Removing ice from steps, walkways, and driveways is crucial for maintaining safety during the winter months. 

When the temperatures drop and snow starts falling, ice can become a major hazard. It not only increases the risk of falls and injuries but can also make it challenging to navigate or park on affected surfaces. This can result in accidents or damage to property. 

That’s why it’s essential to take action to remove ice and prevent its formation to maintain safe and easy access to your home.

Read on to learn the appropriate steps to remove ice, prevent slippery steps and keep walkways clear this winter season.  

In This Article:

Tools and Materials for Removing Ice

There are several tools and materials that can be used to remove ice from steps, walkways, and driveways.

These are some of the most common ones:

Ice melt

Ice melt is a chemical compound that works by lowering the freezing point of water, causing ice to melt at a lower temperature.

Most ice melts contain salt, such as sodium chloride or calcium chloride, which lowers the freezing point of water and causes ice to melt at a lower temperature. Other ingredients may include magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, or urea.

There are different types of ice melt, including pellets, flakes, and liquid solutions. Pellets and flakes are typically sprinkled onto the surface, while liquid solutions can be applied with a sprayer.

One of the benefits of using ice melt is that it can quickly and easily remove ice and snow, making it safer to walk or drive on the surface. However, you must use it correctly to avoid damage to the surface or harm to the environment.

Can quickly and easily melt ice and prevent its formation
Can be applied to large areas quickly and can penetrate through thick layers of ice
Effective at extremely low temperatures
Can be harmful to pets and vegetation
Can be relatively expensive compared to other deicing methods
Overuse can lead to surface damage
May require multiple applications for effective results

Rock Salt

Rock salt is an inexpensive and readily available material that can melt ice. It is usually used in combination with sand or kitty litter to improve traction. 

Rock salt is a naturally occurring mineral that is composed primarily of sodium chloride, which is the same compound found in table salt. However, rock salt is typically coarser and less refined than table salt, making it more suitable for use as a deicer.

Widely available
Easy to use
Effective in melting ice at temperatures above 15°F
Overuse can lead to surface damage
Not effective in very low temperatures
Harmful to pets and vegetation


Sand is a good option for deicing if you are looking for a low-cost, eco-friendly solution to improve traction on icy surfaces. 

It should be used in conjunction with other deicing agents for best results in extremely cold or wet conditions. While it does not actually melt the ice, sand helps create a rough surface that provides grip for vehicles and pedestrians.

Does not damage surfaces
Safe for pets and vegetation
Provides traction on slippery surfaces
Does not melt ice
Can clog storm drains and cause environmental damage if it is not disposed of properly
Can be messy


Shovels and electric snow shovels are a common tool for manually removing snow and ice. They come in different sizes and designs, including plastic, aluminum, and steel. 

Effective for smaller areas
Easy to use
Can be tiring and time-consuming
May not be effective for heavy snow or ice

Snow blowers

Snow blowers are machines that are designed to remove snow and ice from larger areas. They come in different sizes and designs, including electric and gas-powered models. 

While snow blowers are primarily designed for removing snow, they can also be used to remove ice from driveways and walkways. 

Highly efficient
Can clear large areas quickly
Can be expensive
May not be effective for heavy ice
Require maintenance

Each option has its own pros and cons, and the choice depends on factors such as the severity of ice, the size of the area, and personal preferences. It is recommended to use a combination of these tools and materials for effective ice removal.

Preparing to Remove Ice

Proper preparation is essential before removing ice to ensure safety and effectiveness. 

By preparing appropriately, you can prevent accidents, avoid tripping hazards, and make the job easier and more efficient.

Additionally, wearing appropriate clothing and selecting the right tools and materials can help protect you from the cold weather and prevent strain on your body during the removal process. 

