How to prevent sidewalk ice--without salt

Use the sun instead of salt!

Key ideas...
  • Prevent packing during snowfall by clearing a narrow lane--people walk there, preventing packing elsewhere.
  • Clear to full width by noon of the day following snowfall.
  • Scrape remaining packed snow so light gets through to the pavement.
  • Let the sun evaporate the rest (ice can evaporate without melting).
  • Touch up daily--before leaving for work.
Removing packed snow prevents ice

Packed snow gradually becomes black ice.  One cause is the pounding of traffic.  More important are freeze-thaw cycles, when temperatures hover around the freezing point.  Take advantage of thaws to chip any remaining packed snow or ice.  Early afternoon is the best time to use an ice scraper.

Touch up frequently, when snow drifts onto the pavement or when pedestrians track it in.  Touch up prevents packing, and it prevents meltwater that could re-freeze to create slippery spots.

Widen the cleared area till you can see the edge of the sidewalk.  This allows meltwater to sink into the ground.

Watch the remaining snow evaporate!  An example...

After the storm, temperatures rapidly dropped to from the twenties to -10 F.  Despite temps way below freezing, sunlight penetrated remaining snow to evaporate the remainder over several days.

Above: Dec 17, 1:34 pm.  In foreground, snow just removed.  Some packed snow where people walked couldn't be removed by the scraper shovel.

Dec 18, 1:00 pm.  Sidewalk touched up and area made wider.  Neighbor's walk in rear was not scraped clean--snow was packed by a snow blower and there was salt remaining from the previous storm.

Same day, 2.5 hours later.  Some snow gone.

Dec. 19, 10:49 am.  Most remaining snow has evaporated. Temp -5 F.

Dec 20, 12:42 pm.  Temps rising towards freezing. Sidewalk completely clear.  Notice--in the rear  the remaining salt has had little effect.

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