By Amy DeYoung
Updated Jan 9, 2023
Many of us turn to salt or ice melt to take care of slippery surfaces around our homes.
However, if you’re out of rock salt or ice melt, you may wonder how to melt ice without ice melt products. Or, perhaps you’re interested in a more eco-friendly option because many melting agents can harm plants and pollute the environment. Despite what many companies claim, it’s well established that there are no entirely environmentally friendly deicers or salt options on the market, making avoiding them a wise choice if you can.
Another reason to avoid ice melt is that it can cause salt fretting, which is the scaling and flaking of stonework and asphalt areas like your sidewalk and driveway. With all that in mind, here are our top recommendations for melting ice without salt or ice melt using a homemade or alternative method.
If you’re stranded at home due to bad winter weather, you can use fertilizer as a deicer. Many homeowners have fertilizer in their shed or garage, making this a convenient solution for melting ice.
Keep in mind that fertilizer won’t work as quickly as rock salt. However, many fertilizer mixes have potassium chloride, urea, or ammonium sulfate, common ingredients found in deicing products. The most significant benefit of using fertilizer is that it won’t damage your yard or pavement as some rock salts do. In a pinch, spread fertilizer over ice like you would rock salt.
A more environmentally friendly alternative to rock salt is calcium chloride. Calcium chloride works best at freezing temperatures between zero and 30℉. Calcium chloride is easy to find at your local home improvement store.
You can also use magnesium chloride and potassium chloride to melt ice. Magnesium chloride may be even more environmentally friendly and works at temperatures as low as 13 below zero.
If you’re interested in saving money and making your own ice melt, combine the following in a bucket:
Combine these ingredients in a bucket, then pour this mixture directly onto your icy sidewalk or driveway. The snow and ice will start to bubble up and melt. Use a shovel to scrape away any lingering pieces of ice.
This solution works because rubbing alcohol has a lower freezing point than water, speeding up the melting process and preventing ice formation later on. You can also place this mixture into a spray bottle to deice your car windshields.
Always shovel any excess water away immediately after the mixture has bubbled and melted the snow and ice. Otherwise, the excess water will refreeze and create new ice, ruining your hard work.
This option is an investment, but it’s one that many homeowners feel is worthwhile, especially if you live somewhere with regular snow storms and ice.
Snow melting mats are innovative devices that completely eliminate the need for shoveling or rock salt. Lay these mats on your sidewalks or porch and plug them in. These mats will quickly warm up and generate enough heat to melt snow and ice.
Purchasing snow melting mats has a much higher upfront cost than buying ice melt, especially if you have a lot of walkways or a long driveway. However, it can eliminate snow shoveling entirely.
Most of us throw away or compost coffee grounds. However, consider saving your coffee grounds during winter to melt ice on your porch and driveway.
Coffee grounds lower the melting point of ice because of the nitrogen they contain. The dark color of the coffee grounds absorbs sunlight, increasing the melting speed of white snow or clear ice.
Sugar beet juice is one of the most unexpected entries on this list. However, the chemical makeup of sugar beet juice reduces the melting points of snow and ice, much like rock salt. A considerable benefit of sugar beet juice is that it’s safe for pets, cars, plants, concrete, and asphalt. The only downside is that the deep reddish-purple color may stain concrete. If you’re concerned about staining, immediately clean the beet juice after the ice has melted.
Vinegar contains a chemical compound called acetic acid, which lowers the melting point of ice. However, it won’t melt ice as well as other options on this list or rock salt, so we recommend using this as a last resort.
While you can pour white vinegar directly onto the snow or ice, mixing equal parts warm water and vinegar to create a deicing solution is recommended. Apply this to sheets of ice, then break them up with shoveling. After, clear any resulting water from the surface immediately to prevent the water from refreezing.
These are a few common recommendations that supposedly melt ice. However, they aren’t effective. Here’s what we would recommend avoiding:
We hope this list gives you plenty of alternatives to ice melters, whether you’re trying to save money or are caught in a bad storm without your preferred rock salt or ice melter product. If you’re opposed to purchasing ice melter, these solutions are effective, often cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. Don’t forget to treat slippery surfaces as quickly as possible to keep you and your family safe. Slips and falls are unfortunately common and hazardous.