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How to Keep Your Walkways from Getting Icy

One of any homeowners more annoying chores during the winter is finding a good way to get rid of the ice that forms on their walkway. A number of solutions are available, but you need to do a little research and find the answer that will work best for you. Here are a variety of alternatives that can eliminate one of winter’s peskiest problems.

Chemical and Natural De-icers

Rock salt, or sodium chloride, is a traditional means of de-icing sidewalks and walkways and performs well in temperatures down to 20°F, but it has several disadvantages.

Numerous studies have shown that rock salt is harmful to the environment and corrodes concrete.

It also causes damage to any plants to which it comes into contact and can irritate your pet’s skin.


  • Calcium Chloride– This product melts ice faster than rock salt and works in temperatures as low as -25° F. It is less harmful to concrete than other de-icers, but can also cause some damage to plants if too much of the substance is used.
  • Potassium Chloride – Another common chemical de-icer, potassium chloride, is effective down to temperatures of 12° F. Although it works more slowly than Calcium Chloride, it has the advantage of being less harmful to nearby vegetation.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate — This substance was developed as an alternative to road salt in the 1970s. It is safer for concrete and the environment than road salt, but does not perform well at temperatures below 20°F.
  • Natural De-icers — Products containing natural materials that have been treated to specifically avoid harming your pet and the environment are available in many hardware stores and pet stores. Brand names include Sure Paws and Safe Paw Ice Melter. These types of products may be more expensive than some of the other options.

Gaining Traction as You Work

  • Sand —Although placing sand on an icy walk can give you steady footing, it has some environmental disadvantages similar to rock salt. It can get into storm drains and cause them to become clogged and enter nearby waterways and harm any water life in the stream or creek. Sand also gets tracked into your home and can damage wood floors and carpets.
  • Wood Chips & Straw— These organic materials are probably better choices than sand, as they both help you gain solid footing and avoid falling and are also environmentally friendly.
  • Cat Litter — This household product works well to gain traction, but make sure you purchase the bio-degradable type. Two prominent brands are Yesterdays News and Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Clumping Litter.

Heated Walkway

Perhaps the best method of making sure your sidewalk or walkway stays ice free no matter how far the temperatures fall is to install radiant heating under the walk. A typical system uses cables or tubes that are heated by either hot water or electricity. The cables keep the walk at a temperature above freezing which prevents ice from forming.

Electric cables seem to be the most popular system on the market currently, as they have fewer moving parts than hot water-based or hydraulic methods.

Electric radiant heating can be installed in both newly constructed and existing walkways. You may also need to upgrade the voltage of your home in some instances. You can save on labor costs by installing the cable yourself; however, experts recommend that you have a professional electrician perform the final hookup.

This is of course the most expensive snow melting method but it makes your life during the winter a lot easier and it increases the value of your home too! The most effective and popular snow melting system on the market today is ProMelt fromWattsRadiant but if your walkway is small you can use a solution from HeatTrak (portable outdoor snow melting mats) which is less expensive and does not require and constructional changes to your existing walkway. You can get both systems at

Good Old Snow Shovel & Some Muscle Work

An efficient method to remove ice and snow from your walkway is to simply shovel it off.

This is the most labor intensive option, and might not be a good choice for everyone, but it works and it does help you burn some extra calories (Around 130 calories per every 15 minutes of work).

Make sure you have good traction and work at a steady even pace. Avoid letting the ice get too thick before breaking it up with a shovel or pick.

Of the range of choices available, the most efficient and effective seems to be radiant heating. This method allows you to simply let the system do its job, while you focus on other things. It also has the advantage of being relatively low maintenance and does not involve the type of regular labor intensive work of the other, more traditional options. Once you have the radiant heating system for your walk installed and in full operation, your ice and slippery walkway problems will be a thing of the past.