17 Winter Survival Hacks to Get You Through the Season

Updated: Mar. 07, 2024

With a bit of preparation ahead of winter’s fury, you’ll be safer, warmer and happier at home and on the road with these 17 winter survival hacks!

1 / 17
HH Salt Bags In Car trunk
Family Handyman

Helpful Hint for Winter Driving

When there are snow and ice on the roads and you’re finding that you don’t have enough traction to get up hills or you fishtail going around curves, it’s a sign that you could use more weight.

Adding water softener salt bags in the trunk of your rear-wheel-drive vehicle will add weight to the backside of your car. This helps with traction on ice and snow during the nightmarish winter driving season.

Also, find out what a frunk is and what you can do with it if your next car has one.

However, please note that this tip does not hold for front-wheel-drive vehicles, although having some emergency salt in the back of your car will help with urgent icy situations.

2 / 17
spray silicone lubricant on windshield wiper blades

Spray Silicone Lubricant on Wiper Blades

We’ve all experienced screeching windshield wiper blades while driving, especially folks that live regions with cold winter months. When it’s not really raining or snowing, but water and gunk is kicked up from the road by the vehicles in front of you, the moving parts don’t have much lubrication to keep them quiet.

To eliminate this noisy issue, first, clean your windshield wiper blades with a bit of soap and water and then coat the moving parts with some spray silicone lubricant. The silicone will keep the wiper blades running smoothly and quietly throughout the winter months. You may need to reapply the silicone spray a few times, so add the step to your winterizing routine.

3 / 17
snow-blower winter
Family Handyman

Smart Snow Blowing

The best method to snow blow your driveway is to start in the middle and throw the snow toward one edge of the driveway. Then, make a U-turn and come back down the other side and continue to alternate. This way you won’t have to adjust the chute as often and shouldn’t need a second pass.

4 / 17
spraying rain-x inside snowthrower chute
Family Handyman

Rain-X in Snowthrower Chute

When snow season comes around again, I like to give my snowthrower a tune-up, and that always includes spraying the inside of the chute with Rain-X. The water-repelling spray keeps the chute from getting clogged with that wet, packed snow and ice. The Rain-X makes the chute slick, and snow slides out of the chute like it’s supposed to. I reapply Rain-X inside the chute every few snowfalls or so. — John Gossard

5 / 17
HH Carpet Scraps Slippery ladder

A Solution for a Slippery Ladder

If you place a carpet scrap at the base of a ladder, you can wipe off your shoes before climbing. This ensures that any snow, mud or wetness will be wiped away and slipping on one of the higher rungs will become much less likely.

6 / 17
wiping salt residue off of shoes with vinegar

Get Rid of Salt Residue on Shoes

Your shoes can take a beating during the winter months. The salt used to melt ice and snow on driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, etc., can help to keep you safe from falling, but it can also leave a nasty white residue on your footwear that doesn’t look great.

You can clean off the residue quickly with a simple solution that you can make at home.

  1. Fill a spray bottle with water and add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar.
  2. Shake it up a bit and spritz the mixture onto a clean paper towel.
  3. Gently wipe your shoes, and watch the salt residue disappear.

Keep the spray bottle near your shoe collection, so you can clean off your shoes as the season goes.

7 / 17
leaf blower wood shop
Family Handyman

Get Out the Leaf Blower

Don’t put your leaf blower away for the season, put it to your advantage! Leaf blowers work great for removing light, fluffy snow.

8 / 17
carbon monoxide detector
Family Handyman

Carbon Monoxide Season

You’ve got a house full of guests, so the oven and stove are working overtime, the water heater is struggling to keep up with demand, the fireplace is burning and the furnace is fighting the cold. It’s the perfect setting for carbon monoxide buildup. So if you don’t already have a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector, put it at the top of your shopping list.

9 / 17
HH clean windshield wipers with windex
Family Handyman

See Out of Your Windshield Better!

