7 DIY Ice Melt Recipes for Snowy Steps, Walkways, and Driveways

Got ice and snow on top of super cold temperatures this winter? EC Reader Jennifer does, and wrote: Do you have a solution for melting ice and snow on walkways, driveways, steps, and windshields? 

At least one of these homemade recipes is sure to come to Jennifer’s rescue and quite possibly yours too.


All of these recipes and methods use ordinary household items most of us keep on hand. So grab a bucket and a spray bottle and let’s get mixing!

Homemade Ice and Snow Melts

1. Basic Deicer

You’ll need:

✅ large container or bucket

✅ spray bottle

✅ 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) water

✅ 6 drops Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid

✅ 2 tablespoons rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol,  70% or 91%

Add all ingredients to the bucket. Dispense using the spray bottle. Spray the mixture on icy area or steps and watch the snow and or the ice melt, which is going to make your job of making those areas safe so much easier

Why this works: Rubbing alcohol won’t freeze until it reaches at least 97 F below zero (yes minus!) or negative 128 degrees F (-89 degrees C) for 100% alcohol. In that this recipe contains water, the mixture would freeze at a warmer temp of perhaps -50 degrees F or so. As for the Blue Dawn, just a few drops helps break the surface tension of the ice and snow to get the melting process started and into high gear.

Neither the alcohol nor Blue Dawn content is harmful to landscape, pets, or the environment due to this being a very weak dilution.

2. Liquid ice melt

You’ll need:

✅ bucket

✅ rock salt

✅ warm water

Pour warm water into a bucket. Add rock salt crystals to it.  (A good ratio is a gallon of water to 1 cup rock salt, however, this is not an exact science—you want to create salty water).  Stir occasionally until all of the salt crystals are completely dissolved.

Pour the saltwater solution into a sprayer. Spray the solution on frozen hard surfaces. The saturated force of the sprayer will penetrate through all the layers of the snow and melt it.

Why this works:

3. Vinegar

You’ll need:

✅ large container or bucket

✅ plain white vinegar

✅ water

Mix equal amounts of vinegar and water to produce an effective deicer. If the ice is very thick combine 40 percent water and 60 percent vinegar, e.g., 4 cups of water to 6 cups of vinegar; or 8 cups water to 12 cups vinegar. Pour the mixture on iced surfaces and ice will slowly turn to liquid.

Why this works: The point of plain white vinegar with 5% acidity (that is what you find in the supermarket) is 28 degrees Fahrenheit, or -2 degrees Celsius.

4. Grit

You’ll need:

✅ sand OR

✅ birdseed OR

✅ kitty litter (non-clay)

Try laying down some sand, gravel, or birdseed to give walkways more traction.

Why this works: In most situations, just adding a scant layer of grit to snowy surfaces provides the traction you need to safely get from here to point there whether walking or get a vehicle unstuck.

Caution: Do not use clay-based kitty litters for this purpose, since it will turn into watery sludge once it comes in contact with moisture and that will make the ground even more slippery than it was before.

5. Salt

You’ll need:

✅ salt

Salt—rock salt or plain old table salt—is the most basic ice melt found in just about any house. Simply sprinkle the plain salt across the snow-covered area, steps, or porch. Salt will then spread through the ice layer, turning it into slush. Interestingly, salt is only effective to keep ice sloshy to 15 degrees F. At that point salt has lowered the temperature at which water freezes hard all that it can. So if it’s 14 degrees F and lower, you need to use an alternative method.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, salts are less effective when applied in excess. Lesson to be learned: Use salt sparingly to treat treacherous ice on your driveway, steps, and sidewalk. This will improve its effectiveness, while at the same time protect your landscape and hardscape surfaces.

Why this works: Salt (sodium chloride) lowers the freezing point of water. It is a perfect ice melt for your icy areas at very little expense.

6. Baking soda

You’ll need:

✅ baking soda

Generously sprinkle baking soda on the ice or snow-covered area and wait for the ice to start melting. This may take a bit longer to melt than other options, but it will work. Do not use the soda-sprinkled path until the baking soda has done its job.

Why this works: Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) contains salt and that lowers the freezing temperature of ice.


7. Rubbing Alcohol

You’ll need:

✅ rubbing (isopropyl, 70% or 91%) alcohol

✅ water

✅ sprayer

Mix equal amounts of rubbing alcohol and water. Pour into a sprayer. Spray solution on snow and or ice to melt it. You can use this ice melt for windshields as well.

For a very tough frozen situation, you can apply straight isopropyl alcohol. Or if you don’t want to use a sprayer, pour it directly onto the problem area.

Why this works: Rubbing alcohol freezes but only in conditions that are way below zero. Compared to ice and snow, it’s very warm

Caution: Salt kills vegetation. Once it soaks into the ground, depending on the amount of salt and how often the ground is saturated with salt water, it will temporarily sterilize the soil, rendering it unable to grow any kind of vegetation. That means keep this melting option on the driveway, walks, and other areas you do not have plantings or plan to in the near future.


Some of these tips should be used with caution as some of the ingredients may harm paint, plants, water supply, carpets if tracked indoors. Use your common sense and discretion when accepting these tips.


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6 replies
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Diluted with water as they are in these recipes, vinegar will not, Blue Dawn will not, rubbing alcohol will not; salt could so I would avoid rubbing or spreading salt on painted surfaces.


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