When it comes to choosing a natural deicer to keep sidewalks and steps free of ice, there are three alternatives to choose from: sand, cat litter and organic deicers. While sand and cat litter are the least expensive and easier to find than organic deicers, all three have their advantages, are eco-friendly and have been proven to work. Opting for a natural way to deice the walk and steps is healthier for the environment because unlike rock salt, natural alternatives do not corrode concrete or asphalt, harm plants or irritate the skin of animals.
Sand is a Readily Available Alternative
Sand is not only natural, it is also readily available in most areas making this alternative inexpensive and easy to find, even in the dead of winter. While sand is considered eco-friendly, it does come with a few drawbacks. On one hand, sand doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals that corrode the walk, damage plants or burn the feet of pets. It can however find its way into nearby streams effecting water flow and the overall life of the stream. While sand provides traction, it does not actually melt ice and can easily be carried inside the home on the bottom of shoes. An easy way to combat these drawbacks is to limit the amount of sand used and sweep it up come spring.
Natural Cat Litter Provides Eco-Friendly Traction
When choosing to use cat litter as a deicer, opt for one that is made from natural ingredients to keep this alternative eco-friendly. The best type of cat litter to use is one that clumps and is biodegradable. This will keep the mess and needed cleanup down to a minimum when the snow melts in the spring. Cat litter provides traction but much like sand, it does not melt the ice. Many natural cat litters are made from recycled paper, corn fibers and baking soda — all of which decompose over time.
Organic Deicers are Pet Safe and Eco-Friendly
Typically, mad made deicers contain a chemical called chloride. Chloride is responsible for corroding the walk, harming plants and irritating the paws of pets. Organic deicers do not contain chloride making them an eco-friendly alternative. Though organic deicers are a little harder to find and more expensive than those that are man made, on average $20-$30 for an eight to twenty pound bag, they do melt ice making the walk and steps safe for use. Organic deicers are sometimes marketed as "Pet Safe," so look for the pet safe label when shopping.
When it comes to being eco-friendly, choosing a natural alternative to deicers is a small step towards helping to protect and preserve the environment. Sand, cat litter and organic deicers are only three of the many materials available. Though less common and harder to find in bulk, sawdust, wood chips, shredded corn cobs and peanut shells make great natural alternatives as well.