does.

Truck spraying antiicing chemical
You may have noticed lines on the road before a snow storm. This is what anti-icing looks like.

Anti-icing applications can last for several days and are effective in preventing frost, especially in troublesome places like bridge decks.

Anti-icing is less expensive.

According to Minnesota Pollution Control, anti-icing is 1/10 the cost of standard deicing strategies.

Anti-icing is a time and labor-saving strategy, which can drastically cut costs. Application is quick and can be done during normal working hours, which reduces expensive overtime costs. After a storm, clean-up is much faster since anti-icing prevents snow and ice from sticking to streets.

Also, anti-icing requires ¼ the material of deicing! Less salt is needed to prevent ice from bonding to pavement than is required to break the bond after a storm.

There is also less wasted material compared to deicing. As cars drive over an anti-icing application, the liquid material gets into tire treads and spreads to other streets, parking lots and driveways. So, the chemical goes where it’s needed, reducing waste and costs.

Anti-icing is environmentally-friendly.

The chemicals used for anti-icing and de-icing contain chlorides which are increasingly polluting local waterways. Since anti-icing uses less chemical than standard deicing, it causes less water pollution!

Anti-icing is a Salt Smart approach to winter maintenance—we can keep the roads safe while reducing costs and environmental impact!

Deicer molecules
Sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), and magnesium chloride (MgCl2) are deicing chemicals that all contain chloride, which affect aquatic life and the water quality of our rivers.

What to Consider Before We Switch to Anti-Icing

Since anti-icing is done before a storm hits, application depends on weather forecasts. While anti-icing is effective for forecasted weather events, storms cannot be predicted 100% of the time.

A combination of anti-icing and deicing can be used for maintaining safe roads. When a storm is forecasted, anti-icing should be the first step in a snow and ice removal plan. Snow and ice will have a hard time sticking to the pavement because of anti-icing, so less salt for deicing can be used after the storm. This should require less material overall. Using less salt means that less chlorides end up in our rivers!

Key Takeaways:

Anti-icing can reduce salt, reduce materials cost, and improve safety.

Wisconsin Transportation Information Center
  • Anti-icing is a proactive approach to maintaining safe roads. Anti-icing is done before a predicted storm to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement. This makes for faster clean-up during and after the storm.
  • Anti-icing is cost-effective. Without reducing safety, anti-icing has significantly less material and labor costs than deicing.
  • Anti-icing has a much lower environmental impact. Since anti-icing uses less chemical, less chlorides end up in our waterways.

All in all, anti-icing stripes keep us safe on the road and protect local rivers (and our freshwater fish friends that live there) from too much salt.


Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance Manual, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Pre-wetting and Anti-icing: Techniques for Winter Road Maintenance, Wisconsin Transportation Information Center

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