Using a Sprayer for De-icer & Anti-icer on Sidewalks & Driveways

Winter weather brings many challenges. Extreme cold, shorter days, and ice. One of the dangerous obstacles during this season is the buildup of ice and snow on driveways and sidewalks. Left untreated, surfaces can lead to slips, falls, and car accidents. 

Fortunately, liquid de-icer and anti-icer offer an effective solution to prevent ice and snow accumulation, ensuring safer and more accessible areas during winter. But, if you are new to liquid deicers, you might be wondering how I spray it on my driveway.

In this guide we will thoroughly cover the types of de-ice and anti-ice liquids, the various sprayer options, and how to use them for applying de-icers and anti-icers.

Liquid De-Icers and Anti-Icers for Driveways & Sidewalks

There are two approaches to treating pavement, sidewalks, driveways, etc: Anti-ice and de-ice. Anti-ice essentially just means you are applying the liquid ahead of a storm to prevent ice, while de-ice is applied after snow or ice shows up and the goal is to melt it as quickly as possible. The same types of liquids are used to achieve these two goals however the amount you use is typically less for ice prevention (anti-ice) and more for ice removal (de-ice).

There are several different liquids used to melt ice. Many companies offer them as stand-alone products or blends of different liquids. There are also other additives that are added to liquid ice melt that can aid in the ability of the liquid to stick to the ground and inhibit rust. The formulations that are most effective depending on how low the temperature is when applied and what type of surface you are using it on.

Liquids that are used for anti-ice and de-ice functions by lowering the freezing point of water. This makes it harder for ice or snow to accumulate on the surface. Not all de-icer liquids are the same, some are capable of lowering the freezing point of water more than others.

These are the most common liquid de-icer/anti-icers: 

  • Sodium Chloride: Also called salt brine. This is the most common ice melt solution. It is the least expensive and is most effective at 15 degrees F and up.
  • Calcium Chloride: Calcium chloride is effective at low temperatures (-20 F), making it suitable for extreme winter conditions. It is more expensive compared to other products like sodium chloride.
  • Magnesium Chloride: Mag chloride is considered more environmentally friendly. Depending on the solution it is effective down to about 2 degrees F. It is more expensive than sodium chloride.

Why Use Liquid De-Icer Instead of Rock Salt?

There are many advantages to using liquid ice melt products. They can adhere to the concrete surface. In comparison, rock salt can bounce off the road when applied and does not stick to the surface without moisture to melt it. This can lead to uneven distribution and loss of efficiency.

Rock salt requires some moisture to dissolve and start its ice-melting process. Liquid products will start working immediately. Liquid de-icers typically require less material to achieve the same effect as rock salt.

Also, liquid de-icers can be applied using sprayers allowing for more precise and controlled application, reducing waste and over-application.

What Kind of Sprayer Do I Use for Liquid De-icers & Anti-Icers

One of the great things about using liquids for ice and snow removal and prevention is that you can typically apply them with the same sprayers you use for pesticides or herbicides. So if you already have a lawn or garden sprayer, you can thoroughly rinse it out and it will work just fine. If you do not have a sprayer, here are the types that work best for different applications:

Handheld Sprayers

Handheld pump sprayers are ideal for smaller areas like sidewalks and driveways. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and easy for anyone to use. Check this article for more information on selecting a handheld sprayer: Hand Pump Sprayer Guide

Backpack Sprayers

For larger areas, or if you work commercially, covering many customers’ driveways in a day, a backpack sprayer is a practical option. The convenience of carrying the sprayer on your back is much more convenient and efficient. If you are interested you can check out this examination of whether or not a backpack sprayer is worth it in your scenario.

Tow-Behind Boom Sprayers

When dealing with larger spaces like parking lots or extensive driveways, a tow-behind boom sprayer will be an efficient choice. You will need a vehicle capable of handling the snow and ice, such as a UTV, truck, or small tractor. You can find everything you need to know about boom sprayers in these guides:

Can I Use a Turf Sprayer for De-Ice

Building a DIY De-Ice Sprayer

Boom Sprayer Guide

Anti-Icer & De-Icer Application Methods

Pretreating Sidewalks and Driveways (Anti-icing)

Before a winter storm, you can use your sprayer to apply a layer of the ice-melt product that you are using. The product should be thoroughly and evenly applied over the entire surface. Generally speaking, you will apply less liquid when pretreating a surface than post-treatment, but again refer to the product application guidelines. 

Post Treatment for Snow & Ice Removal (De-icing)

If you received a large amount of snow, manual removal in the shovel, snowblower, plow, etc will be necessary before applying your liquid ice melt product. clearing the surface of any snow or ice using a shovel or snow blower. This ensures that the liquid product can make direct contact with any ice below.

Once the service is cleared follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the product label for the correct mixing and dilution ratios. If you change the ratio of your ice melt liquid and then you will change the freezing point so when incorrect mixture can be less effective if mixed improperly

When you are applying a liquid to melt the ice and snow after it has accumulated, you can spray the liquid evenly and thoroughly over the entire area with a flat fan or cone nozzle. If you want to speed up the melting process, use a nozzle that produces a more concentrated, solid stream at a higher volume. This will penetrate the surface of the ice, snow, or sleet and help speed up the melting.

If you are using a handheld or backpack sprayer, apply the liquid evenly over the surface, ensuring complete coverage. Do not be afraid to spray plenty of liquid where needed. To produce even coverage, maintain a steady walking pace. 

When covering larger areas, you might need to use a boom sprayer. These sprayers can be pull-type sprayers or mounted on an ATV/UTV. The key to using a boom sprayer is calibrating the sprayer to apply the amount of liquid necessary at your desired travel speed. You can read all about how to calibrate your sprayer in this article that provides the formulas and guidance for sprayer calibration.

Another factor for boom sprayers is the nozzles. I discussed earlier the need to penetrate the surface of the ice and snow to provide faster melting. Using solid stream nozzles instead of flat fan nozzles is a way to do this. This is especially effective against sleet and snow. This article provides more details on these types of nozzles and how they work. 


Spraying liquid de-icer and anti-icer is an effective way to keep your driveways, sidewalks, and other surfaces safe and accessible during winter weather. Applying these liquids is a simple process that can be done easily with most lawn & garden sprayers. Remember to follow manufacturer guidelines for mixing and dilution ratios to achieve the best results.


I have more than a decade of experience using, building, studying, and testing sprayers in several applications. With the knowledge I have gained I want to provide straight forward and detailed answers for DIY homeowners, farmers, and commercial turf and tree care pros.

Recent Posts