During the winter, when stores run out of sand or salt – kitty litter is often the alternative that is recommended in order to add traction to your ice and stop slips and falls.
But with so many different types of kitty litters on the market it can be difficult to know which one to buy. What is the best kind of kitty litter for ice?
Silica gel kitty litter is the best for ice as it’s a similar molecule to sand, adds traction and doesn’t absorb water and turn into sludge. The next best option would be non-clumping clay kitty litter but it only works in the short term and has the potential to turn muddy. You’d want to avoid walnut and pine kitty litter for ice as it clumps and is extremely dusty.
Here, we discuss in detail what kind of kitty litter is best for ice, and what kitty litter you should avoid.
Why Is Kitty Litter Used For Ice?
Before you choose the right kitty litter for your ice it's important to understand WHY you are using kitty litter on your ice and also what kind of kitty litters you want to avoid.
Kitty litter is used for ice predominantly for the following reasons:
1. It provides traction and improves grip to icy roads and pavements.
2. It’s an option when both sand and salt isn’t available, or if it’s too cold for salt to work.
3. It’s an eco-friendly substitute to salt that’s generally affordable, easy to apply and pet-friendly.
4. It’s convenient to bring with you while you’re on the road and you can use it to help with driving traction in snowy and icy conditions.
What Types of Kitty Litter Are Good For Ice?
While kitty litter can be used for ice, it’s important to note that kitty litter is not a deicer and does not melt ice like salt, but is excellent for traction.
With traction as your goal you'll want to get a kitty litter than doesn't absorb water and become mushy when it gets wet. This will ultimately remove traction and make your path or driveway slippery which is exactly what you're trying to avoid.
Some kitty litters are designed to clump together when there is moisture around (i.e. a cat's urine) and this makes them easier to clean. However, on your driveway you don't want the kitty litter clumping together or absorbing water.
Kitty litters like silica gel and non-clumping clay are usually the best options because they provide traction and don't become sludgy quickly. Whereas wood based kitty litters like pine, walnut and corn can absorb water quickly and remain slippery.
You’ll also want to avoid placing some kitty litters on large areas as it can be more difficult to clean up in comparison to sand or ice melt. Overall though it’s good to use when you’re in a pinch or don’t have ice melt or sand around.
Need to melt ice? Here are some ways to melt ice without using salt.
Is Silica Gel Kitty Litter Good For Ice?
Silica gel kitty litter is one of the best options for ice. It’s made of sodium silicate sand, a texture that’s exceedingly similar to sand, and provides excellent traction.
When it comes to the mess component, silica gel kitty litter adsorbs water instead of absorbing it.
With adsorption, the water molecules adhere to the surface of the silica gel so you won’t have to worry about it absorbing liquid and turning into a sludgy mess. Silica gel will stay hard and continue to provide traction even when it is completely saturated in water.
Think of it like larger (and whiter) grains of sand. Sand doesn't melt ice either but it is regularly used to provide traction on icy roads and pavements. Silica gel kitty litter is used in the same way and is usually purchased when stores are all out of sand.
Perhaps the only downfall of silica gel kitty litter is the fact that it’s pricier than non-clumping clay kitty litter and pricier than sand. Good in emergencies but probably not your first preference.
One of the downsides of silica gel is that cleanup can be a bit more difficult. While sand can be swept into garden beds the larger white silica gel beads generally need to be cleaned up.
Silica gel kitty litter pros:
- Has a texture similar to sand, providing great traction
- Doesn’t cause mess as it won’t clump or absorb water
- Harder to clean up after ice melts
Is Clay Kitty Litter Good For Ice?
Yes, clay kitty litter is good for ice but you’d need to be wary of which type of clay cat litter you’re using.
Clumping clay kitty litter isn't ideal for ice as it’s made of sodium bentonite, also known as bentonite clay which has the property of holding water, swelling up to ten times its size, and turning it into a softer, wet cement-like texture which causes it to stick to everything, including shoes.
