Hoaxes & Rumors

Can You Melt Sidewalk Ice With Dawn Dish Soap?

Can You Melt Sidewalk Ice With Dawn Dish Soap?
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A popular internet hint claims that a homemade deicer can be created using a mixture of Dawn dish soap, rubbing alcohol, and hot water. We put this hint to the test.

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Online Claims

A number of websites claim that a mixture including Dawn dish soap, rubbing alcohol, and hot water can remove ice from steps and sidewalks while preventing new ice from forming. We decided to put this claim to the test.

First, let’s take a look at a popular meme which has circulation during winter months since at least 2013. We spotted graphic below on Facebook in 2013, which read, “For icy steps and sidewalks in freezing temperatures, mix 1 teaspoon of Dawn dish washing liquid, 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, and 1/2 gallon hot/warm water and pour over walkways. They won’t refreeze.”

dawn-ice

2013 Test and Other Reported Results

Although the Dawn deicing mixture claim has appeared on multiple websites, results reported by readers have been somewhat inconclusive. Instinctively, pouring dish soap and water on frozen walking area seems like a poor idea which might result in additional slipperiness.

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We first tested this hint in December 2013 by asking some friends in Iowa to try it out on an icy walkway outside of their home. They prepared the solution exactly to the specifications above and applied it to the icy section. Their final conclusion was that the solution did not work for deicing or preventing ice buildup, and actually seemed to make the area slipperier than it was before. “It’s an ice skating rink,” one participant told us. This blogger also came to a similar conclusion.

If one takes the time to scroll through the comments left on some of the websites and blogs which repeat this claim (including our reader comments below), there are many people warning others not to try this due to assertions that it doesn’t work, increases slipperiness, or eventually results in the formation of more ice.

KSTP 5, a CBS affiliate out of Minneapolis, tested the claim in an article entitled, “Home Remedies for Melting Icy Sidewalks and Driveways.” According to their results, the mixture actually worked. A quote from the article exclaims, “It worked! It melted through several layers of ice, and the alcohol in the solution prevented the water from refreezing.”

2015 Test and Video

As the popular hint continued to circulate, we decided to revisit it and this time post our results on YouTube. We tested it in Indianapolis, Indiana in March 2015, and you can see the results of our test in the video below. Just as we experienced the first time, the solution was mixed exactly to the suggested specifications but did not work. The area of the sidewalk where we applied the solution was frozen over about an hour later.

As a footnote, we should point out that industrial de-icing salt was applied to this location a day later and it remained ice-free for more than 24 hours.

Bottom Line

An internet hint claims that a homemade deicer can be created using a mixture including Dawn dish soap, rubbing alcohol, and hot water. We tested it in 2013 and 2015, and found that the mixture did not work. The area where we applied the mixture was completely frozen about an hour after application. Comments left on our site and many others seem to agree with our assessment. However, there seems to be mixed results, and some people claim that it worked for them. We found de-icing salt to be superior.

Have you tried this trick, and did it work for you?

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Updated November 29, 2015
Originally published December 2013

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