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Removing Ice from a Sidewalk

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"Removing Ice from a Sidewalk"
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This is a scenario that plays itself out for many people every winter: It is snowing, and though you go out and shovel the walk time and again, keeping it as snow free as possible, gradually a layer of ice builds up on the sidewalk. This makes the walk progressively more dangerous to walk on, and the ice is much harder to remove than the snow.

Some snow removal methods involve chipping at the ice using a pointed shovel, the use of salt, or simply leaving it be until the weather warms and the ice breaks up naturally, all the while hoping that nobody breaks their neck or backside by sliding on the ice. None of these methods work well. The last one works least well of all, because accidents do happen, and a warm spell could be a long time coming.

Using a pointed shovel or other chipping implement is also not the best choice, since it damages the sidewalk and can lead to expensive repairs in the spring or summer.

If the temperatures aren't severe, salt will work, but it has severe drawbacks. Salt works by lowering the freezing point of water. This means that the ice will melt at a lower temperature. This is well and good, except when the temperatures are below 20 degrees F, or -7 C, which is still below the freezing point. In addition, salt leaches lime out of the concrete in sidewalks, both eroding them and making them more brittle. It does the same thing in a different way to road surfaces, which is why in most locations, salting is not the preferred method to deal with ice. Further, salt is toxic to most plants, so as the salt and ice mixture is gradually removed, plants that are bordering the sidewalk begin to suffer and die.

There are commercial ice removers that have the form of tiny balls that look like they are made of Styrofoam. These work, but they are expensive and sometimes don't break down easily, leaving a springtime mess to worry about.

There are also chemicals that can be used, such as those used to de-ice the wings of aircraft, but these are not only expensive, but harmful to flora and fauna.

So what is a person to do? Luckily, there is a cheap alternative that is nowhere near as damaging; clay style cat litter. The cat litter is made from clay soil deposits, so it isn't very damaging to plants and is natural. While it doesn't melt the ice directly until the air temperature warms up, it does provide a gritty surface that gives plenty of traction. It is even useful for throwing under car tires when a car is stuck. Best of all, it will work at even very cold temperatures; well below zero. It even takes less effort to apply than the other methods of removing ice, with the exception of the commercial ice remover.

Not all is rosy, as it does tend to be tracked into the house, but good rugs for wiping the feet before entering will go a long way toward minimizing this problem.

Having a large bag or two of clay cat litter inside the house, inside the business, or in the car can be extremely helpful anywhere that ice becomes an issue. This can prevent dangerous accidents, help unstick stuck cars, and lessen just one more worry having to do with the winter season. Give it a try and see if you aren't pleased with the results.

More about this author: Rex Trulove

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