How Do I Melt Ice If The Store Is Out Of Salt?

The big batch of winter wrath this week has caused a run on basic supplies at the hardware stores. So what if the shelves are empty where the salt usually sit? Grab a bag, box, jar or bottle of one of these alternative ice and snow melting supplies instead.

  • Calcium chloride
  • Alfalfa meal – fertilizer
  • Sand – absorbs sunlight and adds traction
  • Water softener solt
  • Bleach (highly corrosive, use sparingly)
  • Sugar – like salt, it lowers the melting point
  • Baking soda – it’s a kind of salt!
  • Vinegar
  • Concentrated isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol (kills grass)
  • Epsom Salt/Magnesium Sulfate
  • Ammonium sulfate – look for it in fertilizer (damages concrete)
  • Calcium magnesium acetate – sold under brand names like “Quad melt” and “Premiere Ice Melter”
  • Magnesium chloride – ask for it by name
  • Potassium acetate – sold under “Ice Clear” (corrosive)
  • Potassium chloride (damages concrete)
  • Urea – found in fertilizer

Salt only melts ice, by the way, it does not melt snow.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tkriger says:

    Soy Sauce – I’ve seen it used on a college campus before.

  2. YokoOhNo says:

    I’ve used gasoline in an emergency…it’s also a great weed killer!

  3. cash_da_pibble says:

    isnt that in URINE?

  4. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    A weed burner:

    Frickin’ awesome.

  5. Tim says:

    It does melt snow. The problem is that it only melts what’s in a very close vicinity to it. So if you sprinkle it on a thin layer of ice, it’ll melt it. But if you put it on a foot of snow, it’ll melt maybe an inch or so.

  6. Dragon Tiger says:

    One should also bear in mind that salt in and of itself will also damage concrete over time.

  7. Jfielder says:

    So I couldn’t help to notice that Sodium Chloride was on the list…. are you suggesting that I should use sodium chloride if I run out of salt? Thanks for the tip!

    • Tim says:

      Actually, sidewalk/road salt is rarely sodium chloride. It’s usually calcium chloride. It releases energy as it mixes with the water and the solution has an even lower freezing point than table salt with water.

      • tbiscuit360 says:

        Except for the fact that calcium chloride is also on the list (ironically #1), so if they don’t have calcium chloride at the store, get calcium chloride!

      • unpolloloco says:

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen calcium chloride used on the roads (usually it’s rock salt, which is sodium chloride). It’s used all the time on sidewalks though (it’s more expensive, but melts ice better).

    • Zowzers says:

      there is a general lack of basic chemistry in the country. Just look at the people who don’t understand what sugar is. I blame public schools.

  8. Reader101 says:

    Cat litter is seldom sold out and works well for traction. In a pinch I used a carton of Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) as ice melt. I’m not sure how awful that is for the grass etc. but it melted the ice in front of my door so I was able to leave the house.

  9. denros says:

    sand *absorbs* light, not attracts it. and it only does so slighty more than the actual ice, but it’s better than nothing and it gives more traction.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Gravel, dirt are also great for traction (although probably in short supply if the ground is snow covered) – and environmentally more friendly than salts.

      • The cake is a lie! says:

        It just makes it messy. You are far enough north that I’m sure you are familiar with the roads in Idaho in the spring. They use gravel instead of salt and it makes for really messy cars in the spring when the roads are essentially just mud and grit. Blech… Still, given my choice I think I’d choose gravel rather than the corrosion that salt creates on cars.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I use that cheap clay kitty litter, and keep the bag in the trunk in case I get stuck. Then I can put some under the wheels. Of course, that doesn’t work if you’re in a steep ditch. :P

  10. The cake is a lie! says:

    Be very careful with some of those suggestions. Bleach will soften rubber (tires, shoes, etc) and potentially flatten tread. You also don’t want to be tracking bleach slush into your front room. Some of these things are also illegal to let run into the city sewers, but the chances of getting caught are pretty slim. Still, you want to consider whether or not you want any of these substances tracked into your home or vehicle. Salt is hard enough to get out of carpet as it is, so I shudder to think about what some of these other substances would do.

  11. Straspey says:

    Actually, most places around here sell bags of Calcium Chloride because it’s not corrosive like salt – which will eat away and damage the concrete and cement of you walkways, driveway and paths.

    It’s a bit more expensive – but it works great – especially when applied early as an “undercoat” early in the snowfall, and does not leave those white stains behind.

