December 18, 2015
Coated with ice? Here’s how to de-frost
The weather made Thanksgiving really interesting this year. We watched the radar and weather reports as a storm moved through the area, coating everyone’s driveways, sidewalks and cars with a thick sheet of ice. Those of us who normally park in garages got to work off a few calories from our feast while unsticking windshield wipers, opening frozen doors and cleaning off windows for the drive home.
The best way to melt ice from cars, sidewalks and driveways depends on the temperature, your resources and the occupants of your home. Here are some of the best methods.
Most of us know about this one. But to be most effective, salt has to permeate the ice, not just sit on top of it. If it’s really cold and you need to melt ice, pour some hot water over it while you’re spreading the salt.
“As the hot water melts the ice, the salt kicks in to prevent the liquid water from re-freezing. You can use ordinary table salt, but the best option is rock salt, which in addition to the other role it performs, provides traction for shoes and tires,” Bob Vila says on his blog for This Old House.
To make salt work better, mix rock salt with calcium choride, according to TheSimpleDollar.com. “Calcium chloride is the best material available for clearing ice off the sidewalk because it gives off heat as it melts the ice. Mixing it with much cheaper rock salt (in a 50-50 mix) allows the calcium chloride to work first, warming up the ice a bit to a temperature where the rock salt can work. Mix the two in a bucket in your garage.”
A few precautions for using salt:
- Do not pour hot water on a car windshield. The sudden increase in temperature might cause the glass to crack.
- Remember that high salt concentrations can be toxic to plants, Vila says. Sharp-edged salt pieces can harm pets’ paws, and the salt can make pets sick if they lick it off themselves.
- Using too much salt-based de-icer can damage concrete and cause spalling, according to Tom Moor of Angie’s List Magazine. The top 1/16th of an inch of a driveway can chip, flake or peel off, especially if it’s newer concrete.
“A common ingredient in commercial fertilizers, ammonium sulfate works by lowering the temperature at which ice melts. In other words, it doesn’t melt ice immediately, but it hastens the process,” Vila says.
If you need a de-icer you have some fertilizer left over from spring, check the label to see if ammonium sulfate is one of the components.
Isopropyl alcohol from your medicine cabinet freezes at -20 degrees F — much lower than water, Vila says. So you can pour it directly on icy areas. You also can combine it with water in a spray bottle and spray it over larger areas like windshields or porches.
Want to de-ice without chemcals? Here are a few more suggestions.
To keep your car clean, cover it with an old bed sheet. “Use the windshield wipers to hold it in place, then close the ends of the sheet in the doors of the vehicle. After the storm, you can simply peel the sheet off and the ice comes right off with it,” according to TheSimpleDollar.com.
Use sand instead of salt on driveways. Once you clear the snow, this will improve traction for yourself and your car.