From Spotlight: Clever Cures for the Worst of Winter

4 Brilliant Hacks to Make Snow Shoveling Less Miserable

Don’t break your back. Try a de-icing cocktail instead.

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Image: Elizabethsalleebauer/Getty

If you're a homeowner in a snowy climate, chances are good you rue the winter: All that snow has to go somewhere, and it's not getting there itself. 

Cue the snow shovel.

Barring a move to a snow-free state or barricading your family inside all winter, there's no way to avoid the endless task of shoveling snow. There are, however, ways to make the process much easier. Here are four simple hacks to make the morning after a snowfall much less stressful.

#1 Spray Your Shovel with Cooking Oil

Snow sticking to your shovel makes an already arduous task even more obnoxious. Avoid it with this hack: Lightly coat your shovel with nonstick cooking oil to make the snow slide right off. No more time wasted removing snow from your snow remover. (You can substitute a spray lubricant like WD-40, but the downside is it's toxic.)

#2 Lay Out a Tarp Before the Snow

If you like shortcuts, this technique, billed as "the laziest way imaginable" to clear snow according to a tutorial from "Instructables," has your name on it. The day before an expected snowfall, lay a tarp on your walkway. When the snow finishes falling, just pull out the tarp, and voilà: an instantly cleared walkway. (Word to the wise: Make sure pedestrians won't trip on your tarp. Include a sign or use this technique in your backyard walkway if you're concerned.)

The technique requires a tarp, firewood, and twine as well as some prep work. Prestorm, use firewood to weigh down your tarp -- you don't want it flying away in the wind -- and tie the twine to both the tarp and to a shovel standing upright in your yard. You'll use the shovel to pull out the snow-laden tarp.

Although this method might be faster than shoveling, it does require manpower. After all, a cubic foot of snow can weigh between seven and 20 pounds. So, don't get too ambitious with the size of your tarp or you might not be able to pull it once it's full of snow.

#3 Stir Up a Homemade De-icing Cocktail

Deicers make snow removal easier by cutting through the tough, icy layers that are a pain to remove with a shovel. But an easy solution should be easy on your property as well. Many commercial deicers are pretty harsh.

Commercial ice-melting substances -- magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride (salt) -- all damage the environment, according to the University of Maryland's Home and Garden Information Center. They can also damage concrete sidewalks and driveways, which means hefty repair costs later.

A better solution: Make your own deicer using rubbing alcohol or vinegar. You'll save money, too. Commercial melters typically cost about $10. Plus, you'll avoid the hassle of trekking to the hardware store to stock up.

Use vinegar before a storm to make ice and snow removal easier:

  • Combine 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water.
  • Spray or pour gently (you still want to avoid runoff into your landscape) before a storm.

To keep the sidewalks and steps from icing after a storm:

  • Combine 2 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part water.
  • Apply to minimize runoff.

#4 Make Your Leaf Blower Do Double Duty

A leaf blower can be a multitasker. Use it to remove dry, powdery snow that's no more than 1 inch thick. A few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Snow should be no heavier than dry leaves.
  • Don't use electric leaf blowers; stick to models that run on batteries or gas.
  • Keep it quick and make sure air temp is above freezing to avoid possible damage to the blower.

Related: 9 Mood-Lifting Ideas to Get You Out of Winter's Funk

Author photo of writer Jamie Wiebe

Jamie Wiebe

Jamie Wiebe is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she worked as a web editor for "House Beautiful," "ELLE Decor," and "Veranda."