4 Solutions for Friendlier De-Icing
Icy roads, sidewalks, and driveways are dangerous. And, unfortunately, winter tends to bring a lot of that dangerous ice. To mitigate that danger, many of us opt for spreading around a layer of rock salt as either a preventative measure against ice forming or as a solution to a frozen pathway. While this is effective, it’s not the eco-friendliest solution to the problem; sodium chloride doesn’t play particularly nice with vegetation, wildlife, or the underside of your car. That’s why we like to de-ice without using salt. Here are some alternatives for keeping ice at bay this winter.
One of the best ways to de-ice without salt is to avoid de-icing altogether. As snow builds up, it starts to freeze. The easiest way to avoid having to de-ice is to tackle the problem before it really becomes a problem. This means breaking out the snow shovel or snowblower immediately after each snowfall.
Admittedly, this is a bit of a disingenuous solution on our end. Like, “the best way to deal with a headache is to avoid getting punched in the face in the first place.” A valid criticism, to be sure. But, the fact remains that you can avoid salting your driveway by getting on top of the situation straight away with your snow shovel.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate
Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) presents an alternative to sodium chloride. It’s less corrosive than tap water, so it’s easy on watersheds, lakes, rivers, and other water bodies. Because it’s chloride-free, it also won’t rust out the bottom of your car. It won’t cause pitting or spalling on concrete surfaces, making it a good way to de-ice without salt.
It also operates a little bit differently than salt. CMA keeps the snow lighter and drier, improving traction and removal. Rather than turning snow into a slushy brine, CMA creates an oatmeal-like consistency. It is effective down to around 15ºF.
Magnesium chloride can be used for low-temperature de-icing, as it prevents ice from bonding. You can use it to pretreat the surface to keep snow from sticking or apply it to snow for a melting effect.
Magnesium chloride is effective at lower temperatures (down to -13ºF), is safe for pets to be around, and begins to work instantly. It’s also less corrosive to concrete than sodium chloride and calcium chloride.
The internet is generally a treasure trove for DIY solutions to life’s little problems. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s full of homemade solutions to help you de-ice your driveway without salt.
The most popular that we’ve found involves combining about a half-gallon of hot water, six or seven drops of dish soap, and a 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol in a bucket.
Spreading this mixture across your frozen driveway or sidewalk will cause the snow and ice to melt and break apart so that you can scrape it away easier.
You can also throw this mixture into a spray bottle to de-ice your frozen windshields and car locks.
Unfortunately, rock salt is likely still the cheapest and most effective solution to frozen driveways and walkways. However, when you consider the long-term damage rock salt can cause, perhaps the total cost is more prohibitive than it seems at first blush. Salt can destroy vegetation, can put the health of your pets at risk, and rust out the bottom of your vehicle. At the end of the day, we think we’d prefer to de-ice without the salt.