How to Use Salt to Melt Ice on Driveways and Sidewalks

An iced-over walkway outside a home.
What You'll Need
Salt compound
What You'll Need
Salt compound

For those who live in cold climates, winter snow and ice can prove to be anything from a nuisance to a hazard. There is a natural substance that will help you remove ice quickly: salt. This article will show you how to use salt to remove ice and make the winter a bit easier by following these easy steps.

Deicing Salts

Salt for melting icy surfaces actually comes in various chemical compositions, aside from the sodium chloride formula we know well. Calcium chloride comes in rounded white pellets. Handling it with your bare hands can result in skin irritation. Like regular rock salt, calcium chloride run-off can still harm concrete and vegetation during the melting season. Potassium and magnesium chlorides offer an environmentally safer solution.

These compounds release less chlorine as they dissolve, causing less damage to their surroundings. Potassium chloride only works with air temperatures above 17 degrees Fahrenheit, while magnesium chloride can melt ice and snow at much lower temperatures.

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Shovel Snow From the Area

It's important to shovel as much snow and ice as possible from your driveway or sidewalk first. Because the chlorine that is released from dissolving salt can be hazardous to your concrete and to the environment, using as little as possible is recommended. Shoveling is hard work, but this step could ensure that you won't need to conduct concrete repairs later.

Apply Salt

Apply the salt to the icy areas on your driveway or walkway. You should notice the ice start to melt away quickly, with thin patches of ice gone in a matter of minutes. Thicker patches could take far longer, so you may want to let them melt away slightly and then remove them with a shovel. It should lift with ease after the salt has been left to sit.

Remove Ice With a Brush or Shovel

Whisk the remaining ice away. Your thin icy areas may completely melt away, but you’ll likely need to sweep or shovel away the thicker patches.


Reapply the salt only as needed after shoveling. With a healthy supply on hand, you should keep the dangerous icy patches away for the duration of the winter months.

More Tips

Consider purchasing salt in bulk. It can sit quite happily for extended periods of time without losing its effect. This will mean fewer trips to the hardware store and buying in bulk generally saves money in the long run.

Buy a healthy supply of salt in September or October. Once the flakes start to fly, home improvement and hardware stores can run out quickly.

You can also save money by buying your salt in the spring. Most stores will be trying to get rid of it at this point and you’ll save loads. Long shelf life means that salt is easy to store in a garage or garden shed until winter.

Try to keep the salt away from your lawn if possible. The chlorine released from the salt will kill the grass, leaving unsightly brown patches when the ground finally thaws out.

Keep the salt away from anything metal. It will start to corrode metal when it gets wet.

Salts such as magnesium chloride only work well when the outside temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is colder than that, sand or ash might be a better option. These will not melt the ice, but they'll provide you with traction to avoid slips and falls.

If your community uses salt to coat the roadways, keep a careful eye out on the bottom of your car. It can rust heavily.

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