Slipping on a patch of ice could invite a whole mess of medical problems—concussions, muscle strains, broken bones, you name it. With the possible exception of curlers, no one enjoys walking on a slick stretch of ice. Driving on it is no picnic, either. According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, 24 percent of all the “weather-related vehicle crashes” that take place every year happen “on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement.”
For safety’s sake, if you have a driveway on your property (or you’re responsible for one at work), ice eradication should be a top priority. Here are four tried and tested strategies you can choose from.
Salt has the ability to lower water’s freezing point, so you’ll often find people salting any potentially slick area when a storm hits. More than 20 million tons of salt are used on icy surfaces each year.
Rock salt is usually the cheapest option; you can find 50-pound bags of it for under $10 at many home improvement stores. First, shovel away any snow that’s on top of the icy surface, then sprinkle small amounts of rock salt onto the ice. While this should help, temperature is a big factor here: Salt doesn’t fight ice very well when it’s colder than 20°F outside.
Another thing to keep in mind: Rock salt contains properties that make it harmful to pets and plants. Excessive salting isn’t very good for vehicles or concrete, either, so it’s best to use the material sparingly. A coffee mug’s worth of rock salt should be enough for a 20-foot driveway.
Time to play mix-master. Like rock salt, several combinations of liquids can reduce the freezing point of water—and get that troublesome ice off your driveway. One solution calls for half a gallon of hot water combined with a quarter-cup of rubbing alcohol and six drops of dish soap. Another recipe involves mixing equal parts vinegar and liquid water. For best results, pour one of these mixtures into a spray bottle and then spritz the affected area. Whatever you do, have a shovel ready. Be prepared to push aside any slush your homemade brew may have produced.
Again, pets and rock salt don’t mix. When our four-legged friends ingest it, they might wind up with blood sodium or gastrointestinal issues, and the salt has been known to irritate cat and dog paws.
While no sprinkle-on product that’s designed to “melt” ice is truly harmless, some are more pet-friendly than others. A number of dog-conscious rock salt alternatives are on the market. Many are beet-based because juice from the plant is pretty effective at lowering water’s freezing point. If you purchase one, follow whatever instructions your package includes.
Snow shoveling can be a great workout for those who are physically up to the task. But if you’d rather avoid regularly scooping shovelfuls of heavy snow, it might be time to think about getting a heated driveway mat, which are exactly what they sound like. Designed to continuously melt snow and ice, the electric-powered mats keep tracts of your driveway safe for vehicles and pedestrians alike. You can plug them into any ordinary outlet, plus they’re tough enough to tolerate the full weight of your car.
Expect to spend $1600 to $2600 for a heated driveway mat. That’s a good chunk of change, but at least they’re portable.