Icy sidewalks, paths or steps are at the very least an inconvenience and potentially quite dangerous. Commercially available deicing materials sometimes contain additives that make them unsafe around children and harmful to sensitive pet paws. Deicers can also damage the sidewalk or nearby plants. As an alternative to chemical deicers, you can sprinkle sand and ashes over icy areas, but these present different problems such as very messy floors when they're tracked indoors. Treating a sidewalk, driveway or other paved surface with brine before a snowfall or freezing rain is anticipated keeps an ice layer from forming and can make snow removal much easier.
Shovel, sweep or otherwise remove as much existing snow or slush from the sidewalk as possible. The brine will only effectively prevent ice problems on a sidewalk if there is not a thick snow or ice layer already present.
Combine salt and heated water or warm water directly from the tap, gradually adding and stirring in salt until the solution can hold no more dissolved salt and any more salt you add remains a solid. You can use regular table salt -- sodium chloride -- salt from a water conditioner or a commercially available deicing salt.
Spray or pour the brine solution over the area of sidewalk evenly and thinly where you want to prevent ice formation. Do this up to 24 hours before you anticipate the onset of wintry precipitation.
Remove the snow form the sidewalk once it has stopped accumulating, or periodically if the snow is heavy and you do not want to shovel the entire accumulation at once. The brine you applied before the snowfall began will remain a thin liquid layer between the sidewalk surface and the snow, as long as temperatures are not too low, making the snow removal much easier. Repeat the light application of the brine if you anticipate more snow.