Fast, efficient snow removal is one of winter's most essential tasks for those who live in northern climes. While a snow blower makes this chore easier, it is not the quietest or greenest way to get rid of your snow. If you are determined to go "blower-free," here are some useful tips.
Be careful to recognize your limits when shoveling. Maintain a straight posture and don't try to lift more snow than you can handle to avoid back strain, the No. 1 cause of emergency room visits by overeager snow shovelers. Frequent breaks to rest and rehydrate are highly recommended. Dress to keep yourself comfortable and safe, in lightweight layers that can be removed as you heat up from your hard work. Make sure your head, hands, and feet are kept warm. Footgear should consist of sturdy, non-skid, waterproof boots or shoes. Anyone with a chronic health condition like heart disease or arthritis must -- repeat, MUST -- consult a medical professional before attempting to shovel snow.
Choose Your Equipment
Snow shovels have come a long way from what they used to be. There are a number of specialized varieties purpose-built for specific snow removal tasks, such as pushing, lifting, scraping, or throwing. Many come with ergonomic handles, although reportedly some of these actually make it harder to get the right angle for pushing and throwing your load of snow. A plastic shovel fitted with a metal blade will allow you to chop up icy patches, as well as move snow. You will even find shovels mounted on wheels, which are faster and easier to use than standard shovels (and less likely to cause back or heart trouble), without the drawbacks of snow blowers.
Don't Work Against Yourself
Try to start out by standing on a clear area and work from there. Don't walk back and forth over the snow before or during the process. You'll end up making the task harder for yourself, since packed snow is much more difficult to get rid of. If you must get down a flight of outdoor steps in order to begin dealing with the snowfall, clear a small path to walk on. Another pitfall to avoid is waiting until the snowfall is over to begin cleaning up the white stuff; snow tends to bond with surfaces, even before it's trodden on. Several small shoveling forays will end up being less work than one major one. Dig right down to the pavement to prevent ice formation.
Planning in advance and covering your walk (or your car!) will simplify snow removal. Secure a tarp or a snow windshield cover to your vehicle before a snowstorm to avoid having to dig it out from under mounds of snow. A tarp on your walkway will collect snow, which can then be readily swept off. Alternatively, pick up the entire tarp to move the snow to a corner of your yard. You may want to use an ice and snow carpet, heated treads, or a heated mat to protect your stairs and landing.
A De-icer Can Make Your Job Easier
De-icer keeps snow and ice from sticking to the pavement if spread on your sidewalk an hour or two before a snowfall is expected. It will also help with snow removal if you apply it to flurries that have already fallen. Liquid de-icer is faster acting than the traditional choices, solid rock salt (sodium chloride) or calcium chloride. De-icer in liquid form can be applied with a battery-powered sprayer, which makes it a great shortcut, especially for those with mobility challenges. What's more, the liquid version tends to be safer for the environment and is less likely to leave a persistent residue. Make sure that your de-icer will not harm pets, landscaping, or concrete walks or driveways. In addition, it should be biodegradable and free of nitrogen, sodium, or chlorides.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.