Tips for Dealing with Winter Ice

This Winter in Iowa has been particularly grueling with the large amounts of snowfall and record cold temperatures. Winter IceAs a result, many of us are now dealing with problematic ice on our vehicles, in our driveways, and on our homes.

Applying ice melt has been a common solution for dealing with some ice problems, but all ice melts are not the same. Ice melts contain varying chemicals- some of which can be damaging to surfaces and some that can be harmful to people or pets.

So how do you get rid of problematic ice? There are a variety of products available and potential solutions to dealing with ice problems- each with its own benefit and risk.

If you’re dealing with an ice problem, consider your needs and some different options.

Ice Dams
Ice dams are formed when heat rises to the roof. As the heat causes the snow-covered roof to melt, that runoff will refreeze and remain on the eaves. As the process continues, an ice dam is formed.

Icicles and ice dams are quite common- especially in older homes or structures with poor insulation- but they can cause damage to shingles and/or cause water to leak back into a home causing damage to your walls and ceilings.

While it may be tempting to knock the icicles down, it’s important to realize those dams can be very dangerous and unpredictable. Using deicers such as calcium chloride or sodium acetate might be effective, but keep in mind that those chemicals can cause corrosion on gutters, roofing nails, and on aluminum siding.

There are some alternatives to chemical treatment. Heat cables, for example, can be applied to the exterior of the building to make the ice melt. Another method of dealing with ice dams is to use attic fans, which works by blowing cold air to the dam and cooling the underside of the roof.

Whichever method you choose, it’s important that your strategy also includes a route for the water to drain.

Icy Driveway-
Road salt or sodium chloride has probably been the most widely used compound to melt ice on roads and driveways because it works by lowering the temperature of the water and melting the ice. The downside of using salt is that it can be damaging to concrete and cause rust on vehicles.

Alternative compounds, such as do it yourself vinegar or rubbing alcohol mixtures can be effective in dealing with icy driveways, however they are typically less effective in certain temperatures.

The safest way to remove ice from driveways is with some good old-fashioned elbow grease and a shovel.

Icy Windshield-
No garage? No problem. There are a variety of deicers available for purchase and some do it yourself recipes for preventing or treating icy windshields.

Another method includes pouring warm (NOT hot) water to the windshield to melt the ice. While applying water can be effective in deicing your frozen door handle or windshield, it also comes with a risk that as the heat expands and contracts, a chip or crack may develop.

Stuck vehicle-
If your vehicle is stuck in ice and snow, consider using an abrasive material like cat litter. I’ll be very clear- using cat litter on an icy driveway will not melt the snow or ice, but it is very useful in creating transaction for vehicles that may be stuck. In fact- cat litter has become one of the most recommended components of Winter survival kits.

Sand is another abrasive material, like cat litter, that works by creating traction on the ice.
If you’re dealing with a stuck vehicle, try pouring some cat litter or sand directly in the path of your tires and give the gas another try!