Total Dissolved Solids – How Untreated Water Will Affect The Quality Of Your Ice Surface

Guest Blog Post written by Dave Loverock
Vice President, Jet Ice Ltd. 


The goal of any icemaker is to provide a quality ice sheet that enhances game play.  From hockey to figure skating to curling, premium quality ice contributes to an athlete’s success as much as their skill and equipment does.

There are many factors that can impact ice quality, but one of the most significant factors is TDS or Total Dissolved Solids.  This term refers to impurities in water, such as calcium magnesium and iron, that do not freeze but become entrained in the ice during the freezing process. The volume of impurities is dependent on the water source and whether water is being treated with a water treatment system or not.  Total Dissolved Solids are measured in parts per million, and ideally should measure between 0-85PPM for excellent ice quality, or 85-120PPM for ice quality that is skateable and requires minimal refrigeration or ice making adjustments.  The higher the TDS, the lower the ice quality.

In an ice rink, the freezing process begins from the floor and moves up to the surface.  Dissolved solids (and entrapped dissolved air) will migrate to the top of the ice sheet.  This salting out makes the ice surface soft, and therefore easily cut during game play.  It also makes the ice cloudy, reducing the visibility of game markings and in-ice logos.  This creates snow development during game play and makes it more challenging for athletes to maintain their speed and accuracy.  Dissolved solids lower the freezing point of the ice surface, creating poor quality ice that requires more refrigeration and maintenance, which can be a significant cost to a facility.


Ice made with untreated water (shown here with a high TDS of 258PPM) is cloudy, soft, and negatively affects game play.  Treated water (shown here with a low TDS of 24PPM) is clear, hard, smooth & fast.


The ideal way to manage dissolved solids is to filter your water through a reverse osmosis water treatment system.   Using a water treatment system will remove the impurities in the water and result in mineral free ice that is clear, hard and fast, and easily maintained with less refrigeration requirements.  First, have your water source tested to determine the TDS.  If you have high quality water with low TDS you may not require a water treatment system.   Set aside that money you were going to spend on water treatment and opt for a good dehumidifier instead.

If the TDS in your water source has an elevated mineral content, then a water treatment system is highly recommended.  When it comes to deciding which water treatment system is right for you, there are two main requirements – a system that will process a minimum 160 gallons for resurfacer filling, and a system that will reduce the total dissolved solids to approximately 85 PPM for hockey ice.  It is important to note that drinking water and water for ice making have very different requirements – hard water for making ice cubes is not acceptable for making ice to skate on.  Ensure that the water treatment your facility installs removes mineral content.  While the initial investment may be significant, in the long run your facility will be able to run their ice temperatures up to 4F higher with treated water while still maintaining ideal ice conditions including less rutting and gouging in the ice and therefore less snow buildup.  The annual refrigeration savings combined with less physical maintenance costs will quickly balance the cost to invest in a water treatment system.

If your facility is not able to invest in a water treatment system, or if the system you currently have is not reducing the total dissolved solids to below 100 PPM, then you will see increased refrigeration costs to maintain the ice interface as it simply will not thermally dry at a lower temperature.  One way to try to avoid increased refrigeration costs is to shave down the top layer of the ice to remove the layer of dissolved solids.  While this may help to reduce refrigeration costs and increase the quality of your ice, it will significantly increase maintenance costs and the time to install & build your ice sheet, as it will take much longer to build your ice to the required thickness over lines and in-ice logos.

If the goal of your facility is to effectively manage refrigeration and maintenance costs while providing athletes with a high-quality ice surface, then a water treatment system is required.  A water treatment system is a significant investment, but one that will pay off in the long run. Many facilities can look to advertising partnerships, grants or even fundraising events to generate the financing required to purchase a system.

For more information on water treatment systems or how to make quality ice, visit or call 1-800-585-1079.