Friday, November 28, 2014

Ice Melting Alternatives for a Safer Driveway

It is that time of year again. With the beautiful snow we experience here in Utah comes the not so beautiful chores associated. 

      Keeping your driveways and sidewalks as snow and ice free as possible can be quite the task. With many traditional salt ice melts there is the worry of damage to concrete, excess salt running off into your yard and the associated potential damage to your plants and flower beds, irritation to your pets feet, or an excess nutrient load in waterways during spring runoff. 

Ok most people probably aren't as concerned about the last part, but it is a legitimate issue.

Today I wanted to talk about a couple of alternatives to the traditional ice melt that we all have probably picked up at the store year after year. Maybe one of these other options will work for you.

That is a warning label. But they are right it is effective and economical, nobody is disputing that fact. 



...Just kidding...sort of.. 

 Seriously if we could all just be poised and ready with our shovel for every flake that falls we would arguably be practicing the greenest option. 

For those of us who might have at least one other thing to accomplish in a day this might not be the best route.

We've all been there, driving up to our house and we say to ourselves “don’t pull in the driveway, just get out and shovel first"…but we are tired and drive right over that fresh snow anyway…then we have 2 inches of ice tracks to try and scrape off the concrete in 20 degree weather” sometimes you need a little  something to melt the ice. 

P.S. if you have never done this before I seriously commend you. Bravo!

Here are a few ice melt alternatives I found. Maybe they are for you...maybe they aren't but here they are. 

Kitty Litter


Particularly if you seek out a more biodegradable kitty litter this is a pretty eco-friendly option. 

The idea is not really that the kitty litter will melt the snow more that it will provide some well needed traction. 

Having Cat litter spread on your driveway may not be for everyone. 

If it is ok with you I say give it a whirl this could be one of your better options. 

Pretty cheap option for traction on the snow.

***Handy Tip and Slight Sidebar***
 As a good friend of mine pointed out it is also a great idea to keep a package of this in your car's trunk during the winter. In case you get stuck somewhere just pour some around your tires for a little extra traction!



That's right ladies and gentleman you've seen that word somewhere, you know what it is... 

There is an argument for using Urea based de-icers due to being better for animal paws and possibly less corrosive on cement. 

Here are my thoughts:
While it does seem to be safer for your pets paws and is by most accounts fairly effective. I'm not so sure we aren't just trading one issue for another with this one. 

Urea has a high nitrogen content.. blah blah blah why do we really care? We want the ice melted. But due to the high nitrogen content this can be problematic for runoff into waterways and the nutrient overload can starve the waterways of oxygen and create algae blooms etc.  

It is also a little more expensive so I am going to pass on this option.

Alfalfa Meal 


This is similar to Urea in that it is a 'natural' ice melt. It does have some of the issues Urea has if it is overused but the nitrogen content is not as high with alfalfa meal. 

It is a grainy type of texture so you get some traction as well. 

Could be a good option when used in moderation and I found it on Amazon. 


Sugar Beet Juice


This is another pretty fabulous option. Particularly if you have Dwight Schrute as a friend (Office Fans?) Everything I read on the sugar beet juice was pretty positive and I liked it because I'm not exactly sure what other purpose we might have for sugar beet juice...Frankly I will not be having a glass with my dinner and would gladly pour it on the ice! 

The only issue I found with this one was where to get this stuff?? 

Most of the commercial products are mixed with a salt/sugar beet combo and it seems you can buy these products online in large city size quantities. Unless you are de-icing your whole neighborhood I can't really recommend a reliable place to purchase. 

The Farmer's Almanac suggests just using the juice from your own beets. I'm not a beet farmer but if any of you are maybe look into saving the juice for your winter ice melt and you can save yourself even more money. 

The Gist of the Ice Melt Dilemma, In My Humble Opinion

Gratuitous Snow on Trees Picture for Your Enjoyment!

If you don't have to use an ice melt just don't. Try and shovel promptly and you will save yourself money and not have to worry about all of these other issues. If you do use an ice melt maybe don't use it every single time. If it is sunny and the ice will be melting quickly anyway maybe just hold off.

With that being said safety is the number one priority in the icy situation so do whatever you have to do and what is best for you. 

Until the next time...

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