Should You Use Salt or Sand on an Icy Driveway?

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Taking a spill on your icy driveway is bad enough when you’re carrying your car keys. So imagine wiping out while carrying a dresser full of clothes. Scary scenario, for us and for our movers. (And one reason people prefer to move in summer.)

If the forecast for your move date calls for moisture and freezing temps, you might be thinking: Should I cover my front walk and driveway with salt or sand? Here we’re going to tell you all you need to know to keep everyone and everything around you safe.

What to do first.

The best defense is a good offense. If it snows the night before your move, it almost goes without saying that the first thing you’ll want to do is grab a shovel and get to work clearing the area. If you live where temperatures can remain below freezing for days on end (if not weeks—hello, Minnesota!), then you’ll understand the importance of shoveling your driveway before all that snow gets packed down and turns to ice.

Yes, we totally understand. The lead-up to move day can be absolutely insane. If you can’t find time to clear all that snow, you might want to give the neighbor’s kid a few bucks to do it for you. Trust me, you’ll find it’s a wise investment of both money and time.

Now let’s decide whether to melt that ice or cover it up.

Choose Your Weapon

If Mother Nature insists on coating the driveway with ice, we have two choices. We can either melt it or cover it up. The answer depends on how cold it is, as well as how much you care if it gets into the environment. In either case, the biggest priority is traction.

The case for sand.

Covering up ice in our way can be quick and pretty easy. All we need is a bag or two of sand. It’s potentially less toxic and cheaper to get. Just keep in mind these few things:

  • Since sand provides traction, once it gets ground into the snow or ice it becomes less effective. As many times as you or your movers will be walking back and forth on it, you’ll likely have to put more down once or twice during the move.
  • In extremely cold temperatures, sand can freeze in hazardous clumps. Some suggest adding salt to the sand to help prevent this from happening, but if it’s cold enough, that salt won’t help either (more on that in a minute).
  • Sand comes in several varieties. The stuff explicitly meant for icy roads is better than sandbox sand, which in turn is better than something like mason’s sand. In other words, the grittier, the better.
  • After the fact, sand can collect in drainage systems and the soil, eventually clogging up lakes, streams, pipes and sewers. That means it’s also getting into our drinking water. Clean up what you can or give the neighbor’s kid a few more bucks to make sure it’s cleaned.

The case for salt.

Instead of covering your packed snow and ice with sand, you can try melting it with salt. Because it’s specifically designed for this purpose, it can definitely be an attractive option.

Running out and buying the biggest, cheapest bag you can find might be your first instinct, but as with sand, there are a few things to consider.

  • Driveway salt, sometimes called “rock salt”, doesn’t melt ice like, say, a hot rock or a flamethrower would. This is how the stuff works: when mixed with water, it forms a liquid brine (a fancy name for salt water) which has a lower freezing point than pure water. This brine then acts to lower the freezing point of the water it comes in contact with, effectively melting italthough only down to a certain degree. (Brine that is 20% salt will still freeze below 0˚F.)
  • Throwing some salt down on your icy driveway will get you nowhere if it’s too cold for the salt to actually mix with the ice! The salt needs to draw moisture from the air to create a brine which will act on the ice it touches, which will melt and further the reaction. Alternatively, there needs to be some heat, from the sun or from friction, to initiate the melting process. In other words, don’t wait until your movers are pulling up to your house before you start throwing that salt around.

Other concerns about salt.

The cheapest and most plentiful salt you’ll find is basically table salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl). That may sound perfectly safe, but do be aware:

  • That salt may contain small amounts of cyanide, which isn’t exactly good for any curious pets or animals.
  • Using salt can cause metal to rust and can damage blacktop, cement, flagstone, brick, wood and pretty much anything else your driveway is (or has). If you’re interested, this damage is not merely from the salt, but from the increase in freeze/thaw cycles that come with the brine’s lower freezing point, which can begin to break down the integrity of the surface with which it is in contact.
  • Got a cool yard? Salt can damage plants by inhibiting their ability to absorb water and nutrients. Salt also leaches heavy metals into the water supply.
  • Got pets? If salt gets lodged in your pet’s paws, it can cause a nasty burning.

There are also salt and sand alternatives.

Alternatives to salt would more accurately be called “variations of salt” and have a spectrum of merits. While you can probably find any of these at a store, which one to pick is most dependant on exactly how cold it is where you are.

  • Calcium chloride (CaCl): Covers a wider area than rock salt with a lower freezing point (around minus 25˚F). It also works more quickly because it gives off heat as it dissolves. Like rock salt, calcium chloride is corrosive to metal and can leave a slimy residue. It also encourages algae growth which clogs waterways.
  • Magnesium chloride: It’s similar to calcium chloride, albeit somewhat less corrosive, and will begin to absorb moisture from the air at 32% humidity, speeding up the melting process.
  • Potassium chloride (KCl): Despite its use for executions by lethal injection, is safer for pets and plants than calcium chloride. With a freezing point of around 12˚F, it is also less effective.
  • Nitrogen-based urea products: This is similar to fertilizers in that they are expensive, ineffective under 20˚F and, like other salts, will eventually get into the water supply, lakes and streams.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA): Can prevent ice down to around minus 27˚F and is much more environmentally friendly than the abovementioned salts – at a much higher price.

More eco-friendly alternatives?

With all the pros and cons of these salts and chemicals, you may be wondering, “Is there an eco-friendly way to de-ice my driveway?”

Yes. Maybe. It depends on your definition of “eco-friendly” and your motivation to be so.

Grist offers a few eco-ish alternatives to rock salt in an editorial. GreenMoxie also goes all out.

But what everyone seems to agree on – including us – is that there’s no better way to keep your driveway and your front walk clear of ice than grabbing that shovel and getting to work.