(TheUltimatePhotographer, Getty Images)

Some tips for preparing effectively include:

  1. Wear appropriate attire. Dress in warm clothing, gloves, and boots with good traction to prevent slips and falls.
  2. Clear the area. Remove any obstacles, such as toys or debris, from the area to avoid tripping hazards.
  3. Choose the right tool: The type of tool needed will depend on the thickness of the ice, the size of the area to be cleared, and the slope of the surface. A shovel or ice scraper may be sufficient for thin layers of ice. Thicker layers may require a snow blower or a chemical deicer.
  4. Apply ice melt or salt. This will make it easier to break up and prevent it from re-freezing.
  5. Work in sections: Divide the area into manageable sections and work on one section at a time to avoid exhaustion and ensure thorough removal.
  6. Use proper technique. When shoveling, push the snow instead of lifting it to avoid strain on the back. When using a snow blower, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep your hands and feet away from moving parts.

Methods for Removing Ice

There are various methods for removing ice from walkways and driveways. Here are some of the most common methods along with their pros, cons, and tips for effective use:

Melting with Ice Melt

When using ice melt to melt ice, follow the instructions carefully to avoid damage to the surface or harm to the environment.

Ice melt can be harmful to skin and can cause irritation or burns, so wear gloves when applying ice melt and wash your hands thoroughly after use.

Here are some steps to follow:

(Iryna Tolmachova, Getty Images)
  1. Choose the right type of ice melt. There are different types of ice melt, including pellets, flakes, and liquid solutions. Choose the type of ice melt that is appropriate for the surface you want to treat.
  2. Clear the surface. Before applying ice melt, remove any loose snow or ice from the surface. This will allow the ice melt to work more effectively.
  3. Use the right amount. Using too much ice melt can damage the surface and harm plants or animals, so read the instructions carefully and use the recommended amount.
  4. Apply ice melt evenly. Sprinkle the ice melt evenly across the surface to ensure that it is effective and to avoid damage to the surface.
  5. Wait for the ice to melt. The time it takes for the ice to melt will depend on the temperature, the amount of ice melt used, and the thickness of the ice. It may take several hours or overnight for the ice to fully melt.
  6. Remove slush and debris. Use a shovel or broom to remove any remaining slush or debris to prevent it from refreezing and creating a slippery surface.

For best results, apply before a storm. Doing so can help prevent ice from forming and make it easier to remove snow. And when you’re not using it, store the ice melt in a cool dry place away from children and pets. 

Melting with Rock Salt

To use rock salt effectively, follow recommended application rates and use alternative methods, like sand or cat litter, to increase traction on icy surfaces.

(dimaberlinphotos, Canva)
  1. Wear protective gear. Before applying rock salt, wear gloves, goggles, and boots, to prevent any injury.
  2. Clear the area. Clear any snow, ice, and debris from the area you want to deice, such as walkways, driveways, and stairs so the rock salt will be able to reach the surface and melt the ice.
  3. Apply the rock salt. Once the area is clear, apply the rock salt by hand or using a spreader. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of rock salt per square yard of area.
  4. Spread evenly. Spread the rock salt evenly over the area, making sure to cover all the icy patches. Avoid piling up the salt in one spot as it can damage the surface underneath.
  5. Wait for the salt to work. Rock salt typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes to melt the ice, depending on the temperature and the amount of ice present. It may take some time for the ice to melt completely, so be patient and avoid over-applying.
  6. Check the area. Once the ice has melted, check the area to make sure it is safe to walk on. If there are any remaining icy spots, reapply the rock salt as necessary. 
  7. Clean up. After the ice has melted, use a broom or shovel to sweep away any remaining slush or debris to prevent it from refreezing and creating a slippery surface. Sweep it away so it doesn’t seep into soil and water sources. 


When using a shovel to remove ice, remember to take your time and be careful when using a shovel to remove ice.

Also, wear appropriate clothing and footwear to prevent slips and falls.

