Q #159: What are some great ways you know of to make icy steps safer (or de-ice them) quickly when you live where typical treatments aren’t sold?

Down here in Southeast Texas, there’s not one brick and mortar location with any de-icing solution beyond the basic antifreeze you put in the car (and by the time they special ordered it, the crazy weather would be over). Not much help when you’re in the middle of it.

I started by researching the kitty litter idea and saw a ton of red flags. Now, I’d heard about using kitty litter for traction on the roads, but never at the house. Most online seem to poo-poo the idea because many kitty litters have clay in them, which will make things slick eventually. And as someone who lives on land that’s largely clay just a few inches down, and I slip on exposed clumps of clay in rainy weather all the time… oh yeah, kitty litter’s a no-no. And I don’t have any, anyway.

I considered basic sand. I’ve got a huge load I’ve been using to fix my foundation and there’s still a bunch over there, but what I’m seeing online looks pretty iffy. Especially since just now the icy rain is still coming down in fits and starts. I don’t mind having to sweep my house afterward, but it looks like I’d have to keep re-applying it and it would have to be ground up pretty well or else I’d make frozen formations and trip hazards, kinda killing the whole point.

One site I briefly saw earlier talked about huge towels. Get a towel and pour hot water all over it so it sticks to the ice below it, and then you can walk on the top of it without it slipping. I’m guessing if ice shows up on the top, you can stomp on it and crack it and shake it off. I’ve got tons of towels (thanks to dirty dogs that need to come inside), so I could try that for at least one set of steps. It sounds weird, but sounds like it could work.

Anybody tried that method? I have the ability to boil water…for now (fingers crossed it stays that way).

Yeah, this is southeast Texas. There’s rarely any icy conditions, maybe one day every other year, and often just on the roads or yards. This is the first time I can recall the steps being killers to this degree. Usually they might be icy a few hours, but this is going on several days now. We just don’t deal with this down here, so I suppose it’s not unexpected that we wouldn’t even have de-icing treatments available in our stores. They’d have to special order them.

Even if they had that de-icing stuff at a big box store around here, I’m not getting in my car and making a 45 mile round trip on these roads. No way in hell (and no guarantee that power’s available unless I called everybody, anyway). I know I’m not comfortable on these roads and don’t want to test my abilities, so I can’t drive anywhere.

When things calm down (and demand goes down) I’m probably gonna get a big shaker of Safe Paw and keep it in storage just in case for next time (whenever that may be). I had no idea how harmful rock salt or other alternatives could be to pets (and tracking that crap inside afterward does NOT sound pleasant). I always heard of salt on frozen sidewalks, so this was news to me. Maybe it’s a different chemical makeup, but yikes! I have a few huge things of basic salt (that I’m trying to get rid of) that I was considering putting on the steps, but if it’s gonna hurt the dogs… I’d rather have my fat ass get sore bouncing off those steps than my dogs hurt from just walking on stuff (or licking their paws after–ugh. They’re bored and miserable enough because of this weather).

I’m wondering if you have had to deal with a persistent freeze and didn’t have the typical de-icing materials available from the stores, what have you tried that worked safely?

But I definitely am on the lookout for ideas. I’ve got some neighbors that have mobility issues (and small kids that are gonna bust their little tushies), and hopefully I can find something that helps them, too.

Any ideas would be great. I’m thinking of this like another experiment, and hopefully we’ll find something that works that I can help others with.

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4 thoughts on “Q #159: What are some great ways you know of to make icy steps safer (or de-ice them) quickly when you live where typical treatments aren’t sold?

  1. Ray Laskowitz says:

    It sounds like you’ve explored just about everything. Yes, salt can hurt pet’s feet. If you are not going in and out a lot, a couple of big pots of very hot water will do the trick. Of course, eventually whatever water is left will freeze. But, I used broom all the water away once the ice melted.

    There is second big cold weather storm coming. It will push very cold weather into sometime next week. I’d say sorry, but we are getting it too.


    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      Yeah, I figured. We kinda got skirted a bit where I’m at (just east of Houston and just below the line of the ice on the radar), but the wetness isn’t gonna help traction out there. Wish it would thaw out the ice if it’s warmer, but not warm enough from the looks of it.


      • Ray Laskowitz says:

        I have friends who are slightly north of Houston. They are iced in. They can work from home even when there was no pandemic. There is a second cold storm on the way. This one is supposed to be broader. We won’t get warmer weather until sometime next week.

        I really think we out of ideas for you until it is safe to drive. Then you can buy chemicals which will work fine for the next time.

        Liked by 1 person

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