Remove Sidewalk Ice and Snow Without Killing Plants

Removing sidewalk ice safely and effectively in the winter is a big concern for residents living in colder climates. Most homeowners don't want to cause damage to their grass and plants when deicing their sidewalks in the winter, so here are some tips to keep your sidewalk clear and protect your greenery.

Step 1 - Keep Chemicals Away From Plants

When using deicing chemicals, divert the runoff away from your plants. Simply construct a gravel drain between your walkway and garden. This will ensure runoff is directed toward the sewer system or drain. Also, don't move shoveled snow or ice from deiced areas to lawn areas. Only move the snow to a spot where it can melt into a drain or get plowed.

Step 2 - Control Amounts

When using chemicals, use as little as possible. Limit your use by starting with a small amount and waiting until it dissolves. Then you can add more if needed. Continue to add salt until you achieve the right amount of melting with the least amount of salt. And always remove excess snow before adding salt. Deicers work best on thin patches of ice left on the surface of sidewalks and driveways.

Step 3 - Use Salt Ahead of Time

Salt is more effective when applied before a major storm. As soon as snow begins falling, apply a small amount of deicer on your driveway or sidewalk to prevent ice accumulation. Referred to as anti-icing, this method works well at preventing the buildup of ice during and after a storm. Pre-applying salt allows you to use much less chemicals than when it is applied afterward.

Step 4 - Use a Liquid Deicer

  • Instead of using coarse salt to prevent ice, consider using a liquid chemical. When anti-icing a surface, hard salt can blow away or get moved around before it has a chance to work. Liquid deicers move less and are generally more effective than the same chemicals in solid form. Major cities are now switching to a saltwater brine solution to keep the streets free of ice in the winter.
  • Another option is magnesium chloride, which is much less corrosive than other chemicals. Although not all places sell liquid deicers, you can make some at home by combining regular salt deicers with warm water. Make sure the ice solids are completely dissolved before using. Two parts water to one part magnesium chloride works well.
  • You can apply the liquid to surfaces using a pressurized sprayer. But be warned that the sprayer may experience some corrosion from the salt. A sprayer with brass fittings will limit the amount of corrosion that occurs.

Step 5 - Know When NOT to Salt

If it’s too cold outside, avoid using salt. Salt doesn't work at temperatures below five degrees, so wait until it warms up to apply the salt. If the temperatures aren't going to warm up anytime soon, spread some sand on the surface for traction.