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Five Things you can use instead of road salt

Some great de-icing options to try (and one to stay away from)

Published January 18, 2014
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Q. Road salt is sold out at most stores.  Will other types of salt products also melt ice?

Eric Lai replies:

Salt is salt, though the chemical compositions may vary.  The main differences are price and lowest effective temperature.

1. Table salt While it’s fine to throw edible table salt outside, don’t eat road salt (which has lots of impurities) or other salt products not labelled for human consumption.

You should be aware that all types of salt may damage concrete and harm vegetation.

2. Water softener Cargill Salt company says water softener salt can be used to clear driveways, but cautions that some premium products have extremely large chunks and may not be suitable.

I used Sifto Crystal water softener salt recently on my driveway.  It’s about the same price as road salt ($5 for 20 kg at Canadian Tire).  The chunks are larger than road salt, but who cares?  It was way cheaper than the only other “traction aid” product in stock selling for $11 for 10 kg.

The salt broke the ice-to-driveway surface adhesion. The next day, I easily scraped up the ice tiles from underneath and shovelled them aside.

3. Pool salt Pool salt, calcium chloride, coarse pickling salt, sea salt or table salt will also work.  Though the latter options get expensive in large quantities.  Online reviews of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) are split, with some saying it works great and others giving it a thumbs-down.

4. Kitty litter Kitty litter may aid grip on ice, but won’t dissolve it.

5. Sand Same goes for sand. It’ll help give you some traction, but it won’t dissolve the ice.

Incidentally, to free a tongue frozen to a metal pole in winter, sprinkle contact area with rubbing alcohol or table salt.  Both options will sting.  Rinse mouth afterwards – do not consume either product.  (Concentrated table salt acts as an emetic.)

Verboten: Can I pour gasoline on my driveway and light it to de-ice the surface?

No! It’s dangerous and illegal as many municipalities ban any open fires outdoors other than BBQs.  Expect a monstrous cleanup bill if gasoline runoff, flaming or not, enters the sewers.

You can buy propane torches made for downward-use curing asphalt or burning weeds, but it would take hours to clear even a small area of thick ice.

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