(wuviveka, Getty Images Signature)
  1. Choose the right type of shovel. Look for a sturdy shovel with a flat blade and a long handle. A curved-blade shovel is best for lifting and tossing snow, but a flat blade will be more effective for removing ice. Use a plastic shovel to prevent scratching or damaging the surface. 
  2. Clear the area of debris. Before starting, remove any leaves, twigs, or other debris from the area to make sure you have a clear surface to work on.
  3. Apply salt or ice melt. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt or ice melt on the ice to help loosen it up. Wait a few minutes for the ice melt to take effect.
  4. Start at the edge. Begin at the edge of the ice and work your way inward. Use the flat edge of the shovel to break up the ice, then scoop it up and toss it aside. Push the snow instead of lifting it to avoid strain on your back.
  5. Take breaks. Shoveling can be physically demanding, so take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion.
  6. Reapply ice melt. As you clear the ice, you may need to reapply ice melt to areas that are still slick.
  7. Clear any remaining snow. Once the ice is cleared, use the shovel to remove any remaining snow or slush from the area.
  8. Dispose of ice and snow: Dispose of the ice and snow in an appropriate location, such as a snow pile or designated snow dump.

Deicing With Sand

While sand does not actually melt the ice, sand helps create a rough surface that provides traction on ice for vehicles and pedestrians.

Here is a step-by-step guide to using sand to deice:

(fotojog, Getty Images)
  1. Prepare the surface. Clear the surface of any loose snow or debris, such as leaves or twigs. This will help the sand adhere better to the surface and provide better traction.
  2. Spread the sand. Pour or spread the sand over the icy area. Focus on high-traffic areas such as walkways, stairs, and driveways. Use a shovel or broom to spread the sand evenly and cover as much surface area as possible.
  3. Apply more sand as needed. Depending on the severity of the ice and snow, you may need to apply more sand in some areas. Be sure to spread it evenly and cover all surfaces.
  4. Wait for the sand to work. Sand does not actually melt the ice, but it provides traction by creating a rough surface. Wait for the sand to work and improve traction.
  5. Clean up after the ice has melted. Once the ice has melted and the weather has warmed up, clean up the sand. Use a broom or vacuum to remove the sand from the surface and dispose of it properly.

Snow blowing

Using a snow blower to remove ice can be effective, but it may not be the best option for all situations. In some cases, other methods such as salt or sand may be more appropriate. Be sure to choose the right method for your particular situation to ensure the best results.

Here are some steps for using a snow blower to remove ice:

(PhotoAllel, Getty Images)
  1. Clear the area. Before using a snow blower, make sure the area is clear of any debris or obstacles, such as rocks or sticks. This will prevent damage to the machine and ensure safe operation.
  2. Adjust the height. Adjust the height of the snow blower so that it is just above the surface of the ice. This will help the machine to remove the ice without damaging the surface underneath.
  3. Use the right attachment. Many snow blowers come with different attachments, such as a metal scraper, that are designed to help remove ice. Make sure to use the appropriate attachment for the job.
  4. Move slowly. When using a snow blower to remove ice, move slowly and carefully. This will help to ensure that the machine is able to remove the ice effectively without skipping over any spots.
  5. Repeat as necessary. Depending on the severity of the ice, it may be necessary to make multiple passes with the snow blower to fully remove it. Be patient and repeat the process as needed.
  6. Clean up after use. Once you have finished using the snow blower, make sure to clean it thoroughly and store it properly. This will help to ensure that it is ready to use again the next time you need it.

Post-Removal Maintenance

Post-removal maintenance is crucial to prevent ice from forming again on walkways and driveways. Failure to maintain the area can lead to the formation of new ice, which can increase the risk of slips and falls.

Here are some other tips on how to effectively maintain areas to prevent ice buildup:

  • Keep the area clear of snow and debris. Snow and debris can trap moisture and lead to the formation of ice. Clearing the area after each snowfall can prevent new ice from forming.
  • Reapply ice melt or salt as necessary. Ice melt and salt can be washed away by rain or melted snow, leaving the area vulnerable to new ice formation. Reapplying these materials as necessary can prevent new ice from forming.
  • Check for and repair any damage to the surface. Cracks or uneven surfaces can trap moisture, leading to the formation of ice. Checking for and repairing any damage can prevent new ice from forming.

Further Reading

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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