How to treat ice on sidewalks and driveways


In northern climates, where winter and snow are frequent, icy sidewalks are a common problem. There are many ways to deal with ice. You can use one of the many chemical compounds to melt it, or you can use more environmentally friendly products to give traction and prevent slippage.

How de-Icers work

Ice melt products draw moisture to their surface to create a liquid brine that generates heat and melts the ice. To be effective, the product must reach pavement. The brine may spread onto the pavement and cause the pavement to lose its bond with it. It is easier to shovel away ice that has loosened.


There are increasing numbers of options for de-icers every year. Many of these options are similar, and each claim to be the best. Blends are often created to combine the best features of each chemical.

  • Calcium chloride: This is the classic ice melt. It can melt ice up to -25 degrees F. However, it emits heat as it dissolves. This causes the ice to melt faster but leaves behind a slimy residue. Over-application can cause damage to plants and metals. Magnesium chloride, a similar product, is growing in popularity. It is safer for concrete and plants because it is less corrosive.
  • Sodium chloride: Also called rock salt, it is both the cheapest and most efficient. It can melt ice up to 20 degrees F. Also, it is very effective in drying out icy surfaces. Concrete is not as affected by rock salt as other products, but it can cause damage to plants and be corrosive to metals.
  • Potassium chloride is a more expensive product, but it can be mixed 50/50 to rock salt. Potassium chloride can melt ice up to 12 degrees F. However, it is safe and can cause injury to plants if used too often.
  • Urea is a common fertilizer. However, it can also be used to melt ice. It can melt ice up to 15 degrees F. However, it can cause damage to the vegetation if used too often.
  • Calcium magnesium acetate is (CMA). It is made of dolomitic limestone (the main component in vinegar) and acetic acid. It has no effect on concrete and plants, but it can cause performance problems at lower temperatures than 20 degrees F. CMA prevents snow particles sticking together on roads. CMA prevents snow particles from sticking to each other on the road surface.

Are They Harmful

The benefits of de-icers can outweigh the potential dangers, even if there is an alternative. All deicers can damage plants, concrete, and corrode metal. To protect hard surfaces and vegetation, moderate use should be combined with sufficient rainfall to dissolve the product.

Concrete damage is not caused by salt, but the freezing point water. The freezing point of water can be lowered by creating a brine. Concrete’s strength can be affected by the expansion of freezing waters (hydraulic pressure).

Natural Alternatives

You can also use other, natural products to treat icy driveways and sidewalks. They are less effective but they cause less harm to the environment or pets. Natural alternatives such as sand and sawdust, wood shavings and kitty litter can be more effective due to their anti-slip properties. They offer better traction for walking on ice, but they do not melt it. As a result, they are often combined with ice melt products to reduce the use of chemicals.

Magic Minus Zero is a liquid deicing agent that is made from a mixture of magnesium chloride and an agricultural byproduct of the distilling process. It is non-toxic and biodegradable. Magic Minus Zero can either be applied to paved surfaces before a winter storm, or sprayed on regular rock salt.


Dia is the Editorial Assistant at, covering Exterior, Kitchen, home Yard, Poolhouse, and more.

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