Reducing Use of Deicing Salt for Homeowners
Individuals and homeowners who want to use less deicing salt in winter should consider the following:
Can you go without salt?
First, determine if you must use salt or if you might be able to manage without salting on all or some areas of your property. Maybe you do not often go to a certain part of your property in winter that you can salt only if needed, or possibly not at all. If you don’t salt, you may consider using a traction control product on your shoes (e.g., Yaktrax, MICROspikes, Stabilicers).
If you need to use salt, remember these five tips:
- Shovel first – You should always shovel any snow or ice away before putting salt onto a hard surface. It takes less salt to do the same job and works more quickly.
- Maintain 3-inch spacing between grains of salt – A rule of thumb is that grains of salt should be about 3 inches apart. This graphic from the Lake Superior Regional Stormwater Protection Team helps to visualize this. If you prefer to measure salt, a general guideline is to use no more than 1 to 1.5 cups per every two parking lot spaces or 10 sidewalk squares.
- Measure pavement temperature – Since rock salt works only down to pavement temperatures of 16F (-9C), you can use an infrared thermometer to determine pavement temperature. (If you are interested in helping us assess how well various brands of IR thermometers work to measure pavement temperature, contact kstepenu [at] uvm.edu (subject: Road%20salt) (Kris Stepenuck)).
- Sweep up extra salt to reuse – If you accidentally used too much salt during one storm and see piles of salt on the pavement following the storm, sweep up the extra salt and reuse it during a future storm. If you leave it on the pavement, it will runoff to nearby vegetation, to a local storm drain, or into a local water body.
- Ask contractors to limit salt use – If you hire contractors to maintain your driveway and/or sidewalk, speak with them about how you would like to have your property managed. Some private contractors may have the ability to use a 23% salt-water mixture ahead of a storm (called anti-icing) to prevent a bond from forming between the ice and snow and the pavement. Anti-icing can reduce salt use (as compared to using dry salt) by as much as 45%. Even if the company who maintains your property cannot anti-ice, being proactive to communicate with them about your interest in limiting salt use will allow them to feel comfortable salting only where they have a concern or using an alternative to sodium chloride during very cold weather.