Or, like we said, get the neighbor’s kid to do it.

Final tips.

  • Salt the day before your move, clearing away any chunks or other bits to help keep it all from refreezing overnight.
  • Applying salt the morning of your move? The heat from all the foot traffic will help the melting process, but in the meantime, scattering some sand on top wouldn’t hurt.
  • Get an idea of how much square footage you’ll need to cover before you run out to grab that salt or sand. If a sales assistant isn’t there to help, you might find how much you need right on the bag.

And remember, get rid of whatever snow and ice you can along the way. Your movers will love you for it.

The Must-Do’s for Having a Successful Garage Sale

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Camping, family vacations, gardening, baseball – summer is chock full of activities that pair well with that laid-back nature of relaxing. Another summer staple? Garage sales!

Now with summer upon us, it’s officially garage sale season. This simple tradition is a win-win for both buyers and sellers because it allows the sellers to get rid of the “stuff” that has been cluttering their garage for far too long, all while making some extra cash. It’s also great for the buyers because they can score items that aren’t always on the market or stuff they could buy elsewhere for a fraction of the cost.

If you’re thinking about hosting your own garage sale this season, we’ve compiled a list of tricks that will help you increase business by bringing in more customers. That’s more profit and less stuff to haul back inside after it’s all over.

You Might Need to Get a Permit

Some cities or villages require a permit in order for you to hold a garage sale, while others do not. It’s important to check with your specific town to see what the protocol is before you start planning your garage sale. (Just do a simple Google search.) We would hate to see your’s actually get shut down after you put in all that prep time, just because you forgot to snag a permit. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Get Your Stuff Organized to Go

Once you have your permit and a specific date set, it’s time to start combing through every nook and cranny of your house (don’t forget the attic!) in order to get rid of any items you don’t use or love anymore. From large furniture to small accessories, there should be almost nothing that is “off-limits” for a garage sale. You also want to take this time to start clearing out your garage. The piles of stuff you hope to sell don’t necessarily have to be organized during this stage, but it is important that everything is located in one spot so you have a sense of how much stuff you hope to sell.

Borrow Some Large Tables

If you don’t have large fold-up tables, you may want to ask your friends and family if you could borrow some. Even small card tables will help you display the merchandise effectively, which really helps business! If your family and friends don’t have any tables, you can always ask local businesses or organizations like the VFW or Goodwill. They may be more than happy to lend you a table for a few days, especially if you’re a loyal customer or are willing to share some of the profits of the sale with their organization.

Put Your Stuff Out by Category

Once you have identified what you want to sell and have your tables, start organizing your stuff by category. If you have furniture, put all of that in one spot. If you have a lot of holiday decor, put all of that together on a table. You can even use Tupperware bins from the attic/garage to pair like-things together, such as children’s toys or stuffed animals. Grouping these items together will help the customers identify what you have to offer a lot more clearly.

Invest Time in Some Amazing Signage

Get the printable file for these “Awesome Garage Sale” signs HERE

The key to a busy and successful garage sale is getting the word out! Some choose to advertise their garage sales in the newspaper or on the internet, but you should also invest time in creating eye-catching signage to place at busy intersections nearby. Choose bright colors and make your signs big enough for people driving past to stop and take notice. It’s also important to make signs that lead your customers directly to your driveway. Some people won’t look at the address and put it into their GPS, especially while they’re driving. It’s huge to plop signs along the route with simple arrows and bright colors, so drivers can follow the signs right to your house without getting confused or frustrated.

Price to Sell

Even though many of the items you are selling hold a special place in your heart, it’s important that the garage sale price of this item doesn’t reflect this history. It’s important to price your items to sell! After you price everything, don’t be afraid to categorize items by price because this will make marking the items a lot easier. You can put a large $1.00 sign on a table and tell customers that everything on this entire table is a dollar. This will save you some serious prep-time and keep your life a lot easier on the day of the sale.

Get a “Bank” Ready

Make sure you visit a local bank and cash in some large bills for singles, fives and coins ahead of time. Many of your customers may not have exact change and if they pay their $1.50 balance with a $20, you need to make sure you have enough change for them. Also, be sure to have this cash in a secure spot that is being supervised at all times. If you want to keep it on your body at all times, try using a cross body purse or fanny pack. If you feel more comfortable putting it in a cash box, make sure someone is sitting and supervising the bank at all times.

Enlist Some Friends

Speaking of supervising the cash, it’s best if you have at least two (maybe more) people working the garage sale. At times, it can become hectic with customers asking questions, paying for the merchandise and just coming and going. Having two people with specific jobs will help you avoid the chaos, help customers and stay attentive to the cash at all times.

Be Willing to Negotiate

You never want to take less money, but customers will definitely try to haggle the prices at garage sales. It’s okay to stand firm, but you also have to be realistic. Be open-minded to accept less for some of your items, especially when the garage sale is almost over. It’s better to make some money, instead of nothing at all!

Have a Plan for the “Leftovers”

After the garage sale is over, you may have a few items left behind that were not sold. It’s important to have a plan for this so that this stuff is not taking up valuable space in your garage, attic and closets anymore. Whether you plan to donate the items or try to sell some of the larger ones on Craigslist, make a plan of action before the sale is over so you know exactly what to do after the last customer leaves.


Although garage sales can be a lot of work and stressful at times, make a point to enjoy the experience! Invite over some friends to help so you can catch-up during slow times, turn on the music and soak in the sunshine. The more fun you have, the better your experience will be.

If you follow these tricks, we’re confident that your garage sale will be a big hit! And after it’s all said and done, hopefully, all you’ll have to worry about is where you are going to spend all your hard-earned cash.

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