7 Ways to Melt Ice Without Salt or Ice Melt
Snowed in and there's no rock salt or ice melt at your place? Stay safe at home by using one of these alternative ice-melting methods to keep your driveway, walk, and porch snow and ice free.
When strong winter storms hit, many people stay safe and warm indoors until the poor weather has cleared up. However, if you don’t have any rock salt for melting the ice that’s sure to form on your driveway and walkway, then you might try to clear the snow at multiple points throughout the storm to prevent a layer of ice from forming. This is one effective way to keep your property’s high-traffic areas ice-free, but it’s time-consuming, physically demanding, and exposes you to severe winter weather and the risk of slipping and falling on ice.
Instead, consider using an alternative method to ensure your porch, driveway, and walkway remain clear of ice even when stores run out of rock salt. Even when rock salt is readily available, it’s still preferable to use a different method for melting ice. This is because rock salt damages asphalt, concrete, grass, and other vegetation. It also dries out pets’ paws, is dangerous to children, and can corrode parts of your vehicle. To help protect your home, pets, kids, and the environment, consider trying one of these seven ways to melt ice without salt or ice melt.
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1. Snow Melting Mats
One of the more passive methods for dealing with ice outdoors is to use snow melting mats. These innovative devices effectively eliminate the need for rock salt or even shoveling, in some cases. They can be laid along a walking path or porch and plugged in, at which point heat generated from the mats will melt any ice and snow on top of them. The initial cost of buying and installing a snow melting mat system is much higher than purchasing a bag of rock salt—especially if you are installing one for an entire driveway—but it may be worth the cost if you never need to worry about shoveling again.
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.
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3. Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are often thrown away or composted after making coffee, but this organic debris is a great option for melting ice on your driveway and porch. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, which works to lower the melting point of ice. Additionally, the dark color of coffee grounds better absorbs sunlight better than white snow or clear ice, slightly helping to increase the melting speed.
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.
5. Sugar Beet Juice
A surprising substance with ice-melting capabilities is sugar beet juice. The chemical makeup of beet juice lowers the melting point of ice and snow in a manner similar to rock salt. Not only is this unconventional option effective for melting ice, but it’s also safe for concrete, asphalt, plants, cars, and pets. However, beware that beet juice’s reddish purple color can potentially stain concrete. To avoid this effect, clean up the beet juice as the ice melts if possible.
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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.
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.