Top 3 Tips for Easy Snow and Ice Removal

The cold, wet stuff has a way of ar­riving without regard for our busy schedules. It's not a problem if the only items on your to-do list are making snow angels and taking a nap, but if you need to clear the path to the car quickly-and drive off safely-it pays to prepare. Start with the right equipment and deicers, then stick to these time-tested removal methods. You'll be on your way-or back inside making cocoa-in no time.

1_A liquid magnesium chloride blend...

...applied with a garden sprayer a few hours before a storm, can melt slow accumulations of less than 2 inches and keep ice from bonding to hard surfaces. Count on using 1 gallon for every 1,000 square feet.

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2_Look for a shovel...

...with a lightweight plastic or aluminum blade coated with a nonstick finish to make loading and unloading a breeze. Avoid a blade so big you'll be tempted to overload it; an ergonomic, S-shaped shaft will save your back by requiring less bending. Avoid using metal blades on softer materials, such as wooden decking. A pusher-basically a shovel with a C-shaped blade-is handy for clearing lightweight, fluffy snow.

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3_Rock salt is cheap...

...and works at temperatures above 12 degrees F, but it's tough on shrubs and grass and can eat away at concrete. Two other salts, magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, cost more but are less harsh (though still not great for plants) and work at much lower temps than rock salt (from 20 to 25 degrees below zero F). Still pricier is a nonsalt option called urea. It's usually used as a fertilizer, and it can be a little tough to find. Wear gloves when spreading any deicer by hand. For large areas, use a handheld spreader or a push spreader, but not a grass spreader (the deicing granules will gunk up its gears). Store deicers off the floor or in a sealed bucket to keep them dry.

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