Environmentally friendly antifreeze. Probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about winter, but it is important nonetheless.

You are obviously thinking about antifreeze if you clicked on this article, so good for you! Taking a proactive approach to winter, I like it!

Let’s start slowly with the basics before we delve into the wonderful world of environmentally friendly antifreeze.

What is antifreeze?

Antifreeze  is an additive which lowers the freezing point of a water-based liquid. The most common place to use antifreeze is in your vehicle where it is used to prevent a rigid enclosure (the engine) from bursting due to expansion when water freezes.

So, I think we can agree that antifreeze is a vital chemical solution we need in our lives, unless of course you drive an electric vehicle, in which case I’m jealous!

Is there a non toxic antifreeze?

There are two main types of antifreeze solutions. The first being made from ethylene glycol. The second type is made from propylene glycol. What is the difference, you ask? Well, ethylene glycol is WAY more toxic than its cousin propylene glycol.

Ethylene glycol antifreeze

Ethylene glycol is so toxic because after it is ingested, it is converted to 4 other chemicals by the liver that are much more toxic.  Ethylene glycol antifreeze is toxic to any person or animal who happens to drink it. Unfortunately it has a sweet taste, so it is tempting for your pet to drink if they happen upon it by accident.

Ethylene glycol poisoning can be lethal, but if treated within the hour is much less likely to cause death.

Now, moving on to ethylene glycol’s less toxic cousin, propylene glycol.

Proylene glycol antifreeze

Propylene glycol is considerably less toxic than ethylene glycol. It can actually be labelled ‘non-toxic’. It is generally used where ethylene glycol would be inappropriate, such as food processing systems where accidental ingestion could happen.

Side Note: Propylene glycol is added (on purpose) to a large number of processed foods such as ice cream, salad dressings, and baked goods. So if the idea of ingesting propylene glycol is as unappealing for you as it is for me, check the ingredients list of the food you purchase carefully!

Is propylene glycol environmentally friendly?

Propylene glycol is readily biodegradable under aerobic conditions in freshwater, sea water, and soil so it is not persistent in the environment. I did not come across any literature specifically stating that propylene glycol is ‘environmentally friendly’ so take the above statement with a grain of salt.

I understand propylene glycol as being a better alternative than ethylene glycol, but at the end of the day, it is still a chemical that will most likely find its way into water and soil,even if it does eventually biodegrade.

Is propylene glycol antifreeze corrosive?

No, propylene glycol anitfreeze is not corrosive. In fact, antifreeze are often used to protect metals from corrosion.

How often should you change antifreeze?

Thankfully, you don’t have to change the antifreeze in your vehicle too often. Check your owner’s manual to be sure, but generally antifreeze in a vehicle needs to be changed around 30,000 miles or after 5 years, whichever comes first.

antifreeze disposal

How should antifreeze be disposed?

Anitfreeze, whether ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, needs to be properly disposed of or recycled at your local hazardous waste management centre. 

DO NOT POUR DOWN DRAIN, PLEASE! Just google your municipality’s hazardous waste protocols and follow them, thank you!

Is all antifreeze pet safe?

NOOOOOO! Haven’t you read the beginning of this article?! Go back and read it, I will wait. 

Ok, for the sake of your and your neighborhood pets, I will reiterate: Ethylene glycol antifreeze is NOT safe for animal (or human) consumption. It is toxic and your animal might die from ingestion.

Propylene glycol antifreeze is considered non-toxic and will NOT poison your beloved pet. In any case, people, please, do not leave either type of antifreeze out in the open where your pet (or small child) could come along and drink it if they so desired. 

Just be safe and keep chemicals AWAY from pets and kids. Thank you kindly.

What are some Brand Names of antifreeze made from Propylene glycol?

If you’ve liked what you have read about propylene glycol antifreeze and want to give it a try next time you are in the market for some antifreeze, here are a few brand names to look for (in no particular order):

  1. Peak Sierra Antifreeze: automotive
  2. Absolute zero: RV antifreeze
  3. Star Brite: Boats, RV’s, homes, and pools
  4. Camco: ATV’s, UTV’s, motorcycles, scooters, snowmobiles, and boats

Homemade non-toxic antifreeze

Here is my honest opinion on homemade antifreeze. Don’t do it. I know that antifreeze in general is not great for people or the environment but it seems to be one of those necessary evils if you own a vehicle of any kind. The purpose of antifreeze is to lower the freezing point of water so your pipes, or engine, won’t expand until they burst and also to help prevent rust and corrosion. So, it’s pretty important to the overall well-being of whatever job it is serving.

I personally, would not trust the homemade ‘recipes’ on the internet. It’s just too important of a substance to leave it up to chance that a homemade solution might work.  I for one do not want to head out to my RV in the spring to find out that my pipes burst over the winter because I decided to make my own antifreeze. No way.

Even worse would be if something horrible happened to your car because you wanted to save a buck.  Not worth the risk, in my humble opinion.

The best alternative to homemade non toxic antifreeze is propylene glycol. Is it a perfect solution, no. But weighing the pros and cons, that’s my pick.

Conclusion

When it’s all said and done, you might have to use ethylene glycol for your automobile.  From the research I have done, there are not a lot of options for cars, fortunately, antifreeze is not one of those solutions that needs to be changed very often on your vehicle.

Propylene glycol is not widely used for automotive coolant just yet.  For other purposes, such as RV antifreeze or antifreeze you use in your house, choose propylene glycol. At this point in time, it is the most reliable environmentally friendly antifreeze you can choose.  

Let me know in the comments below if you have ever tried making your own antifreeze and what the results were. I am very curious!

Cheers, and have an awesome day!

2 Comments

  1. Timothy Sorg

    What type of Environmentally Friendly Antifreeze is rated for the lowest temperature?

    Reply
    • Kathy

      Thanks for your question. Absolute zero antifreeze is rated to -100 F, whereas the other three mentioned in this article are rated to about -50 F. Hope that helps!

      Reply

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