In addition, high traffic surfaces will also cause clumping clay kitty litter to absorb the melted snow around it before refreezing into a smooth solid chunk just as slippery as ice. This can be particularly a problem with areas where winter temperatures fluctuate around the freezing point.
Natural non-clumping clay kitty litter on the other hand does not clump together despite being soaked in liquid. It’s also got a texture that’s similar to sand, is inexpensive, easy to come by, lightweight and produces less dust.
It's one of the best kitty litters to use for ice (along with silica gel kitty litter) and can be a great thing to have stored in your car or house for emergencies to provide traction on your driveway, path or even on some roads.
Non-clumping clay kitty litter pros:
- Doesn’t clump
- Has an abrasive texture that helps with traction
- Easy to find
Non-clumping clay kitty litter cons:
- Produces dust
- Can be difficult to clean up – more so with clay clumping kitty litter
- Not the most eco-friendly
Is Pine Kitty Litter Good For Ice?
While pine kitty litter can provide traction and is both environmentally-friendly and lightweight, it unfortunately isn’t the best kitty litter for ice.
Not only is pine kitty litter a bit pricier than other types, but it also doesn’t provide the best traction as it turns into a sawdust liquid porridge that’s extremely difficult to clean up when it’s wet.
It can provide traction initially which is good to stop slips and falls but over time it will absorb water from the ice turning into sawdust porridge and this isn't great for traction – making your path nearly as slippery as it was before.
One of the good things about pine kitty litter is that once the ice is melted you can simply sweep the remaining sawdust into the garden and it won't cause any issues like salt or silica gel might.
Pine kitty litter is good in emergencies and better than nothing but if you can get silica gel kitty litter or non-clumping clay kitty litter these are both better options.
Pine kitty litter pros:
- Can provide traction
- Produces a minimal amount of dust
- Can be swept into the garden after use
Pine kitty litter cons:
- Hard to clean and becomes a wet sawdust mess when it absorbs liquid
- Does not last long
Is Corn Kitty Litter Good For Ice?
Made from processed corn, this environmentally-friendly alternative is not very good for ice. While it produces less dust, can help with traction and is both sewer safe and lightweight, it naturally clumps together.
Due to the clumping, corn kitty litter will not provide the best traction and will turn into a clumpy mess when it absorbs liquid from the ice it's on.
It may provide short term traction in emergencies but in the long term it's not going to be great on ice.
Corn kitty litter pros:
- Environmentally-friendly alternative made from processed corn
- Produces less dust
- Can provide traction
- Sewer safe
Corn kitty litter cons:
- Does not last long
- Naturally clumps so when it absorbs water it turns into mud/sludge and loses traction
Is Walnut Kitty Litter Good For Ice?
Out of all of the kitty litters, walnut kitty litter is probably the worst for ice.
While it’s made of abrasive material that could be good for traction, and is environmentally-friendly, it produces a large amount of dust, clumps and is fragile in texture.
It may provide immediate traction but it'll quickly absorb water and turn into a sludgy mess that will be slippery, stick to your shoes and overall not do a very good job at providing traction.
Given it's also more expensive than other kitty litters I'd steer away from it in favor of other options if you can.
Walnut kitty litter pros:
- Environmentally friendly
- Can provide traction in the short term
Walnut kitty litter cons:
- Naturally clumps so when it absorbs water it makes a lot of mess
- Extremely dusty
- Breaks apart easily as it’s fragile in texture
What kind of kitty litter is best for ice:
- Silica gel kitty litter is best for ice as it adds traction.
- Silica gel kitty litter also doesn’t absorb water and hence won’t turn into sludge and make a mess.
- Non-clumping clay kitty litter is the next best option as it provides traction, is easy to find and usually quite affordable.
- It does however have the potential to turn muddy.
What kind of kitty litter is worst for ice:
- Walnut kitty litter is the worst for ice as it produces a large amount of dust and isn’t reliable at providing traction as it’s fragile in texture.
- Walnut kitty litter also naturally clumps so it absorbs water and makes a mess.