How to Melt Snow and Ice Without Rock Salt

What Melts Ice?

To melt ice, you need to introduce foreign substances on ice, such as salt and other chemical particles that will make the ice melt faster. Most commonly used are rock salt, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and potassium chloride.

Ice melts fast when you mix it with something that lowers the freezing point of water, which chemical substances do.

As a homeowner, if you just want to melt the ice w

As a homeowner, if you just want to melt the ice without any other additional benefits, then rock salt is fine. If however, you need to consider pets, children, and plant life then you should probably choose magnesium chloride or potassium chloride.

Companies use a combination of different chemicals, which usually works best. For example, the Ohio Department of Transportation regularlyused a saline solution (brine) before cold temperatures occur, to prevent the formation of frost. Then, after brine (for the same winter), they used rock salt with liquid Calcium Chloride to better melt ice in extremely cold temperatures.

On top of that, they experimented with Ice Bite (formerly Geomelt) made from beet juice to increase the effectiveness of salt, so they didn’t have to use too much salt to prevent damaging the environment.

Mixing salt with other natural substances to increase the effect, and minimize the usage of salt seems to be the best strategy for melting the ice.

Snow Melting Mats

And now, on to our favorite way to effortlessly melt snow and ice: Summerstep Snow Melting Mats from Powerblanket! 
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Did you know heated mats for snow removal even existed? If not, you’re not alone! But they are slowly catching on as the shoveling alternative that really works!

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These heated mats are incredibly easy to maintain – just lay them out once and keep them in place all winter! All you have to do during each snowfall is simply plug them in. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Powerblanket offers both Summerstep industrial mats and residential melting mats. They can be made custom to fit your exact needs. They can also be linked together to fit any size or shape of porch, walkway, driveway, or stairs. 

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#6: Sugar Beet Juice Pickle Brine

So this method might get the cops called on ya for murder. But aside from the bloody red stain, it works pretty well. You mix 20 percent beet juice with 80 percent pickle brine. Yes, there is salt in brine, but this is less damaging than regular rock salt.Some folks just use sugar beet juice on its own with success. However, it will take much longer to work so this isn't going to be suitable in colder climates.

Also, the red hue of your driveway will be pretty startling to your neighbors. 

#9: Heated Mats

Heated mats might be too costly to use for your en

Heated mats might be too costly to use for your entire driveway. But they can be a massive help in keeping outdoor stairs or a walkway snow-free without using salt. They are initially expensive, but over time they’ll pay for themselves. 

See the latest price of Heated Mats at Amazon

Natural alternatives to rock salt

You probably won’t like to hear the first of the natural alternatives to using rock salt, and that’s because it means you must shovel snow and ice before it can accumulate. Do not let snow and ice sit on your driveway or sidewalk, because it will have the opportunity to become more dangerous over time.

In cases where it is not possible to remove the snow in time, there are options to improve the traction on a slippery walkway. Unfortunately, even those de-icers marketed as “natural” or “organic” can still contain harmful chlorides. There are several materials that you can spread on a slippery path, including sand, wood ash, sawdust, wood chips, or straw. Use these materials on the most slippery of paths where there is a lot of traffic. None of these materials will actually melt the ice, of course, but they will at least make for a safer walkway.

You can also invest in the proper footwear such as attachable snow-grips to improve your personal safety on an icy road. Be smart and don’t go out walking without a decent pair of boots.

Ultimately, rock salt is a quick fix that only results in increased problems in the future. Instead, be wise and try to keep your driveway and walkways free from snow when it first falls, and improve the traction on already icy paths with natural materials that will not leach into the soil and waterways.

Image credit: flickr via dickdavid

2. Fertilizer

Finding an alternative to rock salt isn’t just about effectiveness. Sometimes the best solution is a convenient one, such as a product you may already have in your garage or shed. Fertilizer doesn’t work as quickly as rock salt, but many fertilizer mixes include ammonium sulfate, potassium chloride, or urea. Like rock salt, these molecules lower the melting point of ice, but they do so without damaging your pavement and yard.

