How to Use Salt to Melt Ice on Driveways and Sidewalks

salt melting ice and snow on concrete
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-50
What You'll Need
Salt compound
What You'll Need
Salt compound

For those of us who live in cold climates, winter snow and ice can be anything from a nuisance to a safety hazard. There is, however, a natural substance that will help you remove ice quickly: salt.

This article will teach you how to use salt to remove ice and make the winter a bit easier by following these easy steps. Many municipalities will put salt on public roads but if yours does not or you need some on a private area, here's what you need to know.

Step 1 - Understand 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, so make sure to use gloves at all times when you are handling the salt to avoid irritating your skin.

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.

large blue salt melting ice on pavement

Step 2 - Shovel Snow From the Area

It's important to shovel as much snow and ice as possible from your driveway or sidewalk before you begin laying down the salt. 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 will ensure that you won't need to conduct concrete repairs later. This is one of those situations where a little work upfront will prevent you from a lot of work or damage in the long run and should definitely be done.

Do not worry about getting every spec of snow off your driveway, the salt will help with that. Try to remove as much snow as you can by shoveling before you begin salting the driveway.

Step 3 - Apply Salt

Once you have finished shoveling, it is time to use the salt. Apply the salt to the icy areas on your driveway or walkway. Look at recommendations on the packaging of how much salt to apply to the area.

Step 4 - Remove Ice With a Brush or Shovel

Once you have applied the salt to the icy areas, 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. These patches should lift with ease after the salt has been left to sit.

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.

Step 5 - Reapply

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

gloved hands applying salt to icy walkway

More Tips

In order to ensure that there are no issues, consider purchasing salt in bulk. It can sit quite happily for extended periods of time without losing its effect. Salt's long shelf life means that salt is easy to store in a garage or garden shed until winter.

This will mean fewer trips to the hardware store and buying in bulk generally saves money in the long run. It also means you will not risk being without salt when you need it most, or having to run out at the same time everyone else is going out to buy salt.

Buy a healthy supply of salt in September or October. Once the snowflakes start to fly, home improvement and hardware stores can run out of salt 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 of money if you have room to store the salt and the foresight to stock up on it in the spring.

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 as well. 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.

Make sure you have extra salt somewhere accessible, like an attached garage. Do not store it somewhere that is difficult to get to when you need it most.

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

Does Ice Melt Faster with Salt?

Salt is often used to melt ice because ice melts faster with sand than it would melt without any help. The salt essentially acts as a dissolver of the ice.

Salt also makes it difficult for water particles to freeze back into ice, which is why salt is such a good option to help ice on your driveway and the road melt quickly.

Can I Use Regular Salt to Melt Ice?

You may be wondering if you can use the same type of salt you use to bake and cook with to melt ice. The short answer is yes. A common table salt should also work to melt your ice.

Table salt, however, has much smaller salt flakes than salts branded for melting ice. The amount of it you will have to use, as a result, is incredibly high.

In a pinch, you could use table salt on a bad patch of ice if you do not have melting ice but salts specifically branded to melt ice are the better option if you plan on using a lot of salt to melt ice this winter.

How Long Does it Take Salt to Melt Ice?

You may be wondering how long it will take salt to melt ice in your driveway. In truth, it varies depending on how thick the ice you are trying to melt is and how cold the temperature is outside.

Generally speaking, though, it will take around 15 minutes for salt to melt ice but this can vary greatly.

Can You Mix Salt and Water to Melt Ice?

You can also mix salt and water to melt ice instead of just putting the salt directly on the ice. When you combine salt and water, the salt will start to dissolve. When your pour it on the ice, it will also help to dissolve the ice and create more water.

This water will spread onto other icy areas, helping them dissolve and creating more salty water, continuing the process.

Is Salt Bad for Cars?

While salt can be great for getting ice off of your driveway, it isn't all positive—the salt can actually be really bad for your car.

The chemical reactions it creates can corrode the bottom of your car. This is why cleaning the undercarriage if you live somewhere that sees a lot of salt on the road is particularly important.

The brake and fuel lines, both of which are incredibly important to ensuring your car runs smoothly, are extra susceptible to corroding. These are both close to the underside of your car and regularly exposed to salt as a result.

In order to protect your car, make sure to get it cleaned regularly, including its underside, an area people often avoid. You should also try to park somewhere where the car will not be exposed to salt for long periods of time.

Another way to help protect your car is to wax its exterior before it gets cold out. This will protect the car by creating a barrier between it and the salt, thereby preventing as much corrosion from occurring.

Since this wax job is about protecting your car and just about appearances, make sure to get the underside of the car as well, which as already mentioned, is susceptible to salt damage.

Make sure to also keep your tires clean. When your tires are dirty, they attract more dirt and can kick that dirt underneath your car.

You should also avoid driving right after a snowstorm, or through large puddles as these puddles may have large amounts of salt in them.

Salt vs Sand

Salt and sand have very different uses when it comes to making driving after. Salt, as previously mentioned, is used to melt ice from roadways. Sand, however, does not melt ice. Instead, sand is used to make driving after in another way.

Sand is an abrasive material. As such, it increases the traction between ice and things like shoes or tires. As a result, sand increases traction on streets making it safer to drive but does not actually melt ice or solve the problem.

Some services will actually spread a mixture of sand and ice to make it safer to drive and melt ice at the same exact time.

As previously mentioned, salt works better at some temperatures than others.

If it is too cold out for the salt to really do its job, sand is a great option because it can help increase traffic and make driving safer until it warms up enough for ice to really be effective in melting ice from the roadways, which is a more permanent solution.

sand on a snowy brick walkway

Salt vs Ash

Like sand, ash can be used to increase traction on the road but not actually melt ice. Fireplace ashes are a great option to use on icy areas for this reason.

Like with sand, they will not get rid of the icy area but will increase traction making it safer to use these areas until they are able to melt on their own or be salted to speed up the melting process.

Ashes are also a great option if it is too cold out for salt to be effective or your street will not get salt applied to it for some time.

Best of all, ashes are cheap and something you may have lying around already. This is a great way to utilize something many just think of as trash that would need to be disposed of.

Instead, it can actually make your streets safer. What's that old saying? One man's trash is another man's treasure. That definitely applies here.

Sand is used more commonly than ash to increase traction on roads, but both are viable options if you need to increase traction to make your streets safer to drive on after a lot of snow and ice hits your area.

Ash has the extra benefit of being better for your garden and lawn than either salt or sand. It's not exactly fertilizer, but it is organic matter, so it can contribute some minimal nutrients.


Salt is a great way to rid driveways and roadways of ice and snow during the cold winter months. By following the previously mentioned advice, you will be able to use the ice effectively and ensure the safety of your roadways.

Don't forget to stock up on salt ahead of time and do some prep work before just laying it down. Make sure to understand the process and have all the materials you need ready before the first big storm of the year hits.

It also pays to take care of your car before and after laying down salt, since being exposed to it on public roadways can damage your vehicle if not dealt with properly.