As Cindy noted a few weeks ago, winter is upon us, at least in the mountain states. But don’t worry or beware, depending on your feelings on the matter, winter is going to be hitting the rest of the country pretty soon. If you live in one of those states that gets freezing weather, I have a frugal tip that could save you thousands of dollars over the next decade. Rock salt is an expensive part of your snow removal routine, but there are cheaper alternatives for melting ice. Below are a few ways to melt ice and keep more money in your pocket.
How To Melt Ice
While water freezes at 32 degrees, salt water freezes at a temperature closer to zero. So during winter weather, icy surfaces typically receive a treatment of rock salt to help melt the ice. In theory this is great. There are just 2 problems to this:
- First, everyone uses rock salt as one of the preferred ways to melt ice. So, odds are in the winter it is hard to come by (especially before or after a storm). Just think of all the news reports at home centers showing the empty pallets where rock salt used to be.
- Second, it is expensive!
The goal then is to find alternatives to melting ice that isn’t as in demand or will at least be available to buy when a storm comes and also something that is cheap. Luckily, with a little creativity, you have options. Let’s dive into them.
6 Cheaper Alternatives To Rock Salt
#1. Water Softener Salt
Don’t get stuck paying high prices for rock salt just because everyone else uses it as one of the preferred ways to melt ice. It turns out there is another item sold at hardware and home improvement stores that will do the same job and is a fraction of the price.
Water softener salt is typically used to remove minerals in your water supply that cause reduced suds and leaves a white crust on your fixtures. This salt is used to extract these “hard” minerals from your drinking water.
Because the salt minerals get replaced with the hard water minerals in the water softener tank, the salts used have to be safe for human and pet consumption. Because of this, water softener salt uses sodium or potassium chloride, just like the pet-friendly deicing rock salt.
Despite being the same thing, water softener salt is much cheaper than deicing rock salt. A look at the website of my local hardware store reveals the cheapest price for a 40 pound bag of zero ice melt to be $17. Water softener salt, however, costs as little as $6 for the same size bag. That is a savings 65%!
A single 40lb bag will last me about half of a winter. So, if I can save $11 per bag twice per year, the savings over the length of my adult life should exceed $1,000.
There is one recommendation I would make when switching from buying expensive de-icer rock salt to identical water softener rock salt as a way to melt ice. Spend the extra money to get the bag that is not marked “extra coarse”. Larger grains of salt may work better for a water softener system. For de-icing the driveway, it simply means that you are forced to use more to accomplish the same amount of melting power.
#2. Safe Paw
If you have pets, you may want to consider this alternative for melting ice. While it is a little more expensive than water softener salt, Safe Paw is pet friendly and comes in pellets. This means you can use less than you would of rock salt and get the same effect. It also has a time release aspect to it, so it keeps ice at bay for up to 3 days.
Why would you want to spend the extra money if you have pets? If you have dogs, rock salt can be a big issue.
The reason is because salt can seep into the paws and the fur. When the temperature rises, the salt can burn the skin surface, causing redness and skin ulcers. This could ultimately lead to bacterial infections.
#3. DIY Dish Soap
Another option is to combine dish soap, rubbing alcohol and warm water. To make it, mix about a quart or a half-gallon of lukewarm water, a teaspoon or two of dish soap, and a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol.
When tested, it melted ice almost immediately. While there is some prep work to do, you can avoid lugging around a heavy bag of salt! Plus it is probably the cheapest option on the list.
While sand won’t melt the ice, it will provide traction on icy surfaces. You can spread it out and not worry about slipping. It is also environmentally friendly so you don’t have to worry about harming the environment, yourself or your pets. And it is cheap too.
If you decide to go the sand route, look for brick sand as opposed to play sand. The difference is that brick sand is more granular meaning you can use less of it for great effect.
If you have a fireplace at home, use the ashes on the ice in your driveway. It sounds crazy but the ashes will melt the ice. They absorb the heat of the sun and warm up quickly which helps to melt the ice. They also work at providing traction on icy surfaces too.
I can attest for this one personally. Growing up, we had a coal stove and my Dad would empty the ashes every night and spread them in the driveway. It was amazing how they worked to melt ice.
#6. Beet Juice
This one is hit or miss. Some people swear by it. Others claim it is worthless. As such, I would suggest you try the options above first and use this as a last resort.
To use, you have to still use a small amount of rock salt to really be effective, at least this is what I’ve found. When you mix the two together, the beet juice lowers the melting point of rock salt below 15 degrees. And by adding the sticky beet juice, you stop the salt pellets from bouncing everywhere. In other words, you keep them in a contained area.
Many states claim beet juice works so well, they use it for treating roads!
So there are 6 alternatives melt ice other than rock salt. Most are cheaper and safer for the environment too. I would encourage you to try out water softener salt first since you can get that at the home improvement store for a good price.
But if you have pets, it would be worth it to try out Safe Paw. Just knowing that there is zero chance of harm to your pet is priceless.
Do you use rock salt? Is there another alternative to rock salt you use as a way of melting ice?
Edward Antrobus is a food blogger, personal finance writer, ebook specialist, and construction worker.
His mother’s favorite saying is, “if you can read, you can cook.” She firmly believes that making simple dishes is not much more difficult than reading the directions on a recipe. His goal is to take the mystery out of cooking and endow everyone with the basic skills needed to cook your own food and save a fortune by not having to dine out all the time.