    • Jfielder says:

      Calcuim chloride is actually HIGHLY corrosive. More so than rock salk. It is better for vegetation though. You are right that it is commonly used as a ice preventer, but many places try to limit it’s use because calcium chloride dust was settling on power poles, corroding the terminals and starting fires.

  12. jessjj347 says:

    In New Mexico they use ground up lava (basically like red dirt), and it absorbs heat very quickly. The cool thing is that all of the roads are red.

  13. Alvis says:


    • The cake is a lie! says:

      Uhm…. no. Shitty idea. If there is ice on your sidewalk, then that is because the temperature is below freezing. Pouring hot water on it will just create more ice. How long do you think the water will stay hot? Terrible idea… Talk about making the problem worse… Where do you think that water will go when the temperature drops? All you will accomplish is smoothing out the ice and making it thicker.

      • Scurvythepirate says:

        Well to be fair, the article was just about how to MELT ice. Hot water would accomplish that, if only for about 15 minutes or so. lol

        • The cake is a lie! says:

          I’m surprised I don’t see ‘hair dryer’ or ‘heat gun’ on the list then.

          • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

            I didn’t see “phaser” either. But maybe a “transporter” would be better. (Not to transport the snow, but to transport me to some tropical paradise)

            • The cake is a lie! says:

              I like to just rev my car up a lot and hope the heat from the exhaust melts the ice. Not as environmentally friendly as a phaser, but it is the best I’ve got. Then again, I could pick up some of those green lasers I’ve seen that pop balloons and light candles from 50 feet… Maybe those will work.

      • Alvis says:

        Do you walk around soaking wet all day after a shower? It’s called a TOWEL. It un-wets water, and keeps ice from re-forming.

    • ConsumerPop says:

      This made me laugh for about 5 minutes straight.

  14. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:


    I’m sorry Ben, but that made me giggle.

    As for ice, I have a spring-assisted ice-scraper for this purpose.

  15. urger says:

    Or you could use a poll scraper that you will only ever need to buy once. Salt destroys sidewalks. Using it is getting you set up for huge bill in a few years when you have to replace your sidewalk – or worse – when your city decides to replace it for you and dumps the bill on you.

  16. AjariBonten says:

    It should be noted that buying a third of those products will get you listed on one of several terrorist watch lists.

  17. majortom1981 says:

    Wouldnt it be easier to get a straight shovel or ice chipper ? I use one of those square shovels and it breaks up the ice very well.

    • qwickone says:

      I just flip over my metal-tipped snow shovel and push it along the driveway (after shoveling off the snow). Works great.

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      Salt is used to help stop the formation of ice in addition to removing it. It isn’t always practical to be out chipping away at the ice all day. Maybe on your personal walkway, but think of a larger place like the front steps and sidewalks of your business. I’m grateful for the salt on the steps of my office and would be a little pissed if it was left up to some minimum wage grounds keeper to chip away the ice which so constantly forms around here.

  18. Moosehawk says:


    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      See response #4 above, *weed burner* for a cheaper, legal alternative to a flame thrower.

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        My understanding was that flamethrowers weren’t illegal at all, due to sheer improbability of a civilian owning one…

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Have you seen the price of jellied gasoline these days? D:

  19. Vulpine says:

    Pickle juice. Might be a bit aromatic in the spring, but apparently works well due to both vinegar and salt content. CNN reported on a town in NJ buying it by the ton to fight this current ice/snow storm.

    • justagigilo85 says:

      This was my town, and it’s not necessarily “pickle juice” but rather, it was brine that they were buying.

      • Vulpine says:

        No argument. Don’t know if the storm has affected you yet or not–I’m right on the edge of the rain/ice line in MD and look OK at the moment, though we’ve just been upgraded to Winter Storm Warning for late tonight.

        Would like to know how it works out for you.

  20. topgun says:

    There are some liquids made from beet juice and the leftover crud from distilling vodka that is used to melt ice. They are effective but pretty expensive.
    Bleach is a very bad idea.

  21. sp00nix says:

    I have a suicide drive way. It dumps me right into the busiest road in town. If i dont keep up on it ill end up a hood ornament on a septa bus. I keep a large stock of salt or calcium cholirde.

    • cheviot says:

      Do you live just off route 3, near the on ramp to 476 North? That driveway is a killer!

      • sp00nix says:

        No but i know what your talking about! And it almost got me hit by a bus as i pointed it out, my buddy ran a red light in a turning lane going strait. WEE.

  22. says:

    When I still lived in a snowy region the preferred way to get rid of ice was a metal shovel and muscle power. Followed by a sprinkling of cat litter or gravel.

