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Have you ever seen your life flash before your eyes as your feet slipped out from under you on a particularly icy winter day? Or cringed as you watched Jimmy, your favourite pizza delivery guy, weave and wobble his way toward your door? Luckily, there are several simple ways to keep your sidewalk and driveway free of ice to help you avoid future slip-ups. Plus, they’ll even help prevent the potential liability claim that could come up if Jimmy and your precious pizza experience a less-than-comfy landing on your front steps.

Rock salt

Rock salt, also known as sodium chloride, is used to melt ice and prevent new ice from building up on roads, sidewalks, and parking lots across the country. Inexpensive and relatively easy to track down, rock salt is popular for home use too.

Pros
  • Helps melt existing ice and prevents new ice from forming, making it effective when streets and sidewalks can’t be cleared quickly enough
  • Known to reduce the number of car accidents on city streets
  • Inexpensive and widely available
Cons
  • Can be harmful to animals (salt exposure can cause irritated paws, dehydration, bacterial infections, and other ailments)
  • Can speed up the rusting process in metal and damage concrete over time
  • Can damage shrubs and other plants when overapplied
  • Salt runoff can pollute local waterways
  • Only works properly at temperatures above -10°C

Rock salt may be one of the most efficient ice melting products on the market, but it can also be harmful to the environment in high amounts — and when road maintenance crews and neighbourhoods full of sidewalks and driveways all choose to use salt, it can add up pretty quickly. So before you grab that big bargain bag of rock salt and scatter it on your slippery sidewalk, you may want to consider other alternatives.

Sand

Sand can be spread on top of ice and snow to add traction and prevent slipping on roads and sidewalks. While it doesn’t melt ice or snow like salt can, it does give extra grip when applied properly (and reapplied as needed).

Pros
  • Provides traction on icy or snowy roads or sidewalks
  • Works at any temperature as long as it is applied consistently over the ice and reapplied regularly
  • Safer for the environment and animals
Cons
  • Doesn’t melt ice or snow, so it has to be reapplied as new snow or ice builds up on the concrete
  • Doesn’t dissolve like salt, so it can leave more residue behind (and extra cleanup on your part) when the snow or ice melts

Pet-safe de-icers

Some de-icing products pride themselves on being salt-free and animal-friendly. Visit your local pet store to find out what’s best for your four-legged friend.

Pros
  • Easier on paws than rock salt
  • Adds traction to ice to prevent slips
  • Safe for plants and shrubs
  • Melts ice and prevents new ice from building up
Cons
  • Some say these no-salt formulas aren’t as effective as rock salt when it comes to melting ice
  • Much more costly to purchase than salt or other alternatives
  • Colour of some products may be messy when tracked into the house

DIY alternatives to salt

The answer to your slippery porch problems could be hiding in plain sight in your own cupboards. Many household products (like dry coffee grounds, birdseed, non-clumping kitty litter, or ash from your fireplace) can provide good traction on icy surfaces. While some of these may be messy and likely won’t melt ice, they can prevent nasty bumps and bruises when they’re scattered on sidewalks and porches.

There are many more homemade and store-bought deicing options available. Be sure to do your research and weigh the pros and cons of each before you make your pick, and it wouldn’t hurt to test out a small area before you dive right in with an alternative solution.

We all know that accidents sometimes happen. To learn more about how the liability portion of your home insurance policy can protect you in case of a mishap, reach out to your licensed insurance broker today.