Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Snow and Ice Removal

We have not had too much snow around Chicago this year. But winter is not over yet. We need to be careful when removing snow from various surfaces. We should also be careful when choosing which salt to use to protect surfaces, as well as our pets and plantings.


Watch Out For: Rock salt used for de-icing. The salt enters through cracks and corrodes the steel reinforcements embedded in the concrete, forcing early replacement.

Best Practices: Use calcium chloride instead, which is less corrosive. Make sure to follow package instructions. It works in temps well below zero. However, it can damage grass, so don’t over apply.  Seal your driveway every three to five years to protect rebar. For a more environmentally friendly deicer, use potassium chloride. Overall it works well, but not in temperatures below 20 degrees F.


Watch Out For: Badly cracked or brittle material. Aggressive shoveling or plowing on an uneven surface can chip off chunks of asphalt.

Best Practices: Keep shovels, snow blower, or plow blades at least half an inch off the surface. If your driveway is badly aged, consider repaving it. It would be best to use potassium chloride-based deicer here also.


Watch Out For: Pavers or bricks that protrude from the driveways’ surface. They can be damaged by the tips of metal shovels or the blades of snow blowers or plows.

Best Practices: Plastic and nonmetal shovels are your best bet for getting rid of snow. And when the thaw comes, tamp down any pavers or bricks that stick up. Use salt sparingly with brick and pavers.

With any salt, it’s best to use as little as possible to get the results you want. It is a good idea to be careful storing salts if you have pets. Even with salt mixtures that are environmentally friendly or pet safe, they are still poisonous if ingested by pets. If you have dogs, get booties for them and always wash their paws after being outside.

Always make sure you remove the snow in stages. Taking up snow a few inches at a time is much easier than trying to shovel 6 or more inches at once. Also, take it easy and take frequent breaks. Take small shovels full and don’t overexert yourself. Better yet, invest in a small snow blower. It’s not worth a heart attack, so be careful.