An icy driveway is a potential hazard for many reasons. Ice not only can cause serious injury to you and your family, it is also a liability risk. Others may slip and fall on your property, which could result in an unexpected lawsuit. For your safety and peace of mind, here are some tips for keeping your driveway ice-free this winter:
The most common way to de-ice your driveway is to use rock salt. While salt is the most commonly used de-icing method, it is also a method that does major damage to concrete and asphalt driveways each and every year. Finding alternative ways to rid your driveway of ice and snow will minimize your salt use and extend the life of your pavements.
You may have noticed alcohol listed as an ingredient on the packaging of many commercial deicers. That’s because standard 70 percent rubbing alcohol solution has an extremely low freezing point, making it an ideal de-icer. The lower the freezing point, the less likely it will be that your accumulated precipitation will again congeal into a hazardous condition.
This season, rather than picking up another pack of store-bought de-icer, save some money and avoid lines at the hardware store by pouring rubbing alcohol onto icy areas on the walkway. Or, for a solution you can stow away year-round, combine two parts rubbing alcohol with one part warm water in a spray bottle. Spritz the solution liberally onto the surface of your walkway or driveway to coat—and gradually melt—the ice.
Magnesium chloride is a household staple for many Northeasterners, and for good reason: It can effectively melt ice at a temperature of about -15 degrees Celsius and can tackle moderate to significant ice accumulations with relative ease. In addition, magnesium chloride offers a more environmentally friendly and pet-friendly alternative to its counterpart, calcium chloride.
For optimal results, purchase magnesium chloride in pellet rather than flake form. Disperse the pellets by hand over icy paths until they are roughly uniform in distribution. As the magnesium chloride pellets penetrate the ice, the chemical components will melt it away.
For homeowners with pets, the cat is out of the bag that kitty litter is an effective way to avert slips, falls, and other wintry spills. While kitty litter isn’t actually a deicer, it helps create friction so you can gain traction over slippery surfaces. You can even use kitty litter if your tires get stuck somewhere and you can't get out.
If you can’t wait around for the ice to melt, toss a fair amount of non-clumping kitty litter by hand over an icy sidewalk or in the furrows left by the tire treads in your driveway. With these granules laid out, you’ll gain firmer footing on the treacherous ice. You don’t have a cat in the house or you’re out of kitty litter? Substitute other gritty materials that you happen to have on hand, such as sand, wood chips, sawdust, or fireplace ash.
While snow melting mats are frequently used on outdoor walkways, stairways, and entry areas, you can also turn your driveway into a heated snow melting powerhouse with heated driveway mats. These mats, consisting of a powerful heating element sandwiched between two layers of rubber, can melt several inches of snow in only an hour or two. They are slip-resistant, do not allow melt-off to refreeze, utilize your normal power outlets, and can be easily taken up and stored for next year.
- Shoveling should always be your first de-icing task. Shovel as much of the snow and ice off of your driveway as possible. Try breaking the ice with your shovel to help with removal.
- If the ice cannot be removed by shoveling, lay down a de-icer. You can buy bags of de-icer at any local hardware store.
- There are many de-icing options. Certain de-icers can be hazardous to plants, pets, masonry, and water supplies. Be aware of what you are laying down and where you are putting it. De-icers that are environmentally-friendly and pet-safe are gaining popularity.
- To protect yourself and your property, it is important to follow the instructions on the de-icer.
- Spread the de-icer around your driveway moderately. Using a greater amount of de-icer will not make the ice melt any quicker. In addition, the more de-icer you use, the more likely you are to damage your landscape.
- Sand and gravel are also commonly used on icy driveways. These materials will not dissolve the ice, but will provide traction for walking and driving. (This can be an effective method, but note that removing ice completely provides the greatest protection against injury and liability risk.) You may also combine sand with de-icer to reduce the overall use of chemicals.
- Remember, de-icers are designed to be used in conjunction with shoveling. The purpose of a deicer is to thaw ice so that it is easier to remove, not to completely dissolve the ice.