How to Clear Snow and Ice from Pavements and Public Spaces

Three Methods:Using a Shovel to Remove Snow and IceUsing Machinery or Electricity to Remove Snow and IcePreventing Snow and Ice Buildup

If you want to be neighborly, and clear snow and ice from pavements and public spaces, there are some guidelines you can follow to make it a lot easier. It's important to make sure you have a good shovel and other appropriate equipment. Before you get started, check local regulations to see where and how to clear public areas.

Method 1
Using a Shovel to Remove Snow and Ice

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    Use a high quality shovel. It will be easier to use a shovel that is made out of light plastic or has an aluminum blade and is covered with a nonstick finish.
    • This will make it easier to load and unload the snow. You don’t want a shovel that’s too big or that contains softer materials.
    • You won’t have to bend as much if you choose a shovel with a S-shaped shaft.
    • You can use a shovel with a C-shaped blade, called a pusher, on lighter, fluffier snow that doesn’t weigh as much.
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    Shovel frequently. Don’t wait until the storm is over or the snow and ice will have a chance to bond to the pavement, making it harder to remove later. You could always pay a neighbor kid to shovel for you.[1]
    • You should shovel several times during a storm. It’s also easier to shovel less early fallen snow than thicker deeper snow, so do the shoveling in parts. Avoid heaping the snow against foundation walls, where it can melt, refreeze, and cause problems.
    • You want to shovel down to the pavement so that the sun’s rays will hopefully hit it and stop ice from forming on the pavement or public space. Another reason to remove the snow right away is because it will be harder to do so once it’s packed down by foot traffic or vehicles.
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    Shovel correctly to avoid hurting yourself. You can easily strain your back or knees when shoveling. However, there are ways to prevent this. It's important not to overload the shovel; work with manageable amounts of snow. Focus on pushing the snow instead of lifting it whenever possible, and take plenty of breaks.[2]
    • When you have to lift a load of snow, squat and lift using the power of your legs. Keep your back straight. Avoid jackknifing your body and lifting from your lower back, will save you from getting a back injury.[3]
    • Make sure the shovel is long enough. If you're trying to use a shovel that's too short for your height, you will increase the chances you will strain your back.[4]You want to pick a shovel length where the blade will touch the ground, requiring you to only slightly bend your knees and so you don't have to lean forward a lot. The shovel's handle should be at chest length if you were to stand the shovel on its end.
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    Watch where you put it. It’s not a good idea to just shovel snow into the street or to whip it into your neighbor’s lawn. Be respectful of others. You should also be careful not to block drains.
    • Putting snow into the street can cause a driving hazard for motorists. Shoveling it from your driveway into the sidewalk can run afoul of city ordinances.
    • It’s a better idea to shovel it from the pavement onto the yard itself. You’re not going to be able to use it in the midst of a deep winter anyway. You want to make sure you don’t create another hazard in the process of removing one.
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    Research regulations. It may be that you have no choice and will have to clear the public areas that are adjacent to your property. Check with your municipality.[5]
    • Some municipalities require homeowners or business owners to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks that are adjacent to their buildings. Some municipalities even have rules about how fast you must clear the snow and ice from the sidewalk area.
    • You can face a fine in some municipalities if you don’t do so, as well as facing potential liability in slip-and-fall cases. It’s not worth it, so do your homework!
    • You should also be careful about volunteering to shovel pavement or public spaces on property you don’t own and that isn't adjacent to your property. It could potentially open you up to liability if someone slips and falls.[6][7]

