Ice melt sprinkled on an icy sidewalk.

How Ice Melt Can Affect Your Carpet

Blustery winter weather can be exciting for numerous reasons.  For kids, it’s a fun snow day!  For their parents, maybe it’s a second cup of coffee to push through the ‘fun’.  For facility and property managers it often means extra precaution, and rising early in order to keep their commercial buildings safe.  One of the most common safety measures they’ll undertake is having their team shovel and de-ice sidewalks and parking lots.  Ice melt can quicken the melting process and help clear these surfaces.  The goal is to keep people safe from slips and falls.  However, ice melt can also damage textiles.  Cleaning up winter weather mess can be quite challenging, especially for your carpets.  In the post you can expect to learn how ice melt can affect your carpet.  

Fast Melting Ice

First thing’s first—a quick primer on what exactly we’re dealing with.  The scramble to clear parking lots and sidewalks for safety purposes usually involves the spreading of a salt compound.  Of which there are two primary types:  

  • Ice melt works the quickest, but can also be the most expensive.  It’s comprised of a combination of sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride.  This can create a hard water mixture that can leave behind a white staining.  
  • Rock Salt or halite is a cheaper alternative that is made up of sodium chloride.  Although it may be cheaper to buy rock salt and you will create better traction, rock salt can be more corrosive to pavement or concrete.  It can also be corrosive to cars

The Melting Process

Ice melt products don’t actually melt ice- rather they lower the temperature at which water freezes.   

  • Dissolution: As the ice melt chemicals dissolve and interact with the ice and snow, they create a brine solution, which is a mixture of sodium and water.  Brine solution has a lower freezing point. As it begins to melt the ice, it loosens and breaks it apart.
  • Heat generation: some of the chemicals in ice melt, such as calcium chloride, generate heat as they dissolve. This heat further accelerates the melting process, helping to turn ice into water more quickly.
  • Preventing refreezing: The brine solution acts as a barrier against refreezing. It keeps the surface free of ice, reducing the risk of slippery conditions.

How Ice Melt Affects your carpets

People trekking in and out of your facility will track in ice melt from their shoes.  One of the first things people will do when coming in to escape the cold is knock the snow off their boots.   Ice melt residue often gets tracked into carpets and rugs, where it leaves white crusty stains.  Calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate are the culprits behind this staining.  They also attract dirt and soil, further soiling your carpet.  While these salt stains are relatively easy to remove when they’re fresh, over time they can weaken or disintegrate the carpet fibers.

Ice melt stains on carpet.  Shorelines where the carpet is visibally stained.
Visible shorelines from ice melt staining.

How to Remove the Ice Melt that Has affected your carpet

Professional carpet cleaners will begin by giving the carpet a thorough vacuuming.  This is an important first step for removing small rocks, dirt and other debris.  As for cleaning solutions, if the carpet is an industrial-type carpet or carpet tiles, there are cleaning solutions or pre-sprays available that help dissolve winter soils, and neutralize those salt and calcium deposits.

In certain cases the carpet is machine scrubbed in order to agitate the calcium carbonate residues that have been ground into the fibers.  Finally, after allowing the cleaning solution to dwell, they’ll use an extractor to flush and extract the carpet with hot water.   

The placement of air movers can help speed up the drying time.  Running your building’s HVAC system is also recommended.

In Conclusion

If your lobby is carpeted, consider placing temporary water-hog mats over your in-laid carpet.  Following the conclusion of the storm and any de-icing measures, consider scheduling carpet cleaning services.  One of the age-old rules of commercial cleaning: cleaning and maintenance is cheaper than replacement.  

Final thought: Now that you’re better prepared and have a plan, you’ll have freed up more time for other things….like family.  At the next snow event, go out and have fun with the kiddos!  

Do you have questions?  Our Service Consultants are available to help.  

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