How to Find Pet-Safe Ice Melt Alternatives (7 Great Options)


Winter is upon us, and ice, snow, and slippery surfaces abound in some areas. You can counteract all that with a bit of ice melt, though. A bit of that, and you’ll have no issues walking to your car without slipping and falling.

However, if you’re a pet parent, there’s a problem with ice melt—mainly that a good majority of these products are unsafe for pets (and sometimes even deadly!). So, how can you keep from sliding all over the place this winter while keeping your pets safe? By using one of the following pet-safe ice melt alternatives!

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What Is Ice Melt? How Is It Dangerous to Pets?

When your driveway is covered in ice and snow, it can be challenging to get rid of enough of it, so it’s safe to walk on (it’s not like you can use a giant heater to get it to melt!). However, you can use ice melt—and even help prevent ice and slippery surfaces from occurring in the first place by putting down this substance before it snows. Ice melt is a chemical treatment that makes water’s freezing temperature lower than 32°F, keeping water molecules from creating ice crystals and making things slushy rather than frozen.

So, how is ice melt dangerous to our pets? Well, the chemicals used in these products—chemicals such as potassium chloride, sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, and ethylene glycol—can cause skin irritation on little paws and irritation of the nose and eyes. They can also result in gastrointestinal issues if ingested, and in some cases, even death. Ice melts and pets definitely don’t mix!

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The 7 Ice Melt Alternatives

To keep your pets safe this winter, use one of these alternatives to ice melts containing the chemicals above! Just keep in mind some will work better than others, depending on the size of the area you want to keep clear of ice and snow.

1. Sand/Dirt

A hand in a green glove sprinkles sand on the icy steps
Image Credit: glebchik, Shutterstock

Sand or dirt is commonly used by municipalities to keep roads clear of ice, either mixed with rock salt or instead of salt. Sand and dirt provide a fairly decent grip when crossing ice, but sand may be a bit hard on paws. Plus, when tracked into your home, it might cause minor damage to flooring. However, sand and dirt are easy to get ahold of, so you should be able to find plenty to meet your needs.

  • Common alternative to ice melts
  • Provides decent grip on ice
  • Easy to get ahold of
  • Might be hard on paws
  • May cause minor damage to inside floors

2. Wood Ash

Burning wood and ash
Image Credit: Alexa, Pixabay

Wood ash is a messier alternative to regular ice melts, but it won’t cause any harm to your pets. It might be a bit difficult to get, though, unless you’ve just been burning a ton of wood recently. Ashes also only provide the bare amount of grip when it comes to ice, so things might still be a bit slippery in your driveway and around the house.

  • Could be difficult to get enough of
  • Can be messy
  • Only provides minimal grip

3. Kitty Litter

pouring cat litter in the litter box
Image Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

Using kitty litter on ice might seem odd, but it can work and is much safer for your animals. Litter obviously won’t melt ice, but it provides plenty of traction, making it easier for you and your pets to walk around. And litter is easy enough to get as you can simply go to the store to stock up. You might need a lot of it, though, depending on how large your driveway is, so it could be a bit pricey.

  • Provides good traction
  • Safe for animals
  • Easy to get
  • Doesn’t melt ice
  • Might be pricey to get enough

4. Alfalfa Meal

If you’re not familiar with alfalfa meal, it’s an organic garden supplement made from fermented alfalfa seeds and used as a fertilizer. Because it can be found in some pet foods, it should be reasonably safe to use (though there has been some discussion on whether alfalfa meal is a contributing factor to bloat in some dog breeds). Alfalfa meal probably won’t melt ice entirely, but it should melt it somewhat and provide traction to make it safer to walk about.

  • Should be safe for pets
  • Will melt ice somewhat
  • Common garden supplement, so should be readily available
  • Won’t melt ice entirely
  • Could possibly cause bloat in some dogs if ingested

5. Pickle Brine

glass jars filled with fresh cucumbers,dill,garlic and black pepper and poured with brine
Image Credit: Lipa23, Shutterstock

Yes, this one sounds odd, but according to National Geographic, pickle brine is a perfectly viable alternative to ice melts (and is sometimes used by municipalities). This is because it can melt at temps as low as -6°F. And because pickles aren’t toxic to cats or dogs (though this food isn’t necessarily healthy for them either), it should be safe to use on your driveway (but no guarantees on how this will smell!). To make pickle brine, you’ll need a glass of sugar beet juice, two pounds of salt, and a gallon of water.

  • Pickles are non-toxic to animals
  • Will melt ice
  • Not too difficult to make
  • Possibility of unpleasant odor

6. Cheese Brine

Mozzarella cheese in a bowl with brine
Image Credit: Inna Dodor, Shutterstock

What exactly is cheese brine? Well, it’s the salty water that cheeses that are soft (think mozzarella) float in. This likely won’t work entirely as well as pickle brine, but it is an option. Getting enough for your driveway or steps could be difficult, though, and this one definitely has a less than pleasant odor. But it’s a safer option than rock salt for melting ice.

  • Will melt ice
  • Safer than ice melts
  • Won’t smell great
  • Won’t melt ice as well as other options
  • Could be difficult to get

7. Store Bought Pet Safe Ice Melt Alternatives

Safe Paw PetSafe Ice Melt for Dogs & Cats

A handful of products can be purchased that will melt ice and don’t contain the chemicals that harm animals. One example is Safe Paw, which isn’t harmful if ingested and won’t hurt paw pads. These are definitely the simplest option to go with if you can find them (which shouldn’t be challenging as they’re readily available and affordable). Just check ingredient labels carefully, as some so-called “pet-safe” products aren’t safe for pets at all.

  • Not all pet-safe products are actually safe

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Conclusion

You want your family to stay safe this winter when walking on icy, snowy driveways and stairs, but unfortunately, most ice melts aren’t safe for our furry friends. However, there are several pet-safe options you can use instead of regular ice melts. Some are easier to get than others, and they have varying levels of efficacy, but they should all keep your animals safe from damaging paws or ingesting something toxic.


Featured Image Credit: Tricky_Shark, Shutterstock



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