Tips and Tricks for Making Driveway Snow Removal Easier

By Helen LinLast Updated Jan 21, 2021 2:14:20 AM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Kathleen Finlay/Getty Images

Winter is all about staying warm and cozy. And it’s also all about staying safe. If you live in an area that sees frequent flurries or big blizzards, you know that snow accumulation can present its own particular safety hazards all around the house. Fortunately, you can keep your outdoor surroundings comfortable — not to mention easier to navigate during winter’s worst — and it all starts in the driveway.

You might already know the importance and benefits of keeping your driveway free of snow. But you might not know some helpful secrets about removing all that pesky white precipitation. These driveway snow removal hacks can help make the task (and maintenance) much more manageable so you can keep your home accessible and focus on winter fun.

Enlist the Help of WD-40

When you’re outside shoveling snow, it’s likely you want the task to go as quickly and smoothly as possible. There's nothing worse than stubborn clumps of snow clinging to your shovel, slowing you down as you're trying to work. To prevent this holdup in the middle of a driveway-clearing session, look no further than a trusty can of WD-40 for assistance.

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Photo Courtesy: Imgorthand/Getty Images

Apply a liberal coat of the WD-40 to your shovel’s blade before you begin. This liquid is technically a type of oil that’s known as a "water-displacing spray" (that’s where the "WD" in the name comes from). What does that mean for you? It’ll keep the snow from building up on the shovel — displacing the water — even as the tool gets colder while you work. You may need to reapply the WD-40 a few times before you’re done, depending on how large your driveway is, but this should make the removal process a breeze.

If you don’t have any spare cans of WD-40 on hand, cooking spray can also work. No matter what you use, make sure that you clean off your shovel blade with soap and water when you're done to keep any oil residue from staining the floor or wall where you store the shovel.

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Prep Your Driveway to Avoid Snowblower Damage

If you have a larger driveway and use a snowblower, it’s important to make sure you aren't surprised by any unexpected rocks, cords or even frozen newspapers as you're clearing the space — they can jam the auger that scoops up the snow. The best way to accomplish this is to keep an eye on the forecast and get your driveway prepped before it snows.

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Photo Courtesy: Willowpix/Getty Images

If your local meteorologists are predicting wintry weather, take the opportunity to give your driveway a good sweep before flakes start to fall. Mark off the locations of any cords, cables or extension cords you’re running while you still have a clear view of the driveway so you don’t run the blower over them. Better yet, unplug and move them if possible.

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You can even go the extra mile and mark the edges of your driveway and walkways. Do your best to poke around the end of the driveway in search of any stray newspapers, children’s toys and other possible obstructions before you begin.

One more note about blowers: If you’re still in the market for one, consider what your driveway is made out of. If it’s paved, a single-stage blower can work well. If you have a gravel drive, on the other hand, it’s best to go for a two-stage blower. The auger paddles on two-stage blowers don’t make contact with the ground (whereas those on single-stage machines do), so you won’t risk damaging the machine if it picks up loose gravel.

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Put a Sock (or Cleat) on It

Among the biggest dangers of driveway snow removal is the possibility of slipping on ice that lurks beneath the fluffy surface. However, you can take a few precautions to boost your stability during the driveway-cleanup process.

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Photo Courtesy: Albina Bougartchev / EyeEm/Getty Images

Purchase a pair of slip-on shoe covers with cleats. These footwear enhancers are typically made of durable rubber straps studded with small metal spurs that provide traction by digging into slippery surfaces. Because they’re made of rubber, they stretch right over your winter boots and stay snug to give you more confidence while you’re traversing the driveway.

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No time to order cleats? You’re still in the clear. If you have a pair of heavy wool socks, they can work much the same way. Slip them over the outsides of your shoes or boots before you head outdoors. While they might not be as stabilizing as cleats, they’ll certainly do in a pinch.

Employ the Tarp Method

No snowblower? Not necessarily a problem. One helpful and oh-so-simple — no specialized tools required — snow removal alternative comes by way of prepping beforehand by lining your driveway with large tarps when you’re expecting snow to fall.

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Photo Courtesy: Kypros/Moment/Getty Images

Once it’s started snowing and a manageable amount has built up, grab one side of the tarp and let the snow slide over to and off the other side — and off your driveway onto the grass. You can also enlist the help of a family member or neighbor to grab the other side so you can lift the entire tarp and relocate the snow to a more convenient area.

One trick to keep in mind with this method is that you don't want to wait until the tarp is covered with a foot of snow before you try to move it. For best results, lay out the tarps before the snow starts falling and clear them every time the snow level reaches an inch or two. If you need to, you can set an alarm or notification on your phone to remind yourself to head out and check the tarps periodically.

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Create a DIY Snowblower With Other Tools

While this hack works best for lighter snowfalls, it can come in handy in other circumstances, too. If you don't have your own snowblower — maybe the flurries don’t fall too often where you are — then make an impromptu tool out of a leaf blower. Keep in mind that the powderier the snow is, the better this technique will work.

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Photo Courtesy: Jürgen Fälchle / EyeEm/Getty Images

To get the driveway clear, bundle up and use the leaf blower to direct the snow out of your desired area just like you would use it to clear leaves. You can also make a similar DIY snowblower with a shop vac running on the reverse setting or by hooking the hose up to the vacuum’s exhaust vent.

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Clear Your Windshield With Rubbing Alcohol

When you eventually excavate your car from the snow in your driveway (or use the tarp trick to keep snow off your vehicle), you might still face a layer of ice, this time on your windshield. While you can wait for your car to warm up enough to melt it, your medicine cabinet likely contains the key to a quicker method you can use when you’re in more of a hurry.

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Photo Courtesy: Manfred J. Bail/Getty Images

If you’re anticipating frosty weather, mix up a batch of homemade deicer you can store and use throughout the season. Fill a spray bottle with one part water and two parts rubbing alcohol and spray it over your icy car windshield and windows. Then, wipe it with an old towel. You'll be pleasantly surprised to find that the ice slides away. While it may not smell too great, the rubbing alcohol will also leave your windshield nice and streak free, and it can even help to prevent fogging.

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Consider Installing Snow-Melting Mats

If you're not up for taking any chances with certain areas of your driveway, walkway or outdoor stairs, snow-melting mats may be the answer for you. Made from thermoplastic material, these heated mats can typically melt away a couple of inches of snow every hour, and they provide some added traction on slick outdoor surfaces.

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Photo Courtesy: Heattrak/Amazon

The mats come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and work independently or connected to each other — just be sure to measure first and choose the right size for the area where you want to install them. From walkways to driveways to stairs, they're a great way to ensure you can enjoy a slip-free surface. Once they’re installed, keep them in place all winter for convenience.

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Use a Sneaky Tactic for Free-ish Help

If you've got kids and aren’t in a rush, it may be time to host a snowman-building contest in your yard. Enlist any neighborhood children who seem interested, and ask them to use only snow that comes from your driveway or other areas you'd like cleared.

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Reward their efforts in the form of hot cocoa, cookies, some pocket money or other treats. You may be surprised at how much easier it is to get driveway snow removal help from your kids' friends than your own!

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While you'll likely have to finish the driveway off yourself, it's a great way to get started and give the kids the opportunity to have a blast playing in the snow. You might even consider bringing out carrots, buttons, old scarves and other traditional snowman-making materials to encourage the fun.