Salt or Sand: How to Properly De-ice Your Driveway this Winter

Do you want to have a safe winter without worrying about falling down your driveway every time you shovel or leave for work (coffee in hand!!)? In winter, maintaining your driveway and access to your home is important! Many products, including sand, salt and stone, are available on the market to help you get there. 

However, these abrasive products have different features and some are more effective in specific situations. We will sort it all for you so that you can buy the product that best suits your needs. 

Be aware that the two main issues that affect the best choice of abrasive are the outside temperature and the ice-covered surface.  

Features to Know about Sand, Salt and Stone

Here are some pros, cons and relevant information to help you make the best choice for de-icing your driveway this winter.

De-icing Salt Characteristics

Bellemare De-icing Salt

Pros

  • Prevents snow accumulation.
  • Completely removes ice layers.
  • Has anti-skid properties.
  • Very affordable and easy to spread.

Cons

  • May damage surfaces and plants.
  • May be harmful to animals.
  • Loses its effectiveness when the temperature is below -12 degrees Celsius. 

Characteristics of Anti-Skids (Stone)

Bellemare Anti-skid Stone

Pros

  • Not corrosive to under-ice surfaces.
  • Does not affect plants near entrances.
  • Remain in place for a long time.
  • Safe for animals.
  • Effective in all (or most) temperatures.

Cons

  • Can be dragged inside your home.
  • Sand and stone build-up should be cleaned up once spring arrives.
  • Several applications may be required.

Characteristics of the Salt and Sand Mixture

Pros

  • De-icing and anti-skid.
  • Less corrosive than traditional salt.
  • Works in all temperatures (salt is less effective at -12 degrees Celsius)

Cons

  • May damage fragile surfaces and plants.
  • May be harmful to animals.

Anti-Skid and De-Icing Agents: What is the Difference?

We can classify the Nordic products into two categories: anti-skid (stone and sand) and de-icing (salt and sand-salt mixtures). 

Anti-Skid Products

They are composed of dry materials such as sand and stone. Their primary purpose is to increase grip on icy surfaces. Their effect is instantaneous and allows you and your children (or even your dog!) to walk safely in your driveway. Sand and stone do not melt ice and are not corrosive.

De-Icing Products 

These are mixtures mainly composed of sodium chloride (salt and salt-sand mixtures) that have corrosive properties that melt ice. These products are particularly effective when ice becomes embedded in surfaces and is difficult to remove. Salt melts ice by lowering the freezing point of water. When applied to a driveway or sidewalk, it prevents the formation of ice and melts the ice already in place.

Choose a Product According to Temperature

Some products can withstand extreme cold, but others are more effective in mild winter temperatures. 

Mild Temperatures (down to -12 Degrees Celsius)

De-Icing Salt: Salt works wonders in these rather mild temperatures. It can easily prevent ice from forming or melt ice already present. 

Anti-Skid Stone and Sand: Stone and sand are very effective when the temperature is mild. 

Cold to Freezing Temperatures (from -12 Degrees Celsius)

De-Icing Salt: Salt will not prevent water from turning to ice when temperatures are too cold. It is therefore not recommended to use this product in this situation.

Anti-Skid Stone and Sand: Stone and sand create a grip on the ice, regardless of the temperature. It is possible that sand will freeze and become less effective when the temperature is very cold (-30 degrees Celsius or below). In this case, a mix of salt and sand can be used to allow sand to not freeze as easily. However, extremely cold temperatures can also make this mixture ineffective. Fortunately, these extreme conditions never last very long!

Choose a Product According to the Iced Surface

Salt and sand do not have the same impact on the under-ice surface! It is important to know the impacts of these different solutions to make an informed decision. Here are the main differences between the two products. 

Impacts of Salt on Soil

  • Salt is corrosive, which means that over time it can damage pavers and concrete. It is important to follow the recommended amounts on the product packaging. 
  • When salt mixes with water from melting ice, it forms brine. This brine can then run off your driveway into your lawn and borders, potentially killing your plants. It’s important to make sure you don’t have plants near your driveway before using this product frequently.
  • Salt is great for areas such as sidewalks, steps, front steps and driveways, but you should always consider the negative effect it can have on your lawn and plants.

Impact of Sand and Stone on the Ground

  • Sand and stone are not corrosive. This means that they will not damage concrete or pavers over time. In addition, they do not form brine and do not kill plants or grass.
  • Sand and stone stay on surfaces longer, improving traction even when ice has already formed.
  • Since they do not melt the ice, it is possible for other layers of ice or snow to form on top. It is therefore important to add sand or stone frequently or to shovel new snow accumulations.
  • Although it is recommended that you apply it more frequently than salt, you must remain vigilant and follow package instructions. Too much sand or stone can cause blockage in drains. 

Take All These Factors Into Account and Test

You now know the important features of the products available to you, as well as their recommended use. You can now make an informed choice to properly remove snow and ice from your driveway this winter! We recommend that you try a few products to find the one that fully satisfies you. 

If you have more questions on the subject, do not hesitate to contact our experts!

Click here to see where you can get our products: Store Locator

Back to blog