What to know about salting your walkways after a storm

Published: Feb. 6, 2022 at 7:47 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2022 at 11:13 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After all that snow, you may have spent the weekend digging out and around your home.

Road trucks treat city streets covered in snow and ice, but as you shovel out your own property and salt your walkways so you don’t slip, one organization wants you to know a buildup of chloride can run off into local streams where it deprives the water of oxygen and kills vegetation.

“Shovel as much as you can, chip as much as you can, and only spread the salt where you need it and where you’re going to walk. You don’t need to cover your whole driveway with it,” said Dan Albrecht of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission’s Rethink Runoff.

Albrecht says it’s common for folks to use much more road salt than they actually need to get the job done.

“As you spread it, spread it far and wide. You want at least three inches between each grain, between each chunk of salt,” said Albrecht.

He says you only need a cup and a half of rock salt to cover two parking spots.

“Sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride,” said Dean Story of Biben’s Ace Hardware in Burlington.

All three types of rock salt can be used for different purposes, but all three can pollute local streams.

Story says the most common rock salt is sodium chloride, which stops being effective below 10 degrees and can damage concrete.

Some pet owners find sodium and calcium chlorides can cause their animals pain.

“We have a 10-pound Yorkipoo named Greta who doesn’t enjoy the rock salt melting on her pads,” said Carolyn Bauer of Burlington.

Story recommends magnesium chloride for pets but says it can corrode steel and your car.

If you’re looking to abandon rock salt altogether, both Albrecht and Story say there are eco-friendly alternatives for traction and melting.

“There’s gravel you could use, you could spread old coffee grounds which would track the sun and help melt, you can use sawdust, you can use kitty litter,” said Albrecht.

Albrecht also says you can sweep up your salt after you use it and reuse it during the next storm.

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