RELATED: 10 Surprising Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Ice and Snow

4. Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol isn’t only useful for cleaning, as it can also be poured on ice to help clear a driveway or path. However, simply dumping out an entire bottle ofrubbing alcoholwould be expensive and inefficient, so it’s recommended to combine ¼ cup of alcohol, six drops of concentrated dish soap, and ½ gallon of hot water in a bucket to create a more cost-effective homemade ice melt solution. Just be sure to shovel away any excess water after pouring, as it can refreeze and form new ice if left standing.

Why You Should Not Use Salt And Chemicals To Melt Ice?

Let’s start with the pros associated with using salt. It’s easily available, melts the ice, and comes cheap. Looks great superficially. But when you will come to know its after-effects, you will change your opinion. The same goes for a majority of ice melt as they all contain chemicals like Aluminum Chloride, Ammonium Nitrate, Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Magnesium Chloride, and Sodium Cyanide.

Harmful to concrete and roof

Rock salt is essentially sodium chloride. Sodium chloride attacks the metal rebar contained within the concrete when it is soaked-up into the concrete.

It’s corrosive to concrete, asphalt, and bricks as well. Salt traces left on the surface causes stains and streaks. The real problem starts when it gets into the porous concrete and creates holes and cracks that worsen with frequent freeze-thaw cycles. 

Different chemicals contained in ice melt react with concrete and different ways.

Not safe for kids and pets

Another reason you should not use rock salt and other chemicals is it is not safe to use around kids, pets, and plants. Chlorine in salt and chemical-based ice melt is a toxic respiratory irritant and can damage pets’ skin, eyes, and membranes.

Coffee grounds

We’re big proponents of repurposing coffee grounds instead of throwing them out, and this is another example. That’s because coffee grounds contain nitrogen, which helps lower the melting point of ice. They have a secondary function too: Because coffee grounds are dark in color, they absorb more sunlight than lighter-colored materials—like snow, ice, and rock salt—which may help speed up the melting process.

What is Concrete Safe Ice Melt?

Sodium chloride and potassium chloride are the least damaging to concrete. On the other hand, calcium chloride is the most damaging to concrete.

While comparing three chloride-based ice melts (Sodium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, and Magnesium Chloride) research showed that Calcium Chloride (salt) was the most damaging to pavement concretes when used as a deicing solution, being twice as damaging as magnesium chloride.

Sodium Chloride showed almost no damage, while magnesium chloride was only slightly damaging (even though the image might imply differently).

Research: Jain, Olek, Janusz and Jozwiak-Niedzwied
Research: Jain, Olek, Janusz and Jozwiak-Niedzwiedzka
Concrete exposed to distilled water for 95 weeks
Concrete exposed to distilled water for 95 weeks
Concrete exposed to sodium chloride for 95 weeks
Concrete exposed to sodium chloride for 95 weeks
Concrete exposed to calcium chloride for 10 weeks
Concrete exposed to calcium chloride for 10 weeks
Concrete exposed to magnesium chloride for 10 week
Concrete exposed to magnesium chloride for 10 weeks

Note: Magnesium chloride is twice as less damaging to concrete than calcium chloride, even though it may appear different in pictures.

Another research from the Utah Transportation Commission showed similar results: Sodium Chloride (salt) wasn’t damaging, while Calcium Chloride and magnesium chloride were significantly damaging the concrete causing cracking, mass loss, and strength loss.

Reuse

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7. Vinegar

The acetic acid in vinegar is a chemical compound that lowers ice’s melting point, but it doesn’t melt ice quite as well as rock salt and some of the above alternatives. Like isopropyl alcohol, vinegar can technically be used on its own, but it provides better results in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and hot water. This solution can rapidly melt solid sheets of ice, at which point they can be broken up with shoveling. As with alcohol, take care to clear the resulting water from your driveway, walkway, or porch to prevent it from refreezing.

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