Each year the US alone uses 15 million tons of de-icing salt.  The use of salt makes snowy roads and sidewalks much safer, but that’s not without other costs. There are many reasons why you might be looking into alternatives to rock salt this season.  Often in mid-to-late winter, particularly after a rough patch of weather, many stores have run out of product, and the use and over-use of rock-salt is damaging to your concrete, lawn, and can hurt your pet’s paws.  Those of us who are environmentally minded may want to look at other ways to melt ice as the salt accumulated over the winter ends up in our waterways and impacts the habitat of nearby wildlife and their overall health.

In addition to purchasing greener organic, salt-free de-icer at a higher price there are many home ‘recipes’ you can find in your pantry, our local grocery or hardware store to help make your sidewalks and driveways slip-free.

Pickle Brine

By using the brine created for pickling you can melt your ice and snow.  In addition to what’s in your fridge or pantry you can make your own pickle brine by mixing 2lbs of salt per gallon (or 3.78 litres) of water.  While pickle brine is made from salt (much like rock salt) National Geographic says it’s better for the environment and its use produces four to 29 percent less chlorine to the water table.

Alfalfa Meal

Alfalfa meal is generally used as fertilizer, is natural, and is grainy, meaning that in addition to melting ice it provides some solid traction when used moderately.  You can purchase Alfalfa meal from your local home hardware/building supply, or gardening retailers.

Ash From Your Fireplace/Coffee Grounds/Sand

The next time you clean out your fireplace consider dumping the ash on your walkway.  Not only will it provide traction, but the dark colour of ash will absorb more heat from the sun, helping to melt snow and ice.  Sand and coffee grounds can also be used the exact same way for added traction and melting powers.

Kitty Litter

Kitty litter won’t melt your snow, but it will come in handy to provide traction, particularly when your car gets stuck on an icy patch.  Remember to use this sparingly as it gets mushy when wet!

Shovel Frequently and Thoroughly

By shovelling snow as it comes in and piling it away from your walk and driveway you can prevent most ice from forming as snow and ice melts and refreezes.  Remember you’ll still need to deal with the results of any freezing rain or runoff that has melted and refrozen on your pathways.