This is a simple tip that I can see is familiar to a lot of the natives here in Pittsburgh, but it took me many years to catch on. I grew up in Oklahoma, where winter precipitation tends to involve freezing rain, so a lot of what you have to clear from your sidewalk is ice. Here in the land of picturesque, Christmas-card-like winter weather, however, the sidewalk is typically piled with fluffy snow. It looks so pretty until you have to shovel it, right?
Wait! There’s an earlier step that will make the shoveling so much easier, and you might not have to shovel at all! You might be able to get your pavement completely clear and non-slippy without using hazardous sidewalk salt!
Simply sweep off the loose snow with an ordinary broom. Keep the broom near the door so you can sweep the snow before anyone has stepped on it. That way it’s not packed down, and it easily sweeps right off. If you are going out while it’s still snowing, consider leaving your broom by the end of the walk so you can sweep your way back to the door when you get home. You’ll want to use your “outdoor broom” or at least keep the broom outside until it dries, because it’s hard to get all the snow off of it, and if you bring it inside it will drip.
Depending on the depth and density of snow, you may still need the shovel to scrape the last of it off the pavement. Alternatively, if the snow is more than a few inches deep, start by shoveling off most of it and throwing it to the side, then sweep the pavement before you walk on it to get that area completely clear before you move on to the next section. (Ever walked on a sidewalk where the deep snow was shoveled off, but there’s a thin layer of ice across the whole thing? That’s the result of leaving behind a little snow that was too hard to scrape up with the shovel–the sun melts it, and then it freezes.)
Sweeping is particularly useful for clearing outdoor steps, especially open-tread ones–just sweep the snow down between the steps! My epiphany about the usefulness of brooms on snow came when I visited a friend’s hillside house during a snowstorm, and before I left I watched him completely clear his 30-some open-tread stairs of about 3 inches of snow in about 5 minutes.
This technique is so easy, a child can do it! Nicholas proved this two days ago, when both parents were too sick to pick him up from school, so he walked himself home, responsibly using his new wristwatch and house key on a chain. When he saw that we had not been able to clear the sidewalk, he swept it, then used the shovel to pry up the packed snow from his own footprints and others’ steps on the public sidewalk. What a great kid! (He is 8.)
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