“When you’re behind the wheel, nothing is more crucial than good visibility. But like most other drivers, I usually procrastinate cleaning my windshield wipers or even replacing them if necessary. Windshield wipers are notorious for drying out and cracking in a short time. To help prolong their life and clean them, soak a clean white rag with your favorite glass cleaner. Wipe the rag up and down the length of your wiper blades. You’ll see the results on the rag, and you’ll see out your windshield much better in the rain.” — Jim Nobilione

10 / 17
HH rice pack sock

Homemade Heating Pad

Next time you have a sore neck or back, don’t reach for an electric heating pad. Make this sock heating pad instead. Fill a sock with uncooked rice, tie the end and microwave it for two or three minutes. I like this better than a heating pad, as it conforms to whatever body part that needs heat. You can even put in some fragrant herbs like cinnamon or lavender to make it smell nice!

11 / 17
coating snow shovel with car wax
Family Handyman

Why You Should Coat Your Snow Shovel with Car Wax

Shoveling snow can be frustrating enough, but when heavy snow sticks or freezes in clumps on the shovel, it can make the job even more difficult! You can avoid this issue by first coating your shovel with car wax before heading out to clear your driveway and walking paths.

This tip works best with metal shovels: Follow the application instructions on the car wax package. Generally, car wax is applied in a thin layer using a damp cloth, allowed to dry, and then buffed off with a dry cloth. This leaves the shovel clean and lubricated, so the snow and ice won’t stick!

12 / 17
clothes pin hat and mitten drying rack
Family Handyman

Closet Glove Rack

If you don’t have radiators, finding a good spot to dry wet hats and mittens can be tough. Tossing them into a plastic bin gets them out of the way, but they never dry and it’s no fun putting on damp mittens in the morning. This simple back-of-the-door glove and cap rack allows wet things to dry and keeps easily misplaced items organized. Just string clothespins on aluminum wire (it won’t rust) and stretch it between screw eyes on the back of a closet door. This also works great out in the garage for drying garden and work gloves.

13 / 17
Wreath hanging hack HH handy hint command hook
Family Handyman

Wreath Hanging Hack

Typically, we rely on everything from metal wreath holders to staples, nails and even thumbtacks to hang holiday wreaths on the door, yet each of these familiar methods causes leaves scars on the door. Skip those old methods and try a less damaging tactic by using removable plastic hooks. Place an upside-down Command Hook on the interior side of your door, loop your wreath’s ribbon (or some fishing line) around the hook and drape it over the front of the door.

14 / 17
coffee can salt shaker de ice sidewalk
Family Handyman

Sidewalk Salt Dispenser

Lugging a heavy bag of deicer out to the sidewalk is no fun, and it’s tough to spread deicer evenly with a shovel or cup. You get a clump in one spot and none in another, so you’re wasting both time and deicer. Here’s a great solution. Make a “sidewalk salt shaker” from a big plastic coffee container with a handle. Poke 1/4-in. holes in the lid and fill it with sand, cat litter, deicer, or a mix of whatever you want and shake away! — Tony DeMarse.

15 / 17
shutterstock_363393104 ice on window cold brrr
Tim Trott/Shutterstock

Saltwater for your Car

Running late and you don’t have a windshield scraper in the car? So try a saltwater mix. Road salt mixed with some water will remove the thin layer of ice when the temperature dips below 32 degrees F. And then use your wipers to push the slush away. Since salt isn’t great for your car, use this method sparingly.

16 / 17
Family Handyman

Build a Mitten and Shoe Dryer

Drill pairs of 1/8-in. holes in a scrap of 2×4 and insert U-shaped pieces of galvanized 14-gauge wire. If you have forced-air heat, drill 1-in. holes between the pairs of 1/8-in. holes using a spade bit, and set the rack on a register for fast drying.

17 / 17
FH11FEB_STRAGE_22 wet boot rock mat
Family Handyman

Wet Boot Storage

What do you get when you mix boots and winter weather? A dirty, slippery floor (and wet socks). Make life neater and safer for everyone in your house by building this simple boot tray. All you need is a plastic tray or a large metal baking sheet with a lip. Put a layer of medium-sized stones in the tray so the boots can drain. To keep the stones in place and give the tray a handsome finished look, build a 1×2 frame around the tray and paint it the same color as the trim in your entryway. Want to really pump up your entryway or foyer?