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Now that the holiday season has ended, it is time to focus on the New Year.  It is with guarded optimism that we leave the rain that plagued us in the final days of 2014 and hope we aren’t inundated with foot after foot after foot of snow.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a repeat of last year, but if we get more than a dusting of that lovely white stuff, the question becomes, salt, sand or kitty litter or none of the above.

Let’s start with de-icing salt.  Salt works by lowering the freezing point of water.  It can be applied to keep your driveways and walkways from getting icy or to help melt existing ice.   It is inexpensive and works well in and works well in temperatures above 12 degrees F.  As good as salt sounds, there are downsides.  Excessive use of salt can damage grass, shrubs and other vegetation.  It eats away at concrete and steel.  Animals can be attracted to salt on the grass or sidewalk which may cause them to be hit if they are licking salt from the ground too close to the road.  If salt get lodged in their paws, our pets can get burned.

Is sand a better alternative?  Sand does not melt snow, but can provide traction to icy road.  Unlike salt that is not effective in extreme cold, sand can create traction in any temperature.  Unfortunately, sand is effective only if it is on the surface of the ice and needs to be reapplied I fit gets buried under more snow.  If you use sand, remember to clean it up as soon as possible.  Excessive amounts of sand can collect into drains and drainage areas and can cause a problem in the spring.  The best type of sand to use is sandbox sand (mason’s sand is too fine).

Another option is kitty litter.  It will help with traction, but it will not melt snow.  In fact, it absorbs the snow, leaving behind blobs of wet clay.  This is not an option I would use.

Have you tried using birdseed for traction?  The grains won’t melt snow or ice, but give more grip on icy surfaces.

The best tip for icy steps and sidewalks in freezing temperatures is to mix 1 teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid, 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, and 1/2 gallon hot/warm water then pour over walkways.  They won’t refreeze and no more salt destroying the concrete.

All of these are good options when used with care, but I am hoping we don’t repeat last year’s snow levels.