5 Eco-Friendly Ways To De-Ice Your Driveway

Skip the salt in favor of these Earth-friendly ice erasers.

December 21, 2016
footprints in snow
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When your driveway and sidewalk grow slick, salt might seem like a harmless solution. Far from it, says Diane MacEachern, a long-time sustainability advocate and author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World.

Salt builds up in ground soil, where it leaches water and nutrients from grass, plants, and tree roots, MacEachern says. “It also absorbs a lot of oxygen when it gets into an aquatic environment, and can cause harmful algae bloom and other issues,” she explains.

Most chemical de-icers are as bad or worse. “These can get into and contaminate our ground water supply,” MacEachern says. “You also track them into your home, where toddlers may be crawling in it, or your pets may be licking it off their paws.”

Fortunately, there are better solutions than salt and harsh chemicals. 

(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)

shoveling snow
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Sweep Early, Shovel Often

If you’re good about sweeping or shoveling away snow before it can accumulate, you can prevent ice from forming. “Don’t wait until it stops snowing to get out there and clear off your steps or walkways,” MacEachern says. By hitting danger areas every couple hours until the snow stops falling, you can skip the de-icers altogether.

Related: 50 Stunning Pictures Of Snow

little girl playing in snow
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Always Shovel Down To The Pavement

When you’re shoveling, be sure you’re scraping down all the way to your drive or walkway’s surface. Only removing the top layers leaves a scrim of snow that will lead to ice accumulation, MacEachern says.

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salting alternative
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Consider These Salt Alternatives

Sand or sawdust can provide better traction when sprinkled onto ice or packed snow. But they won’t melt anything, and they don’t always work well, MacEachern says. If you really need to prevent all ice buildup, consider Safe Paw. MacEachern says it’s 100% salt-free, and endorsed by the non-profit National Resources Defense Council as environmentally sound and pet-safe. 

shoveled side walk
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An Ounce Of Prevention...

If you decide to use a salt-free de-icer, those products are most effective when you sprinkle them before the snow starts accumulating. “Throwing de-icer on top of snow or already formed ice doesn’t work nearly as well,” MacEachern says. Also, use a light hand when spreading around the pellets or crystals. “People think if a little’s good, a lot’s better, but that’s not the case,” she says. You don’t need much to get the job done.

Related: 6 Health Benefits Your Kids Will Get From Playing Outside This Winter

snow shoe covers
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Outfit Your Feet

If you’re worried about slipping, consider a product like Yak Tracks. “These are like little bungee cords that slip easily onto your boots or shoes, and they work really well,” MacEachern says. They won’t protect neighbors or visitors, but they may help you cut back on your need for de-icing products.