How to Melt Snow and Ice: What Are Your Options?

A walkway with snow and the words "diy melting snow and ice."
What You'll Need
Rock salt
Gravel and sand
Cat litter
Magic Minus Zero
De-icer products

The falling slippery snow and accumulating ice can be treacherous for humans and animals alike. It’s essential to keep your sidewalk and driveway free of ice and snow to keep your loved ones and visitors safe. The following products are great for melting ice and creating a safe place to walk around your home.

Safe Shoveling

The simplest and safest way to keep ice from building up on your sidewalk and driveway is to remove it as quickly as it develops. Keep a shovel at your back door so that you can easily access it whenever the snow begins to fall. There are a number of shovel products available that are ergonomically designed to make the job of shoveling easier on the back -- take a look through your local hardware store for the best product for your situation.

However, if the snow and ice begin to build up quicker than you can shovel it away, you'll need to decide which ice melting product you want to do the work for you. Regardless of your choice, wear gloves when applying chemicals and make sure not to use excessive amounts of the product.

Option One - Salt

Sodium Chloride, also known as rock salt, can be purchased in large bags and is available at your local hardware store. It comes with a price tag of around five bucks per bag. It’s a budget-friendly material for melting ice around your home, however, it can cause problems for your grass and garden. If it’s your choice in dealing with the dangers of winter, be sure to be careful where you apply it and to keep it away from your lawn and garden areas.

Option Two - Gravel and Sand

If the weather in your area is calling for cold temperatures, keep some sand or gravel on hand to create traction on the slippery ice. These eco-friendly materials won't get rid of the ice, but they will reduce the possibility for slipping and falling. Keep in mind that you will have to sweep up the accumulation of sand and gravel once the warmer weather arrives to prevent them from running into your drains and causing clogs. Keep a large container of sand or gravel in your garage along with a shovel so that you can easily get to it whenever the temperatures fall drastically.

Option Three - Cat Litter

Cat litter is another great option for building traction on icy walkways. It's a cheap way to prevent falls (available at most dollar stores). This type of product won't damage your cement or your asphalt and if you choose a brand that is biodegradable, you will prevent the possibility of harming your lawn and gardens.

Option Four - SafePaw

SafePaw is an innovative product that will melt the ice around your home without causing injury to your pets or damage to your pathways. Be sure to read the directions on the bag before using it.

Option Five - Magic Minus Zero

This product is a liquid material that combines magnesium chloride with a distilling byproduct. Both biodegradable and nontoxic, Magic Minus Zero won't corrode your cement and can be used on paved driveways before a storm arrives.

Option Six - De-Icer Products

While salt is one of the best materials for melting ice, there are other products that combine salt with effective chemicals that you can use to quickly de-ice your sidewalk and driveway. Some of the chemicals used in de-icing products include Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride. Calcium Chloride can be used in temperatures up to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. As this chemical dissolves, it generates heat and melts ice. While it is an effective choice in very cold weather, there is a tradeoff -- this material will corrode metal and can kill vegetation. De-icers with magnesium chloride are safer for your grass and vegetation and will cause less damage to concrete and metal than those with Calcium Chloride.

Option Seven - Urea

Urea is a chemical often used for fertilizer, but it also works well for melting ice. As a fertilizing chemical, it doesn't harm vegetation and in proper amounts will actually help to promote plant growth. Urea is also safe for pets and humans, but this chemical does come at a cost. The price of a bag of urea is about five times the price of regular rock salt. If you want to make this product your choice for melting ice around your home, consider purchasing it in bulk amounts to reduce your costs.