Store Out Of Rock Salt? 5 Things To Use Instead
Western New Yorkers are finding out the hard way that we should have prepared a little earlier for the winter storm coming our way.
Stores all over the Buffalo area are either completely out of rock salt or have very little of it left in stock. Rock salt (also called road salt) is just halite - the mineral form of sodium chloride - and it’s been a go-to here in Western New York for years for keeping our highways, streets, and sidewalks less slippery during bad winter weather.
According to the EPA, rock salt is inexpensive and effective at melting snow and ice, but the downside of rock salt can be substantial. Even though it’s relatively harmless to us, when rock salt is used in large quantities, it can have corrosive effects that can damage cars, trucks, bridges, and roads over time - resulting in approximately $5 billion dollars in annual repairs just in the United States alone. Yikes!
So, maybe it’s not such a bad thing if your store is out of rock salt, but it can still be a pain if you need to de-ice your driveways and sidewalks. What can you use instead to make the outside of your home less slippery?
Calcium Chloride is a great alternative to rock salt if you can get your hands on it. It is more effective at melting ice due to it absorbing water so quickly, and it won’t harm your pets, plants, driveway, or sidewalk. That being said, you have to store it with an incredibly tight seal so it doesn’t dry out, and it can leave a residue. Also, it may be tough to find here in Western New York this close to a snowstorm.
Kitty Litter Or Sand
Your cat’s bathroom or your kid’s summertime sandpit can provide some decent traction to make your driveway and sidewalk less slippery, but it won’t actually melt the ice. Also, you’ll most likely track it inside your house with your shoes, and you’ll need to sweep it up once the weather gets nicer to keep it from making a mess. That being said, it can be an alternative to use in a pinch to make the area around your house safer for your neighbors and family.
Coffee grounds can also provide some traction to help you not slip on your concrete surfaces, and their dark color can help attract the sun to melt more ice. However, you’ll need a LOT of coffee grounds to make it effective - which can be expensive and really messy to clean up afterward. It will probably smell great, though!
We’re sure this is the ice-melting method that Dwight Schrute uses. Beet juice or beet brine can lower the freezing point of water to -20 degrees, helping to keep spots slick-free. It also won't harm any plants or wildlife. It will make a stained red mess, however, and the salt in beet brine can damage cars and roads in large quantities.
If you’ve only got a small area you need to keep ice-free, now might be the time to invest in a heated mat like this one from Amazon. It plugs into an outdoor outlet, doesn’t make a mess, and can be used on different surfaces like concrete, asphalt, stone, and wood decks.
This Western New York snowstorm is sure to create a big mess for many Buffalo-area homeowners, but if you’re scrambling to find the things you need to stay safe and combat the ice, hopefully, one of these alternatives can work for you.