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Many areas have laws that require Snow Removal Solutions businesses to clear snow within a certain period after a storm. Not only does keeping pathways free of snow improve safety, but it also helps attract customers who are willing to brave the cold for your business. Shoveling can be expensive, and not everyone has a vehicle capable of hauling away large amounts of snow. However, there are several alternative solutions for removing snow from walkways and driveways.
Brine tanks are a cost-effective way to reduce the use of rock salt on your property. This method sprays a brine solution over the surface area instead of traditional granular rock salt and saves money on labor, fuel, and vehicle maintenance. It also cuts down on the amount of salt chloride that runs into rivers and streams, which can harm aquatic life.
Unlike granular rock salt, which can bounce or blow off walks and sidewalks, brine stays in place. It also seeps into the cracks and pores of concrete and asphalt surfaces, where it’s less likely to get tracked into buildings or plowed into surrounding grass and landscaping, which can kill them. Additionally, it requires one-quarter the quantity of traditional salt to do the same job.
A student at UW-La Crosse did some research on brine and found it’s an excellent alternative to traditional rock salt for the university. Casey Christ, ’23, says that using brine reduces the overall amount of salt used, reduces environmental contamination from salt runoff, and cuts down on expensive labor costs for snow removal.
It’s important to remember that the brine tank will always have water in it, since the salt-making process happens inside the cabinet. However, it should never have standing water when the brine system is in service. If it does, there may be a clog or a malfunction in the tank itself.
To clean out the brine tank, first remove the float and cylinder from the safety float assembly. Then disconnect the fill tube and head valve from the brine tank. Finally, lift the tank off and dump it into a drain. When dumping the brine tank, make sure to wear a dust mask to protect yourself from salt fumes.
A proactive approach to snow removal that saves salt, labor time, and minimizes environmental impact, anti-icing consists of lines of liquid deicing solution sprayed on pavement before a storm. Anti-icing works by inhibiting the bond between snow, ice and pavement with a chemical freezing point depressant. This prevents the accumulation of ice and snow on the roadway surface, allowing the snow or ice to be easily removed with snow blowers or shovels. The use of anti-icing agents is a highly recommended practice in accordance with snow and ice removal best management practices.
There are several different products that can be used as anti-icing agents, including brine, sodium chloride and calcium chloride. The most effective products are liquids as they work better at preventing and breaking the bond between ice and pavement than solid rock salt. Additionally, liquids stay on the road whereas granular solids can be displaced or blown away by vehicles driving over them.
Liquids are also more effective than solids for anti-icing because they can be spread quickly and in larger volumes. This allows crews to work more efficiently and reduce the amount of product and labor needed in order to keep roads and parking lots safe during and after a winter storm. This is why anti-icing is considered to be one of the most environmentally friendly snow and ice management techniques. Less material and labor means less salt, which in turn means fewer chlorides being discharged into streams, rivers and lakes. This is because unlike deicing, which uses a high concentration of chlorine, anti-icing only requires a small amount of chemicals to be effective. This is the advantage of taking a “Salt Smart” approach to winter maintenance!
Rock salt is a tried and true winter solution for snow removal. It is inexpensive, effective at a wide range of temperatures, and is easy to find in most locations. It can be purchased in bulk or by the bag and spread manually or with a salt spreader following manufacturer instructions. It also works well in conjunction with plowing and shoveling to quickly minimize the risks of slippery sidewalks and driveways.
Rock Salt is usually sprayed down on pavement or concrete surfaces prior to a storm to act as an anti-icer, or after the snow melts to prevent re-freezing in the freeze-thaw cycle. The angular shape of the salt penetrates the surface and bites into ice, improving traction for pedestrians, snowblowers, and cars. Rock salt should not be used on vegetation or grassy areas where it can damage plants.
Unlike rock salt, liquid ice melt products typically work better as an anti-icer when applied a few hours prior to a storm or during the initial snowfall. It is also easier to apply evenly than solid pellets. Liquid deicers do not roll away or blow away as easily, and they have a lower environmental impact than rock salt.
When purchasing rock salt, look for a premium product that is coated with magnesium chloride and permeated with purple dye. This type of salt provides additional traction and is less damaging to concrete than standard sodium chloride. It is also kinder to plants, as it is less likely to burn or irritate the skin than regular rock salt. Also consider buying rock salt early in the season, before the price rises, or even during the summer when many stores are trying to get rid of it.
Dish Soap & Rubbing Alcohol
Several DYI sources including Bob Vila recommend a mixture of half a gallon of hot water, six drops of liquid dish soap and two ounces of rubbing alcohol as a snow removal solution. Pouring the mixture evenly on ice or snow melts the ice and makes it easier to shovel. Rubbing alcohol speeds up the melting process because of its lower freezing point than water. Unlike salt, the solution isn’t harmful to plants or animals. VERIFY’s Meghann Mollerus tried it on her front steps before and after a Dec. 9 snowstorm and found it was effective. It’s also cheaper and less damaging than salt pellets.
Alfalfa Meal & Kitty Litter
If you’re looking for a green alternative to salt, there are several options available. Natural fertilizers like alfalfa meal and wood ash can be sprinkled on the ice to increase traction and speed up melting. These options are also great for plants and don’t have the same corrosive effect as chemical de-icers.
Another option is to use kitty litter to create more friction on icy surfaces, making it safer to walk on. However, it’s important to select a clay-based product that doesn’t contain chemicals, dyes and perfumes.
Other eco-friendly traction-boosting agents include sand, sawdust and fireplace ash. These substances also melt ice and snow, while providing traction.
Coffee grinds are another great option that can be used in place of sand. Its abrasive texture increases traction and, like sand, it helps to melt ice and snow by absorbing sunlight.
There are even heated snow mats available that can be plugged in and placed on walkways to eliminate the need for de-icers altogether. These are especially useful for businesses, schools, and other public facilities that want to avoid the harsh effects of commercial chemical products. They’re even safe for pets and the environment since they don’t emit any toxins into the air. For those that still need a commercial product, there are several low-salt, pet friendly de-icing agents available such as Rogue Quality Feeds Alfalfa Pellets. These are made with a blend of natural ingredients that includes rice bran, which acts as a binder, and will not harm grass or other nearby plants.