We don’t get much freezing precipitation here in southern Virginia, but when we do, the entire area comes to a screeching halt because we’re not prepared to deal with it. The last ice storm backed everything up so badly it took me three hours to go 10 miles on a commute. Normally I don’t bother too much with the weather, but when a friend slipped on ice and shattered her arm, I started thinking about precautions to make the home area safer from frozen precipitation.
De-Icing Your Home
I was surprised at the number of chemicals available out there to clear ice. And every one of them seemed to have nasty consequences for plants, animals and ground water. Here is a run-down of the readily available de-icers available.
Salt will cause the ice to melt. It is cheap and readily available. Unfortunately, it can kill landscaping and grass, and pollute groundwater.
Sand doesn’t make the ice melt, but it does provide traction on the ice. In an area where there are constant freeze/thaws, you have to make sure that the sand is still on top of the ice. Sand can clog storm sewers, particularly in a place where there is a lot of traffic to break down the sand grains.
One article I read pointed to the unsuitability of clumping kitty litter for this task, since it turns into a soggy mess. Regular non-clumping litter can be used to provide traction. The clay, however, like the sand, can clog the storm sewers.
There are several brands of pet-safe deicers out there. Safe Paw was one I saw mentioned several times. It seems to be expensive, though, and it may not be as green as it is touted.
The safest (and most effort) way to get rid of ice is to remove it manually by shoveling and chopping ice. Up north that worked fine, but here it is rare to get a snowstorm that will need shoveling, and the ice is never thick enough to chop.
After evaluating all the options, I put together a bucket mixture of salt and sand. The salt concentration is not high enough to do damage to the landscaping, and the traffic is low enough to make sand an option. Now let’s just hope I never have to use it.
Photo by L. Marie