    The salt thing never really worked that well, it did do an initial melt, but eventually a new ice sheet formed (sometimes within an hour of clearing) and then you were out there again.

  23. janeslogin says:

    In a remote village in Alaska where it got so cold that salt water froze we used cat litter on the steps of the clinic. I don’t recall anyone having a cat. The store, there was only one, got a shipment of cat litter just for this purpose, I think.

  24. FunkDoctor says:

    Fire, and lots of it.

  25. Gravitational Eddy says:

    WATER SOFTENER. (rocksalt)
    50 pound bag = $8

    ICE MELT (Calcium Chloride)
    1 gallon container = $6

    some people are really bad at math and retailers know this…

    • econobiker says:

      Rock salt also works well as a cheap natural grass killer. About 15 years ago my father and I dumped 200 lbs (4 bags) in the roughly 50′ long x 6″ wide space between his home’s chain link fence and the neighbor’s wood panel fence that constantly overgrew. I don’t think anything has grown up in there since then…

  26. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I would suggest several gallons of gasoline or diesel, a garden sprayer, and a match.

    Evenly spray the fuel all over the ice you want melted and then throw a match at it.

    Disclaimer: may just create a burning sensation and not really melt much. May also catch your house/car/dog/whatever on fire. You might want to try it out on your neighbor’s driveway first. A neighbor across the street and down the road a ways.

  27. TheGreySpectre says:

    Pretty much anything that is water soluble will work as anything you mix with water lowers its freezing point (this is what salt does). The main issue is finding something that won’t hard the concrete or landscape.

  28. Admiral_John says:

    How about buying a few bags ahead of time? I live in the Northeast and always buy 3 big bags of salt in the late fall.

  29. Wireless Joe says:
  30. selkie says:

    Note that if you go the cat litter route, make sure you go old school and do not get the clumping kind of litter.

  31. RandomHookup says:

    I find that a trebuchet is excellent in getting rid of unwanted snow.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Let me check…

      no the rental store says theirs have all been rented.

  32. dcarrington01 says:

    OR go get a bag of water softener salt. Is usually about $4-5 a bag for the same granulated rock salt…..

  33. Miz_Ivy says:

    juice from a jar of pickles

  34. econobiker says:

    Magnesium Chloride is much more corrosive than standard salt. It does work to a lower temperature than standard salt but that also means that it corrodes to a lower temperature- salt stops acting at a certain temperature.

    Mag chloride also wicks much more than liquid salt so it will get inside or between tighter joints than salt would- and start corroding. Just ask the trucking industry about this de-icer’s issues…

  35. BugBlatterBeast says:

    Chemistry tells us:
    Sugar is half as effective as table salt (sodium chloride aka: NaCl).
    Baking soda, magnesium sulfate, and potassium chloride are equally effective as table salt.
    Magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, and are 1.5 times as effective as table salt
    Water softener solt [sic] will be as effective or more effective (depending on formulation) as table salt.
    Vinegar and bleach are diluted so much by water already that they will not be as effective… unless you warm them first!
    We all know that we don’t want to mess with urea anyway. So it doesn’t matter.

    Hope this helps!

  36. flip says:

    how about watching the news, be proactive and dont wait until it ice’s up to put some salt down.
    I have bags of salt in my garage just in case. It’s not like we skip seasons here in the north east

  37. Difdi says:

    It’s worth noting that sugar also damages concrete.

  38. Press1forDialTone says:

    How about just getting off your butt and getting enough
    salt by inquiring when the store will get getting in their
    first stock?

    I love the one about using salt (sodium chloride) in case you run
    out of salt.

  39. lyllydd says:

    “Baking soda – it’s a kind of salt!”
    Since when is sodium bicarbonate the same thing as sodium chloride?
    Hey Ben, did you even take science in grade school?

    • RvLeshrac says:

      “Salts” are not Table Salt.

      Naproxen Sodium is also a salt.

      I’m betting I just blew your mind.

  40. layton59 says:

    I have three of those big rubber mats (3ft X 4ft each) that I put down AFTER the iceing stops. It works best by facing the tuft side face down. The fibers hold the mats from slipping on the ice. By aligning the 3 mats end to end, it gives me and my golden retreiver a 12 foot path off the porch and sidewalk onto the grass. It also saves me the cost of buying salt, kitty litter, as well as the mess. It does not damage the concrete and the black mats work great at melting the snow and ice underneath when the sun hits the black surface. Places like hardware stores and big box stores often sell these mats. Try it. It works well, when done properly.