Mind Tweaks

Discover the world. One guide at a time

How to Melt Ice on Sidewalks without Salt

4 min read

We enjoy ice when it is in our favourite beverage as it chills the drink to soothe us on a hot summer day. Fast forward six months, and that ice is wreaking havoc on your roads and pathways, where we try not to slip and fall while walking outside.

Unless you want to wear a hockey helmet every time you go outdoors, you must figure out how to clear your sidewalk of snow and ice before it catches you off guard. Salt is an obvious solution, but it is pricey and very bad for the environment, so what are we to do?

This is how to melt ice on sidewalks without salt.

1. Shovelling

Any moisture on the sidewalk’s surface can turn to ice as the temperature reaches freezing. Usually, it is from a snowfall or freezing rain, but with snow, it covers the ground and keeps the surface cold. The snow melts when it does heat up and often refreezes underneath to form ice.

To mitigate the effects of melting snow, try removing as much as possible after a downfall. This will also allow the sun to reach the surface ice and melt it away.

2. Sand

Sand is a fine, granular material made of different mineral particles and is abundant worldwide. Sand is a great alternative to salt when you have a slippery sidewalk. Sand does not rapidly melt the ice but instead provides traction and an abrasive to break up the ice. This, in turn, helps to prevent slipping as it covers the surface.

You typically put on the sand while it is snowing or afterwards, and it will stay there and absorb the heat from the sun, leading to a slow melting process.

3. Liquid De-icer

Different products are available if you want a chemical to remove your ice. Some of them contain sodium and potassium chloride, and these are the ones you want to stay away from because of their harmful effects on the environment and concrete as well.

Look for a liquid deicer with magnesium and calcium chloride as their main ingredients.

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is a naturally occurring product that can melt ice twice as fast as salt without leaving harmful residue. Its hygroscopic properties allow moisture absorption as it breaks into brine and melts the ice.

Calcium chloride

Calcium chloride self-generates heat when it dissolves, so ice melts rapidly. It is considered the least harmful compound for sidewalks.

Combined, this is a powerful de-icing punch, and some manufacturers add additional, environmentally friendly ingredients like molasses to aid in rapidly removing ice. Make sure to read labels and find a safe product. You can also use a liquid de-icer as a pre-treatment before a snowstorm to provide a protective layer on the sidewalk that inhibits ice formation.

4. Coffee Grounds

For those who love their caffeine fix, the byproduct is spent coffee grounds. Instead of throwing them away, you can use them to melt the ice on your sidewalk.

Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, and this is effective in lowering the melting point of ice. Coffee grounds are dark in colour, helping to absorb and retain heat from the sun and to top it off, they act like sand with their coarse texture and are abrasive to the ice.

5. Vinegar

Vinegar is a fermented product made from acetic acid and water, and it works great on melting ice. The acid lowers the melting point of the ice and breaks up larger sheets so it can be shovelled away more easily. You can use pure vinegar or mix it with hot water for more coverage, and it is a cheap and readily available solution to your sidewalk ice.

6. Suga

For a more DIY method, regular sugar works in a pinch. Sugar acts similarly to salt by lowering the freezing point of water. You probably have sugar on hand, especially in the winter when baking for the holidays is happening. Sugar is an expensive way to de-ice, but it works great if you have some extra on hand.

7. Snow Melting Mats

Instead of pouring products onto the ice, you can lay down mats to melt the ice for you. Melting mats are hassle-free because they do all the work for you, and while there is an initial investment, you can easily configure them along your sidewalks, and they will melt away snow and ice in a few hours.

They are like sidewalk electric blankets. You plug them into your exterior outlets and provide direct heat to the concrete using a heating element encased in rubber.

This is how to melt snow on sidewalks without salt. Try each to see their effectiveness and combine them for fast and efficient ice removal. You can safely navigate your sidewalks and keep your feet firmly on the pavement.