4 Best Alternatives to Rock Salt for Melting Snow in the Winter

January 14, 2014

Rock salt works well to allow ice and snow to melt at higher temperatures in a pinch, but it stains your shoes, rusts your vehicles, kills plants and may damage cement over time. If you track salt inside, you can damage floors, too. This affordable product isn’t always as good of a deal as it seems. However, here are some options to consider to keep the driveway and walkways of your custom home clear of ice during the cold, winter months.

1. Radiant Heat

If you’re designing a brand-new custom home, consider heating your sidewalks, driveway or garage. Typically, you can install warming mats under asphalt and concrete similar to heating flooring inside custom homes. Some radiant heating uses warm water through tubes, instead. Heat melts snow and prevents it from freezing into slippery ice. The system typically kicks on when it detects precipitation, so new snow doesn’t have a chance to stick around. Some campuses have heated sidewalks for the convenience factor.

2. Magic Minus Zero

This name-brand product is a chemical with a lower corrosive rating than water, so it’s less harmful to your vehicles and home. The liquid can be sprayed directly on your sidewalks or pavement to de-ice before a coming storm or after a recent snowfall. This product is biodegradable, so it’s more environmentally-friendly than rock salt.

3. Magnesium Chloride

While this chemical composition is still a type of salt, it offers some benefits. You may find that your dog’s paws crack during dry and cold weather, and regular rock salt can irritate his paws.Magnesium chloride is gentler on a pet’s feet in the winter time. Magnesium chloride dissolves quickly, too, so it won’t clump in your dog’s paw fur. This product also works a little better in colder climates than traditional rock salt.

4. Grainy Materials

While cat litter and sawdust do not actually melt snow or ice, they can add traction to areas where you may not want to apply harmful de-icers. Sand and gravel offer similar solutions, which is why many snowplows spread a mixture of road salt and sand as they plow. These options are all relatively affordable because they’re natural resources without chemical processing.