You awaken peacefully, or not so peacefully if the kids jump on your stomach in excitement, to find snow majestically falling outside. Your first thoughts are peaceful and serene, until you remember your sidewalks and driveway are about to become a slippery nightmare and you forgot to buy rock salt.

There are hundreds, well maybe more like dozens, of deicing products at your local hardware or home improvement store to choose from. The biggest problem? These products can be quite pricey and contain lovely ingredients like calcium and magnesium chloride, both of which can wreak havoc or your pavement, grass and foliage. Instead of wasting your money and potentially poisoning your dormant perennials, consider these alternatives to keep your driveways and sidewalks slippery-free!

Kitty Litter

Yep, your good old kitty litter is a great way to deice your driveway and sidewalks. Don’t waste your cat’s expensive clumping litter; instead buy the cheap stuff from your local dollar store or Kmart and spread it out in a thick layer. This stuff also works great in a pinch if you’re blasted with an unexpected storm and aren’t prepared to deice your now slick outdoor surfaces. Simply borrow a few cups from kitty to melt the ice without breaking the bank or killing your grass.

Fertilizer

If you’re an avid gardener like me, you probably have a few half-empty bags of fertilizer lying around in your basement or garage. Instead of tossing it into the trash, spread the stuff on your driveway to effectively melt the ice. Plus, fertilizer isn’t corrosive, so it won’t damage your asphalt or concrete pavement. Make sure that the fertilizer contains urea, which is the component that melts the ice.

Sand

Many cities use sand to deice their roads for several obvious reasons: it’s cheap, readily available and works. Head down to your local hardware stores and purchase sandbags or borrow the sand from your child’s backyard sandbox and replace it next year. Wear a handkerchief or dust mask over your mouth and safety goggles to avoid inhaling the sand or getting it into your eyes.

Beet Juice

I don’t actually expect you to run out and buy gallon jugs of beet juice, if that’s even possible. Many cities, including some in the great state of Wisconsin where I currently reside, are using beet juice’s acidic properties to melt snow and ice on the roads. If you’re hardcore and want to try something new, give beet juice a whirl. Pour one cup of juice at a time over the sidewalk or driveway. There is no perfect formula, just trial and error until the right amount is discovered for your situation. Otherwise, stick to the other products I mentioned to protect yourself from a slip and fall.

Here’s a practical hint from someone who was homebound last year for 2 days after 23 inches of snow fell in 24 hours: spread this stuff as soon as possible after the snow stops falling. You’ll use less product, making it stretch throughout the winter, and save your kids from a fall on the way to the bus.

This has been a guest post by Jaimie from Chippewa Falls, WI
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