Melting Ice The Eco Way

by Brianne Nickerson - January 1, 2018

“Well, it is Wisconsin”. That was the first thing my new neighbor replied when my job transferred me to the Madison area 8 years ago. I was asked what I thought of the area, and my first statement was “It’s cold here”. Now, I find it funny because 8 years later I would say that exact same thing to the new people in my neighborhood.

Wisconsin welcomed me with open arms. I moved here from Delaware, the state I was born and raised. In Delaware there aren’t any professional sports teams. College and minor league teams were as far as Delaware went. It’s that small of a state. I don’t think it has the room for a stadium (my DE joke). Moving here I was immediately introduced to the wonderful world of sports and learning very quickly how loyal Wisconsinites are to their teams. 8 years later I love The Green Bay Packers, The Milwaukee Brewers, and The Wisconsin Badgers. Best of all, I love when I get my hands on a ticket to one of these games. And the Miller Lite doesn’t hurt either.

I met the love of my life here, got married here, had two children here, became successful here and…

IT’S STILL COLD HERE

When I say cold, think 2 below zero with a negative 15 wind chill. There are times when it is hard to believe there are places colder in the world than here. They say you get use to it. I don’t know who “they” are, but they must own a better jacket.

And included in this special cold weather, the world throws in snow for free. Act now and you not only get the first 10 feet free, the world will throw in another 10 the rest of the winter season at absolutely no further obligation, well except…

Clearing a path in the driveway, walkway and sidewalks. And I have no choice. The city can ticket you if you don’t remove the snow in a speedy way. So, first thing is the snow blower purchase. In Delaware I didn’t need more than a snow shovel, but Delaware’s biggest snow day looks a nice white flurry filled afternoon here in comparison.

For the big jobs the snow blower is a no brainer. It would take several hours without one. Trust me I tried. The small jobs are what I’m writing about.

It’s my wife who gave me the idea to look into this. She is really into an eco-friendly home. We actually use an eco-friendly home cleaning service to help us out with our busy lives.

This brought up we clean the inside of our home with green thinking, but why not the outside? At first I was confused. Our property is covered in snow 8 months a year, and what do we use to fix this problem?

Salt. Better known as Rock Salt.

I purchase a ton of salt to melt the snow throughout the season. A way to troubleshoot the night before the big storm. And forget the snow plows. They plow with that big shovel on one end and shoot sand and salt all over the roads with the other end. This damages the exterior of your car faster than salt water air at the beach.

So, I did some research. Someone out there has to have an eco-friendly alternative that I can at least try. And you know what? There are people that do. This is what I was able to uncover:

I’ll start with the science side:

  • When you add salt, that temperature drops: A 10-percent salt solution freezes at 20 F (-6 C), and a 20-percent solution freezes at 2 F (-16 C). On a roadway, this means that if you sprinkle salt on the ice, you can melt it. The salt dissolves into the liquid water in the ice and lowers its freezing point.

The non-eco side:

  • Salt does do a great job of melting ice and snow through the winter but its bad news for your pets, the environment and your garden. Pets get salt on their paws which causes cracking on the bottom of their paws. Salt corrodes metal, damages concrete and wreaks havoc on your garden and lawn. With spring melt, all the accumulated salt ends up in your waterways where the local wildlife may not survive the seasoning.

THE ECO-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES

Salt-Free Deicer

Salt Free Deicer is a little pricier than salt, but these products will help to keep your walkways and driveways ice-free. These are especially made for people who walk their pets. It works just as well as salt, it’s just a tad bit more damage to your wallet.

Pickle Brine

The brine from pickling helps to melt ice and snow. National Geographic claims it is better for the environment than salt, as it prevents ice from sticking to the road which makes it easier to remove. Pickle brine use means that 4 to 29 percent less chlorine is added to our waterways.

You can make your own brine recipe by mixing  2 lbs. of salt (normal salt, not the rock salt) per gallon of water.

Add a glass of Sugar Beet Juice to get the ultimate de-icer. The juice from sugar beets lowers the melting point of ice and snow which helps to clear your driveway. It’s even been used to melt ice and snow on municipal roads in some areas. It’s safe for animals, people, metals, concrete and plants.

I got my hands on 3 of the large empty paint buckets at Home Depot, and got the salt in bulk over at Costco. This isn’t really that expensive at all. You are just required to mix the ingredients.

Urea

Urea is a natural deicer and while it won’t harm your pets, corrode your metal or pit your concrete, but it can harm your plants, so avoid using it near the garden. Stick to the sidewalks, and driveway.

  • The Science Side: Urea is a chemical that you’ll find in most fertilizer formulas. It is 46% nitrogen, which makes it desirable for use in fertilizers as a macronutrient (N) which is the first of the three numbers displayed on a bag of fertilizer. Like any deicer used in excess, products with urea can burn vegetation and cause damage.

Alfalfa Meal

This is a super effective natural green ice melting miracle! Alfalfa Meal is 100% natural and is usually used as a fertilizer. It’s grainy so it will provide traction and is extremely effective when used in moderation.

Ashes From The Fireplace, Sand, or Old/New Coffee Grinds

Use these together or separate. Sprinkle these over your icy surfaces to provide traction and the darker colors will absorb more heat and help to melt snow and ice.

The shovel is important. Make sure you get a good one. A good shovel will clear your driveway while giving the most natural, environmentally friendly, and green way to get rid of your icy bits this winter.

I tried all of these. They all work. I will say the one I believe, in my opinion, that is the best is The Pickle Brine mixed with the Sugar Beet Juice. It takes a few minutes to put it all together, but it probably isn’t only my favorite, but is also a very inexpensive alternative.

After using the Brine, I used a bag of sand to keep the traction there. This works great for me when I have the lighter snow instead of the foot it falls when I’m at work somedays.

Well, I hope this helps. Please be safe this winter, and get out there and sled. I will be. After all, it is Wisconsin. Take Care!