How to Melt Snow & Ice

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Salt is often used to melt snow and ice.
Salt is often used to melt snow and ice. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

You’ve probably used salt as a seasoning plenty of times. If you live in a part of the country that commonly gets snow and ice storms, you may have also used it to clear away your steps so guests don’t slip and fall when visiting your home. Whether you’re making homemade ice cream in your kitchen or clearing ice and snow away from your doorstep, the principle of melting snow and ice with salt is the same -- salt lowers the freezing point of water causing ice and snow to melt, even in cold, wintery conditions.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel or snow thrower
  • Rock salt
  • Sand
  • Commercial ice melt, if desired

Wait until snow or ice stops falling. Put on shoes with excellent traction. Look at the driveway, stairs, doorstep and sidewalks that you are responsible for clearing.

Use a shovel or snow thrower to clear snow off your driveway, stairs and sidewalks. Get as close to the paved surface as possible, preferably within 1/4 inch or until you can see the surface beneath the snow.

Spread rock salt and sand over the areas where you see ice and packed snow. Sprinkle the salt so that a thin layer covers the entire area. If you have a grass seed spreader, you may consider using it to spread the salt and sand. Remember to wash the spreader thoroughly before using it to spread seed in the spring or summer.

Go inside, allowing the salt and sand to melt the ice and absorb the liquid, which will prevent re-freezing. Allow 30 to 60 minutes to pass; check to see if ice and snow have melted. If so, shovel the salt and sand into a pile at the end of your driveway, scoop it up and throw it away, if desired. This will prevent salt and sand from killing your grass and being tracked into your home.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check your city’s website or call your city administration office to find out what the rules are regarding clearing sidewalks on your property after a snow or ice storm. Make sure you clear the sidewalks within the prescribed time to avoid a fine or penalty.
  • If you want to clear away ice and snow faster, purchase commercial ice melt from your local grocery or hardware store. This product contains chemicals that melt ice and snow faster than regular salt. Read package contents if you have pets and keep them away from the ice melt, if necessary.
  • There are also "pet safe" ice melt products available. You can purchase these at most pet stores, and often at some grocery, hardware or home improvement stores. If you are a concerned pet owner, these products may better suit your situation.

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