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First Season in a Snowy Neighborhood? Here are Some (Literal) Ice Breakers

a person outside shoveling snow out of their driveway

Are you trading palm trees for snow-covered oaks? Trying to figure out how to prepare for snow by winterizing your new home? If you move to a city with winter conditions for the first time in your life, you might feel paralyzed the first time you get a big overnight snowfall. You can call in “cold” to work, right? While you can’t do much about the impending weather (other than bundle up), you can avoid slips and falls in front of your house by de-icing it and preparing for a winter storm. Let the city handle the streets: here are some first winter homeowner tips on how to prepare for a winter storm so you can take care of your own front walk, steps, and driveway and be prepared for snow. 

Get salty

As far as winter home tips go, salt is one of the most important. There are a few salt agents to choose from when it comes to de-icing your drive. Sadly, table salt won’t cut it, so you can leave the shakers on the table. The best salting option is magnesium chloride. This agent releases 40% less chloride into the environment when compared to rock salt or calcium chloride. It’s also less damaging to plants, and it will work until the temperature reaches -13 degrees Fahrenheit. Potassium chloride is a good backup plan, but it only works when the temperature is above 15 degrees. If you have intricate masonry work on your home, or need to de-ice areas near landscaping work, make sure your salting agent of choice won’t damage the stones (magnesium chloride is a safer choice than sodium chloride, in this instance).

Spread beet juice

This approach may be one of the more unusual of the first winter homeowner tips. Some states, including Minnesota, have begun adding sugar beet juice to their salt treatments on roads during winter months. It combines with the salting agent to keep the salt to a brine in lower temperatures. But did you know you can use sugar beet juice on its own? Spreading beet juice on your front stoop or sidewalk will dissolve ice and encourage snow to melt. The juice may leave behind a trace of its color, but it won’t stain cement and will wash away with the melted snow. You can always help it along with a broom or shovel.

Put down a melting mat

How about a melting method that allows you to remain indoors, under your new fleece blanket, while it does all the work? Yes, please. Melting mats, like these from HeatTrak, can be left outside 24/7 during the winter and are among the most convenient of the first winter homeowner tips. Turn them on when you get a big snowfall, and the path will be cleared by the time you need to leave the house. You can use one mat on its own or connect a series of mats to make a snow-free pathway all the way from your front door to the end of the drive. Mats melt snow at a rate of about 2 inches per hour.

You don’t want the ice breaker with your new neighbors to be that they helped you up when you slipped and fell on your icy driveway. Do yourself a favor and break the ice first, so you can navigate your new home safely and get to know people the old-fashioned way: by awkwardly waving as you collect your mail.

Go with kitty litter

Even if you don’t have a feline friend, if you’ve moved to a snowy area it’s a good idea to keep kitty litter on hand in case of snow and ice. Kitty litter won’t de-ice your pathway, per se, but it will help create more traction between your feet and the ice so that walking outside won’t be nearly so risky. Simply spread handfuls of the kitty litter on your walkway, sidewalk, or driveway to make stepping out a bit safer. Short on kitty litter? Other materials like sand, bird seed, or wood chips will also do the trick.  

Pour rubbing alcohol

This common household supply is also often used in commercial de-icing products because of its low freezing point. There are two ways you can go about using rubbing alcohol to de-ice your walkway. First, you can just pour it straight onto the icy surface and wait for it to melt. It’s not as fast of a de-icer as salt, but it will still do the job. The second approach is to mix it in a spray bottle to distill it—two parts rubbing alcohol and one part water. Once you’ve done that, spray down the icy areas you wish to no longer be a frozen tundra. 

The bottom line

Your first time facing an onslaught of snow and ice might seem like an overwhelming challenge, but there is plenty of inexpensive approaches to make de-icing a far less intimidating task. Common household substances like salt and rubbing alcohol should be at the top of first winter homeowner tips as they are simple materials that will cut down on your chances of slipping and potentially injuring yourself while walking down your driveway. If going outside in the cold and spreading salt or kitty litter on the ground doesn’t sound appealing to you, consider investing in melting mats which, while expensive, will clear your pathways without you leaving the comfort of the indoors.

Frequently asked questions


What is the fastest way to melt ice?


If you’re looking for first winter homeowner tips on how to melt the ice on your driveway quickly, salt is your quickest option. Because there are far more molecules that make up salt than sugar or sand, salt tends to melt ice much faster.


Does vinegar melt sidewalk ice?


Like rubbing alcohol, vinegar is another common household substance that will melt ice. Distill the vinegar by mixing equal parts vinegar and water into a spray bottle.


Can bleach melt ice?


While not an eco-friendly method, bleach can work as a de-icer. Just beware that this approach can be harmful to wildlife (and your yard), so consider less toxic options first.

Amanda Push contributed to this report

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