If your home's driveway. stairs and sidewalks are icy after a snowstorm and you don't have any traditional rock salt on hand, you can de-ice the surfaces using a variety of household products. Not only are homemade ice melts more convenient and budget-friendly that commerical de-icers, some are better for the environment and your family members' health as well.
Epsom Salt, Salt and Sugar
Instead of commercial rock salt, sprinkle a thin later of table salt or any type of sugar over the icy areas. The two household products will help melt he ice by lowering the melting and freezing points of water. Since sugar is more costly than salt, you may want to use it on smaller sections, such as your front porch. The downside to using too much salt, though, is that it can be harmful to grass and plant life when spring arrives.Epsom salt, also known magnesium sulfate, will melt the ice in the same manner as the table salt, but it takes longer and is costlier. However, Epsom salt is safter to use around plant life.
Bleach, Rubbing Alcohol and Hot Water
Using buckets of hot water to de-ice your yard is as fast and easy as it gets, but the water may turn into ice again right away if the temperature is below the freezing point. You could slow down the process by adding some salt to the hot water. As another option, you could scrape the melted ice away with a scraper or shovel immediately after dousing it with the hot water to prevent the area from icing over again. You can also melt ice by pouring bleach over it, but it is not an eco-friendly option and could be toxic to wildlife. As another option, you can pour undiluted rubbing alcohol, which has a much lower freezing point than water, over any areas of ice you want to break up.
As an all-natural method for melting ice, try beet juice. In order for the juice to work, however, you need to mix it with a water-based salt brine. To make your own de-icer, mix 20-percent beet juice with 80-percent salt brine and apply it to the slippery areas. The beet juice will help the salt brine lower water's freezing temperature even more. Since the beet juice can stain surfaces, you'll need to rinse it off with soap and water as soon as the temperature is above the freezing point.
Cat Litter, Bird Seed and Nitrogen Fertilizers
If you have clay cat litter or bird seed on hand, you can sprinkle them over the ice to make it less slippery and dangers. Although the products won't melt the ice, they're good alternative solutions that may come in handy in a pinch. Bird seed is the more eco-friendly option of the two, as the clay litter contains chemicals that aren't good for grass, plants or wildlife. You can also try sprinkling a nitrogen fertilizer over the ice, as it also lowers the temperature at which ice melts and can make the process go faster.
Avoid using baking soda s a de-icer, as it isn't effective and will leave behind a mess that you'll have to clean up after the ice melts. There are several everyday products and chemicals -- such as bleach, commercial fertilizers, rubbing alcohol and rock salt -- that are known to melt ice but may be hazardous to the environment. To avoid harming your yard's wildlife and potentially poisoning and polluting your groundwater supply and local lakes and streams, avoid using them at all, or use them sparingly as last resorts.
- Bob Vila: 3 Ways to Make Your Own Ice Melt
- WUSA: Household Products That Can Melt Away the Ice
- Indiana Public Media: Salt vs. Ice
- Esquire: 9 Eco-friendly Ways to De-Ice Your Driveway
- Time: How Beet Juice Is Helping Keep Roads Safe This Winter
- The Gardener's Network: Epsom Salt Organic Plant Fertilizer
Josh Arnold has been a residential and commercial carpenter for 15 years and likes to share his knowledge and experience through writing. He is a certified journeyman carpenter and took college-accredited courses through the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters training center. As a Los Angeles-based union carpenter, Arnold builds everything from highrises to bridges, parking structures and homes.