Winter De-icing

Green Living Idea: Winter De-icing
By Jen Fontaine

The salts that are easily bought as de-icers for our driveways and walks can damage soil, plants, water supplies, and pets. So it’s worth seeking other alternatives.  Shoveling early is energy-efficient and good exercise.  Snow-blowers (preferably electric or battery-powered) use energy, but do prevent icy buildup.  A “snow melt mat” of underground heating wires may work for a new or rebuilt driveway.

For an eco-friendly substance to improve traction, consider sand or bird-feed over kitty litter or wood ashes, which leave messier residues. If you think ahead of the winter storms, consider using wood chips and straw to improve traction. If you feel the need to use chemicals, explore the choices.  Calcium magnesium acetate is touted for being environmentally friendly, but may be less effective at very low temperatures; urea is less damaging to pets, but possibly more harmful to plants.  In any case, less is probably best for any chemical solution. 

For a chart listing properties of a range of de-icers, please see And for some really safe alternatives, the Farmer’s Almanac recommends unconventional choices:  these include alfalfa meal, and a concoction made from sugar beet juice.  While looking for solutions new to many of us, I recently located a ‘recipe’ for de-icing a car that’s been encased in winter ice:  two-thirds vinegar, mixed with one-third water, applied with a re-purposed spray bottle.  Please send ideas, comments, or questions, to

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