Avoiding salt, but how can I keep inlaws from slipping on icy sidewalk?
November 26, 2008 7:01 AM   Subscribe

What's your solution to the slippery winter sidewalks, preferably with the least impact to environment yet won't involve salt tracked in on the carpet? My in-laws are in town and the normal sidewalk and driveway shoveling is not going to be enough to keep them from slipping and falling. Here's my problem, we have kids and pets that will track in salt or de-icer all over the carpet.
posted by Mike Johnson to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could use rock pebbles as an alternative to salt. It won't be as effective, but it might tone down the slipperiness.
posted by nikkorizz at 7:12 AM on November 26, 2008

Traction Sand.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:13 AM on November 26, 2008

posted by subajestad at 7:21 AM on November 26, 2008

I agree with subajestad. Here's a similar product: snow and ice grips.
posted by desjardins at 7:34 AM on November 26, 2008

I dpn't know how much money you are willing to put out, but you could always install a heated sidewalk.
posted by peewinkle at 7:41 AM on November 26, 2008

I'm not sure where you live, but if you're in Canada, Lee Valley sells rather lovely ice walkers known as Icer's. My mum and step dad both have a pair, and they periodically buy them as christmas presents for various relatives.

I also agree with the recommendation of sand, which you can usually get from a Home Hardware / Home Depot / Canadian Tire type of store (or Wal-Mart if you live in a cold area and none of these names ring a bell).
posted by Planet F at 7:41 AM on November 26, 2008


Yak Trax work for me. Up and down steep sidewalks on hills that are unfailingly covered by sheets of ice whenever snow begins to melt.
posted by YFiB at 7:42 AM on November 26, 2008

Oh, another quick note from a Canadian: If you don't want to spend a lot of money and just want to get rid of the Ice (and are willing to put your back into it), you can always break up the ice with a pick axe, or (as my step-brother and I discovered), a hoe or other sharp-ish garden inplements.
posted by Planet F at 7:43 AM on November 26, 2008


since it's often coarser than sand, it grips a bit better.

of course, you'll have cat litter tracked in, but it's not as damaging as salt.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:48 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

This sounds like you need a short-term, quick solution. You could make a liquid de-icing brine that, once it dries, is likely to track less material in than sand or salt pellets. I would take fine rock salt or other something-chloride deicer and mix it with very hot water until you have a saturated solution. Spray liberally on ice patches with a garden sprayer. When totally finished, wash sprayer out. And then consider radiant heating for next year :)
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:49 AM on November 26, 2008

And if you want to manually remove ice, one of these bad boys works wonders, but you have to be gentle and use a soft touch so you don't tear up your sidewalk.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:52 AM on November 26, 2008

Sand works well, but is hard on rugs & carpets, so you have to vacuum a lot. Locally, I can get salted sand, which is excellent for traction, reduces ice, and is not too rough on the environment. If you can find some floor mats like the ones in commercial buildings, or old pieces of rug, you can lay them over ice/snow as a temporary measure. This can be especially useful if there's a particularly icy patch. Yaktrax and other footwear work well, but you have to adjust to how to walk in them. Falling is a serious health risk for old people.
posted by theora55 at 8:06 AM on November 26, 2008

We deal with this problem by:

(1) Taking our shoes off at the door and putting them into one of those shallow plastic bin-things made for that purpose. If you're shoes-inside people, switch from outside grubby shoes to inside clean shoes at the door.

(2) If the dogs' feet are likely to be gross, we wipe their feet off when they come in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:07 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could lay on some rubber matting like this stuff that they use behind bars, as long as you make sure it's stable within the snow/ice. I think it would be the least problematic and as a bonus you can reuse it next year.
posted by rmless at 8:08 AM on November 26, 2008

One non-chemical possibility is to cover your driveway/walkway with something while it's actually snowing, like a sheet of plastic or old carpet or something. That might not eliminate the need for some ice melt, but it should significantly reduce it.
posted by electroboy at 8:11 AM on November 26, 2008

Have you tried loading the rock salt into your 12 gauge? It might blast the salt deep enough into the ice that it wouldn't be tracked into the house...
posted by Glendale at 8:16 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Normal sidewalk and driveway shoveling should be enough unless there are some drainage issues. Keep the gutters ice free and you won't have those pretty icicles hanging down and causing icy patches on the sidewalk. Shoveling to the pavement after every snowfall will prevent ice except during the worst ice storms.
posted by JJ86 at 8:28 AM on November 26, 2008

Similar to Planet F but with less risk of damaging your sidewalk (I used this method when I rented a house): light sledgehammer. You can get up a good swing and whack the ice until it breaks up, either clearing it off entirely or roughening the surface so you can use less salt/sand.
posted by burnfirewalls at 8:56 AM on November 26, 2008

Just take your shoes off in the house.
posted by GuyZero at 9:09 AM on November 26, 2008

I'm going to second whoever said to use a hoe [or an edger, which is just a hoe without the bend in it].
Chip away at the ice until it's gone.
Shovel soon after a snowfall so the snow doesn't get walked on and hard to shovel.
This should do everything you need, unless your winter situation is different than I'm imagining.
posted by Acari at 9:45 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to spend a lot of money and just want to get rid of the Ice (and are willing to put your back into it), you can always break up the ice with a pick axe, or (as my step-brother and I discovered), a hoe or other sharp-ish garden inplement
Buffalonian here to agree, that's really a lot faster than waiting for the salt to do its work. Particularly on the heavy buildup areas you get below large icicle concentrations. We have something, my roommate swears it is specifically for ice, that looks like a hardcore metal paint scraper with a long wooden handle.
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:46 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could put a baby gate inside the entrance to keep pets in the foyer until you have a sec to wipe their feet clean (keep a towel & a spray bottle with water there for rinsing, if needed). And ask the family to keep all shoes and dirty paws on the outside of the baby gate. This means your foyer will need mopping, but the rest of the carpet should be clean.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:51 AM on November 26, 2008

I use cat litter after shoveling. When it's below freezing it adds texture to the icy surface. Unlike sand which just scatters, once it starts melting, the cat litter absorbs water, so that if it refreezes, rather than getting slick ice you get a nice nonskid texture. Once the ice/water/sludge evaporates you just sweep it away.

Make sure you get old-fashioned, no additive litter that's mostly clay, and like mentioned upthread, non-clumping.
posted by nax at 10:11 AM on November 26, 2008

Ice Choppers.
posted by marsha56 at 10:19 AM on November 26, 2008

Nthing subajestad's YakTraxs suggestion.

I noticed a few times last year that the regular Yaktraxs didn't stay wrapped around my winter boot v. well. A few times during last years' winter walks I had to backtrack my route to find one of my YakTrax that had popped off one boot or the other. This year I hope to have remedied the situation with a new pair of pros with the strap across the top of the foot. That should do the trick.

If you're going to use salt I'd recommend not using water softener salt pellets (or any salt not specifically indicated for such icy purposes). The snow cleanup crew my condo assoc. hired last year to keep our walkways clean used the softener pellets, which killed all the grass along the walkways.

For daily in and outs you might consider getting one of these boot brushes for each entrance to your home. The kids might initially think it is totally stupid but the brushes do work and, if your kids are the least bit competitive, they'll soon turn it into a game of 'who scraped off the most crud from their boot'.
posted by mcbeth at 11:10 AM on November 26, 2008

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