How to Melt Ice on Driveway without Salt

Alternatives to Rock Salt

Rock salt works by lowering the freezing point of water, therefore, snow and ice will melt below the threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, several of these alternative options work in the same fashion, but without the environmental drawbacks.

Wood Ash – Leftover wood ash from your fireplace makes for a cheap and easy solution. With potassium salts, wood ash helps melt snow/ice and provide traction for footing.

Coffee Grounds – Those used coffee grounds are also a useful option. The nitrogen in the coffee grounds helps lower the freezing point. The dark color also will attract sun rays to help speed up melting.

Sugar Beet Juice – This is one of the alternative options to rock salt that several communities are testing out. Spreading sugar beet juice before a snow/ice storm will limit the ability of accumulation.

Rubbing Alcohol – Combine 2 quarts of warm water, 6 drops of dish soap, and 2 ounces of rubbing alcohol — spread on pavement areas. This solution is also useful for defrosting car windows.

Vinegar – Mixing 50 percent warm water and 50 percent vinegar will also help melt snow and ice. Shoveling soon after the application of the mixture will help speed up the process.

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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.

6. Chloride Compounds

If you still want your ice melted as quickly as rock salt can but are willing to switch to a more environmentally friendly option, then calcium chloride is a good choice. It works best when used between 0 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s easy to find in many home improvement stores. Similarly, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride can also be used to melt ice. In fact, magnesium chloride is an even more ecologically safe option than calcium chloride, and it works at temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit.

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2. Sugar

Sugar is another common household product you can use to de-ice that acts in the same way as table salt, lowering the freezing point of the water. However, sugar is more costly than salt. So you may only want to use it on smaller areas, like your front porch. 

Potassium Chloride Ice Melt

Potassium chloride is best for the environment.

Potassium chloride ice melt is not the most effective ice melt, but it is environmentally friendly. It costs about the same as calcium chloride and is not chemically damaging to concrete.

In the US, we don’t often use it for deicing as much as other ice melts, and Potassium acetate is more commonly used.

Pros of Potassium Chloride Ice Melt

  • Works on lower temperatures down to 12°F (-11°C)
  • Not damaging to concrete
  • Nearly harmless to plants and animals

Cons of Potassium Chloride Ice Melt

  • Works slower than calcium chloride, rock salt and magnesium chloride
  • Moderately corrosive to metals
  • More expensive than sodium chloride (about the same as calcium chloride)

How to Reduce Corrosion from Ice Melt?

Chloride-based deicers such as Sodium Chloride can corrode rebar in concrete, metal in infrastructure, vehicles, and any other type of equipment made out of metal. To prevent corrosion we can still use chloride-based ice melts, but strategically, to minimize the usage and increase the effectiveness.

Here is how to reduce corrosion from ice melt:

  • Limit the amount of chloride-based ice melts
    • only use when required (when temperatures are very low)
    • reduce accumulation of snow and ice through snow fences
    • distribute the usage of ice melts better
    • use pre-wetting – jumpstarts the melting and increases the effect
    • Combine chloride-based deicers with each other, or with other liquids such as beet juice, to increase efficiency, and reduce the usage of salts
  • Thoroughly wash vehicles and equipment after direct exposure to chloride deicers or to brine

Since chloride-based ice melts are corrosive to metals, in airports, for example, other substances are used:

  • sodium formate
  • potassium formate
  • sodium acetate
  • potassium acetate

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 of rubbing alcohol would 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.

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.Fertilizerdoesn’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

Does Salt Water Ice Last Longer Than Regular Ice?

While adding salt to ice causes it to melt faster what about pre-freezing salt water. Does pre-frozen salt water last longer than regular ice?

The answer again is no.

Salt water ice has a lower melting point than regular water which means salt water ice will melt earlier and faster than regular ice.

The below video shows an experiment where a guy fills up two plastic bottles, one with regular ice and one with salt water ice and after about 5 hours the salt water ice was almost all gone while the regular water ice was still almost completely frozen.

So if you're looking to make ice last longer then salt water generally isn't the best thing to use. I did create an instructional article on how to keep ice from melting using salt, but again it's the premise of “melt some ice to cool down the other ice making it last longer”.

You can also use salt to make frozen gel packs at home. It's one of the safest and easiest ways to make a frozen ice packs at home as all you need is salt, water and a bag to put it in. Way cheaper than buying a pre-made ice pack at the store which might cost you $5-$10 and contain a mixture of unknown ingredients (learn what goes into a gel ice pack).

Landscaping Drainage Solutions For The Spring Season

Now that the snow is starting to melt and the end of winter is in sight, you might be tempted to get out there and start setting…

Beyond Salt and Water

Putting salt on water isn’t the only time freezing point depression occurs. Any time you add particles to a liquid, you lower its freezing point and raise its boiling point. Another good example of freezing point depression is vodka. Vodka contains both ethanol and water. Ordinarily, vodka does not freeze in a home freezer. The alcohol in the water lowers the freezing point of the water.

2 thoughts on Snow and Ice Melt Alternatives for 2021

  1. PATRICIA PATRICIA says:

    January 1, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Beet juice is so expensive. I can’t see myself dumping it on the ground.

    Reply

    1. Launa Albrecht Launa Albrecht says:

      February 19, 2018 at 11:18 am

      These are alternatives and other ideas, perhaps not the most economical, but environmentally friendly.

      Reply

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