The winter season brings snow, ice, and cold — and with it, slippery surfaces. A safe driveway is essential for you, your family, and visitors to your home, but a little bit of wet weather can create hazardous situations for you and your guests. Fortunately, there are various ways to keep your driveway clear of snow and ice while still being mindful of the environment.
How to Get Rid of Ice on Your Driveway
When it comes to driveway ice, you need to determine the most important factors so you can find the best solution for you and your family.
Here are 3 good questions to ask when shopping for solutions to melt ice on your driveway:
- What temperature range does the product work in?
- Will this damage my concrete sidewalks or driveway?
- Is this pet-safe ice melt? What about plants or grass?
Thankfully, there are quite a few solutions to prevent and treat driveway ice that check those boxes and more. However, there are also a few trade-offs that you should be aware of when choosing between various options. We’ll highlight these below so you can make your best choice.
5 Ways to Remove Driveway Ice
- Use a tarp to remove ice and snow
- Apply rock salt for melting driveway ice
- Utilize heated driveway systems
- Opt for environmentally friendly and pet-safe ice melt products
- Learn how to melt driveway ice in sub-zero temperatures
Prevent Ice on Your Driveway with a Tarp
It’s true that the best way to treat ice and snow buildup on your driveway, walkway, and other areas is to prevent it in the first place. Stopping ice from accumulating where you don’t want it ranges from being simple to more technical and everything in between.
The most cost-saving method, although you’ll undoubtedly get your workout, is employing the use of a tarp. Before you get winter weather, spread a large tarp across the space where you want to prevent snow and ice. Tarps made with canvas on one side are the best options for this because of their durability. Then, once the snow has fallen, pick up the tarp and dump the snow you’ve collected off to the side.
Rock Salt to Melt Ice on Driveways
One of the oldest methods for treating icy driveways and sidewalks is rock salt, also known by its chemical compound, sodium chloride. This solution is inexpensive, easy to find in most stores, and effective at melting ice quickly. Rock salt works by changing the freezing point of the water. The salt and water mix to create a brine, forming a barrier between the ice and the surface below.
However, it’s essential to keep an eye on the temperature when spreading rock salt. Due to temperature requirements, this spread should be applied when temperatures are above 15°F. If the temperature is below that, the salt will be ineffective.
Cons of Using Rock Salt to Melt Driveway Ice
Although the benefits of this product paint a pretty picture, there are more than a few downsides to using this method in winter weather. Rock salt has been a popular go-to for families across the country every winter, but the cons usually outweigh the pros when you do your research.
Roughly 95% of products to melt ice on driveways are made with caustic chloride salts. While these ingredients – sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride – can help melt ice, it comes at the expense of toxicity to plants and pets, damage to your concrete and metal, and the poisoning of nearby water supplies.
You can also have too much of a good thing when it comes to this deicer. If you over-apply rock salt or use it for an extended period of time on untreated concrete, your driveway or sidewalk can develop large holes, big cracks, and discoloration. Last but not least, it’s important to be mindful of your pets when choosing whether or not to use rock salt to melt driveway ice, as this product can be incredibly harmful.
Rock Salt and Pets
Although sodium chloride is an effective treatment for ice and snow on your driveway, using rock salt can cause significant problems for your pets and other animals, as it is not a pet-friendly ice melt.
The two biggest worries for pets when exposed to rock salt are:
- Skin irritation
Rock Salt and Paws
When dogs and other animals walk on rock salt, the salt can become stuck in the hair between their toes and their paw pads. This can be uncomfortable, but the larger concern is the threat of frostbite and chemical burns that can occur. Because rock salt comes in different size granules, nearly every type of animal is at risk, regardless of the size of their feet.
The best way to prevent damage to animals’ paws when using rock salt is by using booties or other protective coverings when they go outside. Always be sure to keep an eye on pets during walks and other outdoor activities. If booties aren’t practical or your pet refuses to wear them, make sure to wash their paws and skin each time they go outside to remove any residue.
Rock Salt Puts Pets at an Increased Risk of Sodium Poisoning
The other concern for pets exposed to rock salt is blood sodium poisoning. Animals can ingest the rock salt in many ways – such as by licking the pieces that become stuck between their toes or by licking the ground itself. However, even if they only lick a few granules, it can lead to increased thirst, vomiting, lethargy, and even kidney damage.
The best way to keep your pets safe from rock salt is to choose a pet-safe ice melt. As more people become focused on how the products we use impact the environment, we are constantly given more options to choose from that are both practical and safe for Mother Nature.
How Can You Tell if You’re Using a Pet-Safe Ice Melt?