Method 2
Using Machinery or Electricity to Remove Snow and Ice

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    Use a snowblower. If you have a large area to clear, and you need to do it fast, it will be a lot easier if you have a snowblower.
    • This machine is a good alternative to shoveling when there’s at least 1 ½ inches of snow on the pavement or public space.
    • Move up and down the length of the pavement. Try to point the snowblower's chute downwind if you can. Work in circles so the chute will throw snow to different sides. Before you use the snowblower, spray its exit chute with furniture polish or silicone. This will stop the snow from sticking. When snow blowing, throw the snow as far into the yard as you can so it doesn't stack up too high on the edges.
    • After you buy the snowblower, read the owner’s manual. Make sure you are using the correct fuel in it because, if you don’t, you could harm the engine. For example, some engines can’t tolerate gas with too much ethanol in it.[8]Don’t leave the fuel sitting in the tank if you’re not going to use it for more than 30 days. It can damage the fuel system because it will deteriorate inside of it. If you’re concerned about the environment, it’s possible to purchase an electric snowblower instead of using a gas-powered machine.
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    Call a snow removal service. If you’re dealing with a big or tricky public space or pavement area, you might want to call a service that specializes in snow removal.
    • Don’t wait too long into a storm or the service may already be booked up. You will have to pay a fee depending on the property.
    • Snow removal services have equipment with plows so it will be a lot easier for them to clear a large area. You should be able to find these services online in your area, through word-of-mouth, or in the phone book. Prices will vary depending on where you live, but it can cost as little as $30-45 to clear a driveway size area.
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    Install a snow melt mat. This means that you install electric wires in the pavement in order to heat it from below. This will melt snow as it falls.
    • People lay down these wires when they are installing or replacing a driveway, usually. They will have to pay for electricity costs, though.
    • The way this works is that the electrical wires radiate heat upwards, melting the snow, so you don’t have to shovel it! This is most feasible on your own property's pavement.

Method 3
Preventing Snow and Ice Buildup

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    Use liquid magnesium chloride blend. Apply this chemical to the pavement or public space with a garden sprayer before the storm hits. It’s best to apply this a couple hours before a winter storm.[9]
    • The chemical will melt snowfalls that are less than two inches. It will also keep ice from adhering to hard surfaces like pavement or public spaces.
    • You can also apply deicers during a snowfall after you’ve removed the first layer of snow.
    • You should expect to use about 1 gallon of the chemical for every 1,000 square feet of pavement. You should be able to buy it at hardware stores.
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    Use rock salt. Rock salt works at temperatures that are above 12 degrees Fahrenheit, although it’s not a good idea to put it on concrete or grass. You can purchase rock salt, otherwise known as sodium chloride, at many gas stations or grocery stores.
    • Store the rock salt in a sealed bucket, and spread it around the public space or pavement with a handheld spreader or a push spreader. It will melt the ice and prevent the area from being a hazard for slipping. Use about a handful for every square yard.
    • If you’re not a fan of salt, you could try urea, which is usually used as a fertilizer and performs the same function as rock salt. It can be hard to find, though. The key is to find a deicer. Alfalfa meal is another fertilizer that helps melt snow.
    • One downside of rock salt is that it can damage plants or pets, and it doesn’t really work if the temperature is below 25 degrees. It can also leach into soil.
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    Try calcium chloride. Calcium chloride pellets melt ice faster than rock salt does, and they have some other advantages as a deicer.[10]
    • Calcium chloride is effective with colder temperatures than rock salt. It works with temperatures of up to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Calcium chloride can be a good choice for snow and ice removal from pavement because it doesn’t harm concrete or other surfaces, and it’s not harmful to vegetation.
    • Calcium chloride can be harmful to pets or animals, and it costs a lot more than rock salt, though. It also can cause a surface to become slippery.
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    Put sand or kitty litter on the icy area. While this won’t remove the ice per se, if you’re having a hard time getting it off the pavement, it’s a better option than risking a fall.
    • The sand and kitty litter work because they add traction to icy surfaces. They make it less likely that a person will fall. The downside of kitty litter is that it will still be there and look messy when the snow melts.
    • You want to choose sandbox sand that is thicker instead of mason’s sand because mason’s sand is too fine. You could also use bird seed for this same purpose.


  • Don’t try to melt ice with hot water. It will refreeze, and become black ice.[11]
  • Don’t use ice picks on pavement. It can damage it.
  • Shoveling can cause exertion. If you’re not physically well, use a snow blower or snow removal service instead.

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