The snow is here: 3 tips for ice management (without ice melt)

Colorado Living
a five foot snow on my truck

Snow on my truck in the CO mountains

Winter is finally upon us.  The east coast has gotten a healthy dose of snow and ice recently.  I have friends in Chicago that have gotten so much snow, they have used bobcats to begin stacking it in their parking lots.  Many folks have complained about runs on ice melt and other items to prevent slips and falls.  I have had my fair share of falls on ice and they definitely hurt.   If there is no ice melt (ice slicer, etc…) what are some quick alternatives?

I live in the CO mountains where we average 160 inches of snow a year (yes this is an average, in one snow we got 5 feet in a 24 hour period) so I’ve got quite a bit of hands on experience in this field.   I’ve got two very large dogs and two small children so using ice melt is a disaster in our house.   The first year, the dogs got sick because they would lick their paws.  The kids would also track it into the house on their shoes.  This ultimately took off some of the finish on the hardwoods and ate through parts of the deck.  Ice melt and the various varieties are hazardous to animals, any plants/trees, and is highly corrosive.  I’ve seen it eat through concrete and ultimately rust rebar.

So what are the alternatives?  I’ve tried three methods that are considerably less toxic than ice melt and accomplish the goal of reducing slip and falls.  These have worked for me in the Colorado high country.

First, sawdust is a great alternative.  I do some woodworking as a hobby and I save my wood shavings in a small garbage can.  After I clear the snow and there is ice left, I throw out a couple handfuls.  As the ice melts, the wood shavings absorb the water, I then sweep them into the plant beds after they dry out and it acts like a mulch.  The sawdust is easy to clean up and doesn’t mess up the hardwood floors.  Your next question is, I don’t do woodworking, where can I find wood shavings.  The quickest answer is your local pet store, they call it animal bedding (used for guinea pigs, rabbits, etc..), just pour some out on your ice and you have a non toxic non slip traction device.

Second, wood pellets is another alternative.  Wood pellets are becoming more popular in many sections of the country and they can now be bought at many hardware stores, grocery stores, etc…   Wood pellets are compressed saw dust made from dead trees (in Colorado from the trees killed by beetles).  They are primarily used in special stoves for heating in many parts of the country.  I always keep some bags on hand (out here it is around 3 dollars for a 40# bag) and spread them on the driveway to take care of the ice.  As you walk on them, they break down into sawdust and act the same as the sawdust above.

The final alternative is sand.  There was a big storm coming a couple years ago and all the stores were out of the typical sand used (the gray one).  I went to the back of the store and got the premium white sand used for sandboxes (it is all they had and was still only a couple bucks a bag).  This sand worked just fine (albeit you needed a little more since it is finer than typical masonry sand).

I hope each of you have a good rest of the winter and stay safe from slip and falls.