If you have pets, understanding the dangers of non-pet-safe ice melts and being aware of the ingredients in your ice melt is critical. Although many products claim to be safe for the environment and your pets, you should still read the directions and familiarize yourself with the ingredients to be on the lookout for before melting your driveway ice. Unfortunately, many companies label their products as a pet-safe ice melt even if they have rock salt because they smooth out the edges of the granules.
These are some of the most common ingredients found in non-pet-safe ice melts:
Calcium salts: Also known as calcium chloride, calcium carbonate, and calcium magnesium acetate, these are the most dangerous ingredients for your pets.
Sodium chloride: This chemical can be lethal to pets in large amounts, while smaller exposure can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Magnesium chloride: This is very problematic for dogs with existing kidney problems. In other pets, ingestion of a small amount can cause an upset stomach.
Glycol: If your ice melt contains ethylene glycol, it’s definitely not a pet-safe ice melt. Although propylene glycol is relatively safe for dogs, it can cause issues with red blood cells in cats.
Although there are very few genuinely pet-safe ice melts, there are some great options out there – it’s just a matter of doing your research. Look for products that are all-natural and eco-friendly without warning labels. Don’t buy solely based on price. And remember that although you have your pets’ best interest at heart, your neighbors and other locations you frequent likely do not.
Melt Driveway Ice with Heat Mats and Heated Driveway Systems
If you want to go a more sophisticated route, using electric options is an efficient way to prevent snow from accumulating on your driveway in the first place! The heat keeps the surface of your driveway or sidewalk warm enough that snow, sleet, and ice won’t stick or accumulate on it during winter weather conditions.
Heat mats and electric systems to melt driveway ice can be an expensive investment, but they provide several benefits that shoppers should consider before writing off the cost, including:
- Peace of mind that you won’t have to worry about shoveling or applying deicing products to maintain a safe surface throughout winter months
- Longevity and consistency of service
- The value provided to your home in the event you decide to move
- They’re always a pet-safe ice melt
Deicing Driveways with Heat Mats
Portable heat mats for driveways are a less expensive alternative to systems that are installed within the concrete itself. These mats are an excellent choice for locations that don’t typically see a lot of snow but that still want the convenience of knowing that you will be able to move your car safely in the event of winter weather. Plus, they’re typically compatible with standard power outlets, so there’s no need for specialty electric work.
Heat mats work similarly to the styles designed for sidewalks, porches, and walkways. The driveway versions contain a heating element that is placed between two layers of sturdy rubber that is strong enough to support the weight of a vehicle. Rather than covering the entire driveway, they are typically placed in line with the tire tracks to be as space efficient as possible.
Heated Driveway Systems for Melting Ice
For areas that see more frequent snow and ice, automated systems are both convenient, cost-effective, and provide added safety. Heated driveway systems help prevent driveway ice by utilizing electric wiring to heat the surface of the driveway. These systems are versatile, cost-effective, and can be manual or automatic.
Environmentally Friendly Deicing Products
In the past, using a deicing product to prevent or treat driveway ice meant dealing with hazardous chemicals like chlorine that will damage grass and plants, are dangerous to kids and pets, and can contaminate nearby water sources. Thankfully, recently developed deicers don’t contain the same chemicals, making them more friendly for you, your family, and the environment. There are tons of reasons to choose a natural and pet-safe ice melt.
Options such as GroundWorks Natural Icemelter and Arctic ECO Green® Icemelter are excellent choices for preventing driveway ice and keeping your yard safe. In fact, Arctic ECO Green® is one of the fastest-acting, all-natural, environmentally friendly options on the market. Environmentally friendly deicing products typically include ingredients such as calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), which helps dissolve ice without causing damage to surfaces like asphalt or concrete.
Choosing an environmentally friendly ice melt means understanding the ingredients and the impact that they have on their surroundings.
How to Melt Ice on Driveways in Freezing Weather
If you’re located in an area where you frequently have to deal with low temperatures and winter weather, finding the best product for melting driveway ice is crucial to making your life as convenient as possible. Deicing products that contain magnesium chloride are a great option. In addition to being safer for your driveway and your pets than table salt and rock salt, it also works at temperatures as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, rock salt only works above 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
For those who scoff at -10 degrees, you will probably prefer calcium chloride. This compound melts snow and ice when the temperature outside is below -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Although products with this ingredient are effective, they’re also more corrosive than chloride-free options. However, since they’re better for your driveway than rock salt and work better than options with less extreme temperature requirements, most people find them to be a worthwhile trade.Rocky Mountain BioAg® offers a variety of pet-safe ice melt products that are environmentally friendly and effective at melting the snow and ice on your driveway, walkway, and stairs. With our products, you can keep your family and guests safe while being mindful of the environment and your furry friends. Whether you’re shopping for your home or need larger quantities for a business or municipality, our website has everything you need to learn about our products and find the best one for your driveway ice-melting needs.