Isn’t winter supposed to be over by now? We know it’s officially going to be spring this weekend, but with the weather lately, it sure doesn’t feel like it here in Western New York.

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Thanks to a wallop of a winter, some Buffalo residents are finding themselves completely out of rock salt (or have very little of it left).

Rock salt (also called road salt) is just halite - the mineral form of sodium chloride - and it’s been a go-to here in Western New York for years for keeping our highways, streets, and sidewalks less slippery during bad winter weather. 

According to the EPA, rock salt is inexpensive and effective at melting snow and ice, but the downside of rock salt can be substantial. Even though it’s relatively harmless to us, when rock salt is used in large quantities, it can have corrosive effects that can damage cars, trucks, bridges, and roads over time -  resulting in approximately $5 billion in annual repairs the United States alone. Yikes!

So, maybe it’s not such a bad thing if your rock salt supply is running low, but it can still be a pain if you need to deice your driveways and sidewalks. And let’s be honest - it’s an even bigger pain to battle the weekend crowds at the store.

So what can you use instead to make the outside of your home less slippery?

Kitty Litter Or Sand

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Your cat’s bathroom or your kid’s summertime sandpit can provide some decent traction to make your driveway and sidewalk less slippery, but it won’t actually melt the ice. Also, you’ll most likely track it inside your house with your shoes, and you’ll need to sweep it up once the weather gets nicer to keep it from making a mess. That being said, it can be an alternative to use in a pinch to make the area around your house safer for your neighbors and family. 

Coffee Grounds

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Coffee grounds can also provide some traction to help you not slip on your concrete surfaces, and their dark color can help attract the sun to melt more ice. However, you’ll need a LOT of coffee grounds to make it effective - which can be expensive and really messy to clean up afterward. It will probably smell great, though!

Beet Juice

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We’re sure this is the ice-melting method that Dwight Schrute uses. Beet juice or beet brine can lower the freezing point of water to -20 degrees, helping to keep spots slick-free. It also won't harm any plants or wildlife. However, it will make a stained red mess, and the salt in beet brine can damage cars and roads in large quantities. 

Heated Mats

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If you’ve only got a small area you need to keep ice-free, now might be the time to invest in a heated mat like this one from Amazon. It plugs into an outdoor outlet, doesn’t make a mess, and can be used on many different surfaces like concrete, asphalt, stone, and wood decks.

We can’t wait for winter to be over in Buffalo - but in the meantime, if you’re scrambling to find the things you need to stay safe and combat the snow and ice, hopefully, one of these alternatives can work for you.

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