If you live in a region that experiences harsh winters, you may have to deal with snow and slippery driveways and sidewalks. Here’s a brief guide on salting driveway, when to do it, and other de-icing methods.

Salting your driveway and walkways along with deck areas, outdoor patios, and balconies will help protect you and your family this winter season.

How does salting the driveway work?

salting snow in driveway

Contrary to popular belief, putting salt on your driveway doesn’t literally melt ice. Instead, it alters the chemistry of the water.

When you mix salt into the water, you lower the freezing point of water which is otherwise at 32° F. That is to say, the water will only freeze when it gets to a lower temperature than that. The snow that melts will not be frozen into ice. It’s only when the light fluffy snow turns to slippery and dangerous ice under its weight and foot traffic that things turn ugly.

Which type of salt should you be using on your driveway?

You need to know what kind of salt your driveway needs. Keep in mind that different salts lower the freezing point of water differently. Therefore, it’s important to note how cold it can get in your region and understand the type of driveway you have. Do remember that certain salts can damage your driveway, lawn, and garden – even be toxic to your pets. 

Here are some common types of salts. You can choose the best for your long driveway.

Sodium chloride aka rock salt

This is the most common and cheapest driveway salt. It helps lower the water’s freezing point to 20° F. However, keep in mind that it can cause considerable damage to a concrete driveway. The salt makes it easier for water to melt and refreeze – causing cracks in the concrete, widening gaps, or breaking the concrete floor. Moreover, if ingested, rock salt can be extremely dangerous to pets and children.

Calcium chloride

This salt is less harsh on your driveway and can work for temperatures up to -25° F. However, you need to be careful not to overapply calcium chloride for it can damage your lawn. It can kill grass and flowers. Keep in mind that as the snow melts, the salty water runs off into your lawn.

Magnesium chloride,

Fortunately, this salt is pet friendly as well as environmentally friendly. Although it’s more expensive than the other anti-freezing agents, it is less likely to damage a concrete driveway or a yard lawn. The salt works in temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Calcium magnesium acetate

This salt is the most expensive but the safest driveway salt. It does not cause any damage to your driveway, and it is pet-friendly as well as environmentally friendly. It works well for temperatures above 20° F. However, it may stop working and break the ice and cement bond at temperatures.

How to use driveway salt?

cleaning snow

Once you’ve chosen the right salt, you need to effectively melt the ice without damaging your driveway or lawn. Here’s how to go about applying salt to your driveway.

  • Spread it evenly – not in patches – covering as much surface area as possible.
  • Don’t over-apply the salt more than necessary.
  • Clean your hands and your pet’s paws to get rid of any abrasive salts.
  • Shovel the snow first, then salt it to make it more effective. 

When to salt the driveway? Before or after it snows?

Salting driveway before snow vs. after snow is a topic that most homeowners are confused about. When salt is spread on top of existing ice or snow, it begins to melt the surrounding ice – forming a pool of salty water. However, the thawing ice process can take considerable time.

When snow falls on top of the salt, it melts the snow from beneath. Any vehicular traffic will speed up the mixing process by compressing the snow into the salt. The salt then works its way up from below.

Moreover, pre-salting the road doesn’t allow snow to freeze on the actual road surface and can be easily removed. Salting before it snows is easier and more efficient than doing it after it snows.

How to remove ice from a driveway without salt?

cleaning snow without salt

Add one-fourth cup of rubbing alcohol, 5-6 drops of dish soap, and half a gallon of hot water into a bucket. Pour the mixture over the driveway. The snow should start to bubble up and melt in minutes. Remember to keep a shovel handy for scraping away any leftover pieces of ice.

Here are some alternatives to using salt on your driveway:

  • Sand: Absorbs sunlight and adds traction so that you don’t slip and fall.
  • Kitty litter: Adds traction for a non-slip surface when applied on top of the snow.
  • Vinegar: Citric acid helps melt snow and ice slowly.
  • Sugar beet juice: Lowers the melting point of ice and snow.
  • Coffee grinds: Helps absorb sunlight for a faster melting process. 

Last thoughts

Heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain could increase your risk of injury. The best solution is to avoid slippery roads and walkways. Salting your driveway will help prevent falls and also make shoveling snow much easier.

A clear driveway will cut down on your time removing slippery hazards and also get you to places easily.

Read more: De-winterize a house

A guide on salting driveway for a safer winter was last modified: April 21st, 2023 by Ramona Sinha
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