Materials to Treat Snow and Ice

Types of materials

  • Salts – Materials that melt ice or prevent snow and ice from sticking to a surface, like a driveway.
  • Homemade alternatives to salt – These materials can work similarly to store bought salts, but can have less of an impact on the environment. Plus, they can be made from supplies you may have around your home.
  • Traction materials – Substances spread on top of snow and ice to provide better traction. Depending on your circumstances, these can be used anytime instead of salts or their alternatives.

I. Salts

  • Salts dissolve in water and lower the freezing temperature, so snow and ice cannot form. Different salts are effective at different temperatures and the amount needed varies a lot. For information on the temperature ranges of different salts, visit “Temperature Ranges and Terminology for Salts,” and for salt application rates, see “Snow and Ice Maintenance Tips for Residents.”
  • Types of salts used to melt or prevent snow and ice from sticking to a surface include:
    1. Salts that contain chloride
      • Rock salt, also known as sodium chloride (NaCl)
      • Magnesium chloride (MgCl2)
      • Calcium chloride (CaCl2)
      • Potassium chloride (KCl)
    2. Salts that do not contain chloride and have less of an impact on the environment
      • Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA)
      • Potassium acetate (KA)

II. Homemade alternatives to salt

  • Rubbing alcohol
    1. In a bucket, combine half a gallon of hot water and one-quarter cup of rubbing alcohol. Once you pour the mixture onto your sidewalk or driveway, the snow and ice will begin to melt. Just keep a shovel handy to scrape away any leftover ice. 
  • Wood ash
    1. Contains potash or potassium salts, which work like the salts described above. If you already own a fireplace or wood stove, this option has the added benefit of being free. Plus, wood ash also provides great traction.
  • Note: For homemade alternatives to salt, the correct amount to apply will change with each storm and the concentration of your material. You should experiment in a small area to find the correct measurements.

III. Materials for traction

  • Sand
  • Bird Seed (make sure to use a native blend)
  • Wood ash
    1. Wood ash not only contains potash or potassium salts, but it also provides great traction!
  • Zeolite crystals for traction and moisture absorption
    1. Like products that contain EcoTractionTM
  • Note: The amount necessary to provide traction will change with each storm. You should experiment in a small area to find the correct measurements.