Are Icicles Safe to Eat and Drink? It Depends!


I think it’s safe to say that every child has eaten icicles and snow at some point in their lives. Most people have fond memories of licking icicles hanging off their gutters as a child.

Are children putting their lives at risk without knowledge of the dangers of bacteria and protozoa? Is it safe to eat icicles and even use them in drinking water?

Are Icicles Safe to Eat and Drink?

Take a walk through the woods in winter and you’ll see snow and ice everywhere, but icicles are actually fairly rare. They need perfect dripping conditions to form over a long period of time. Although somewhat rare in the wilderness are those icicles safe to drink/eat?

Although somewhat rare in the backcountry, icicles are usually safe to eat and drink in the wilderness. Obviously, you need to take the water source into consideration before putting icicles into your drink.

I’ve been eating icicles out in the woods for years without any issues. One day that might change, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

How Did The Icicle Form?

How are the icicles forming and what’s the water source? Icicles that form on tree branches and rocky surfaces should be fairly safe. Rainwater is fairly safe to drink throughout most of the United States.

The same isn’t always true in urban areas where industry causes extra pollutants. In heavily polluted areas you might want to rethink drinking untreated icicles. Think about all the bird poop and other pollutants found on roofs. Do you really want to eat that?

I never got sick from eating the icicles hanging off my porch as a child, but that was probably just luck. Definitely avoid eating icicles that form in urban environments.

You really just need to pay attention to where you’re gathering icicles to eat. Obviously, icicles hanging off the limb of a tree will be safer to drink than ones hanging off a gutter.

Rural Areas Don’t Always Have Safer Snow

Although snow and ice is usually safer in rural areas you still have some contaminants. Air pollution from the cities is carried through the atmosphere to the surrounding areas.

While snow is being formed in the sky all those particles from the polluted cities get dropped on your backyard.

Icicles Might Have Contaminants

Are you in a major city with lots of pollution? Do you live on a dusty road? What about animals pooping and peeing on roof surfaces and branches? Does your house have lead shingles?

Icicles may look tempting, but you need to think about all the contaminants that could lie on the surface. Do you really want to eat bird poop, dead bugs, dirt, and other contaminants?

Eating a little poop probably won’t kill you, but who thinks about those things. These are the thoughts that always cross my mind minutes after chowing down on an icicle.

See How The Ice Looks

Just hold the icicle up to the sky and see how it looks. Do you see black grime and dirt particles inside? If that’s the case definitely rethink eating/drinking it.

If you hold it up to the light and it looks relatively clear, it’s usually safe to eat. Whether or not you want to take the risk is up to you!

Icicles are Kinda Gross

Icicles might look like giant popsicles, but they’re actually kinda gross. When you think about all the poop, pee, pollution and dirt they seem much less appetizing.

Even though I know icicles are kinda nasty that’s not going to stop me from occasionally chomping down on one. What’s life without a little bit of risk? Eating icicles didn’t hurt me as a child and I doubt it’s going to cause damage now.

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