By Dan Ketchum

An icy driveway isn't just an eyesore, it's a slippery path that can lead to serious injury and, depending on your locality, can make you liable for injuries that occur as a result of falls and tumbles. While sprinkling an icy driveway with rock salt is a common solution, these cyanide- and chloride-heavy salts can potentially damage nearby plants, transport metallic elements in the local water supply and irritate the paws of your pets. To deice your driveway safely and effectively, take a multi-prong approach with earth-friendly elements.

House and Driveway Covered with Fresh Snow
credit: Chiyacat/iStock/Getty Images
You have plenty of options for driveway deicers.

Step 1

Prepare yourself for deicing by bundling up in warm clothing, including moisture-wicking thermal under layers, water-repellent outer layers, water-resistant boots with plenty of traction, a hat or ear coverings and thick work gloves.

Step 2

Scrape snow or icy buildup from any cars parked in the driveway and move the cars if possible.

Step 3

Shovel any snow from your driveway to reach the icy layer below. Shovel as soon as possible after a snowfall and move the discarded snow to a nearby area, placing the first shovel-fulls far enough away that you have space to move all of the snow. As you shovel, keep your back straight and focus on lifting with your legs and shoulders. Hold the shovel high and close to your upper body, and avoid twisting as you discard the snow to help maintain balance. Break up any ice you can with the shovel and dispose of it. Snow shoveling serves as the most effective way to deice your drive; it can prevent ice formation if done diligently.

Step 4

Choose your deicer. For optimal protection of nearby plants, animals and water supplies, consider the options at your local home and garden center. No-salt melters are particularly safe for pets, while magnesium chloride-based products go easy on plants and animals but can harm masonry. Calcium chloride doesn't affect plants, but it may leave residue on shoes. For pricier and even more eco-friendly options, consider potassium chloride, sodium acetate, magnesium acetate or potassium acetate. To treat ice that has already formed, choose pellet or crystal deicers.

Step 5

Apply the deicer according to the manufacturer's instructions and warnings, working as soon as you can after snowfall. In general, sprinkle the minimum amount of deicer atop the ice; deicer is meant to break down ice for shoveling, not to dissolve it completely. It takes only about a handful of calcium chloride to treat 3 square yards of ice. More deicer will not break down ice more quickly. To prevent potential plant damage, do not apply the deicer to the outer border of your driveway or in places where it may run off into your lawn.

Step 6

Allow the ice to break down, and scoop away the remaining slosh with your snow shovel, adding it to your existing snow pile. Scatter sand or birdseed to help improve traction -- these don't melt ice, but they make your driveway safer to traverse.