It’s the Houdini of winter, the slippery vanishing act that turns a simple stroll into a slip-and-fall. We’re talking about black ice, that invisible coating that has us spinning out of control on the roadways. When it appears on our driveways and sidewalks, pedestrians beware.

Not only don’t you want to slip on black ice, you also don’t want to injure someone on your property. That might lead to legal problems. It is your responsibility as a homeowner to keep your property safe.

Read on to find out how to remove black ice from your driveway and sidewalk.

What exactly is black ice?

Black ice is a thin, almost transparent layer of ice on the surface of a roadway, driveway, deck, or other surface. It forms when a surface is wet and then temperatures drop below freezing. What makes it so dangerous is that it’s hard to see. It blends in with the surface and you don’t realize that it’s there until you’re slipping and sliding on it.

If you’re looking for black ice, there are some telltale signs. Sometimes you can notice a glossy or shiny appearance. However, if an area looks dry while surrounding areas are wet or have snow, there could be black ice present. Whether or not you see it, there are steps you can take to remove it, and even prevent it from forming.

Ways to Remove and Prevent Black Ice

Put on protective gear.

To keep yourself from slipping and sliding, you will want sturdy boots with good traction. Water resistant winter gloves will help protect your hands. When spreading chemicals, you also will want to wear safety glasses to shield your eyes. Remember that stairs leading down from your house could be especially slippery and covered in black ice. Use handrails.

Clear the snow and ice.

Shoveling the snow and breaking up the ice will help prevent it from melting and reforming as black ice. Use a snow shovel and ice pick. Finish off with a broom with stiff bristles to sweep away the loose ice. Toss snow and ice away from driveways and walkways. Make sure that when the snow and ice melt, they won’t run back onto the driveway and sidewalk.

Pro Tip: Sometimes you cannot smash the ice or shovel it away. In those cases, use a spade to scratch the surface in several places. This will make the black ice visible to others.

Salt, sand, or de-ice.

You want to prevent slipping, and you can do that by creating traction with sand or sawdust. Alternately, you can use an ice melting product. Use a spreader or bucket to spread these products. Note that salt and chemicals can be harmful to pets, plants, and young children. They also can damage your surfaces and the environment, so use them carefully.

  • Rock salt lowers the freezing point of water, causing ice to melt. Spread a thin, even layer of salt. Allow it to penetrate and melt the ice. Use a shovel or broom to remove any ice and salt residue.
  • Sand provides traction. While it doesn’t melt the ice, it creates a gritty surface. Spread generous amount of sand, gravel, kitty litter, or sawdust. Leave it in place until ice melts naturally. After the temperatures warm and ice is no longer a danger, be prepared to clean up the mess that results.
  • De-icers (deicers) are chemical compounds. They come in many forms including liquids, pellets, and granules. Choose ones that are pet safe; even if you don’t have a pet, chances are your neighbors do. Sprinkle or spread the deicer evenly. Remove any remaining ice with a shovel or broom.

 Use heated mats.

While heated driveways aren’t an option for many of us, we can use the more affordable alternative: snow-melting mats. These heated mats are made of slip resistant, waterproof rubber with a built-in heating system. If you turn on the mats before the snowfall, your walkways could stay dry and clear. They make larger ones for driveway use that cars can drive on. Snow melting mats aren’t cheap, but they are less expensive than installing radiant heat under your driveway and sidewalk.

Try rubberized stair treads or tarps.

Rubberized stair treads provide a high traction surface for your shoes, so it’s less likely that you will slip. You also may try a winter weather tarp to cover the surfaces that would typically get ice and snow. They are like a carpet for your driveway. You put them down before a snowfall and lift them up afterward.

Unblock drains and gutters.

Blocked drains can cause water to build up and surfaces to ice over. Clogged gutters also can divert water to places where it shouldn’t go, such as driveways. Make sure that these areas are clear ahead of storms.

Finally, protect your home and property with the right insurance for added peace of mind. After all, it’s one of your greatest investments.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or

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