One of the most critical steps in winterizing your RV is using antifreeze to protect your RV’s plumbing system.
Traditional antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to humans and animals. Fortunately, there are non-toxic RV antifreeze options available that are safe for your family, pets, and the environment. The following products also work on pools, boats, and seasonal homes.
In this article, we will review the best options available now and provide you with all the information you need to choose the right one for your RV, pool, boat, or seasonal home.
Non-toxic RV antifreeze that protects down to -50°F is typically pink in color, making it easy to identify and distinguish from other types of antifreeze. The -100°F formulas can be purple.
When using non-toxic RV antifreeze, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and apply it to all parts of the plumbing system. This will help to prevent freezing and damage to pipes, valves, and other components during the winter months.
Expert Review: The toxicity sections were written by Dr. Lakshmi Manjunath, Board Certified Toxicologist (US and Europe).
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Toxicity of Propylene Glycol Antifreeze
Propylene glycol is the most common ingredient in antifreeze, and it is often used as a substitute for the more toxic ethylene glycol. Propylene glycol has a lower toxicity level than ethylene glycol, making it a safer option for use in antifreeze. However, you still need to follow the safety precautions from the manufacturer.
Overall toxicity for humans: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is “generally recognized as safe” for use in food, drugs, and cosmetics (source).
Propylene glycol breaks down in the body in about 48 hours. However, studies of people and animals show that if you have repeated eye, skin, nasal, or oral exposures to propylene glycol for a short time, you may develop some irritation. (source)
Safety in freshwater lines/tanks: It’s safe to use in your drinking water lines and freshwater tanks. When you de-winterize an RV, you need to run fresh water through your freshwater tank and water lines before you use it again. You should also ideally sanitize your RV’s water system after de-winterizing it before you start using it again. However, keep in mind that propylene glycol is not compatible with oxidizing agents like hydrogen peroxide and chlorine. (source)
Suitability for sensitive folks: Propylene glycol is practically odorless and tasteless (source) and some antifreeze brands that contain propylene glycol can be considered 0-VOC. However, I do know chemically sensitive folks who do not do well around it and some sensitive folks would prefer ethanol.
Biodegradability & disposal: Although it is biodegradable and it can break down relatively quickly (within several days to a week) in surface water and in soil (source), do not dump it into sewer, storm drains, or onto the ground (source). Check with your municipality or your RV dump station on how to dispose of propylene glycol antifreeze. Some jurisdictions recommend recycling waste antifreeze. You may also be able to return unused portions to some RV manufacturers, auto parts stores, and automotive service shops.
Flammability: Propylene glycol does not have the same fire safety warnings as ethanol, but it’s still advised that sources of ignition such as smoking and open flames should not be used around propylene glycol. (source)
Toxicity to pets: A significant toxic risk if ingested by pets. All incidents of accidental consumption should be reported, says the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists.
Toxicity of Ethanol-Based Antifreeze
Ethanol-based antifreeze is another common type of antifreeze used in recreational vehicles and boats. More often though, it’s a blend of propylene glycol and ethanol.
Toxicity for humans: Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is drinking alcohol. While ethanol-based antifreeze is less toxic than ethylene glycol-based antifreeze, it can still be dangerous if ingested or inhaled in large amounts (source). (Also on the topic of ingestion, additives are normally added to ethanol antifreeze to make it even more toxic to consume than just plain ethanol).
Safety for use in fresh water lines: It is safe to use in fresh water lines and tanks but keep in mind this is not pure drinking alcohol, there are toxic additives added to make it even less safe to drink. You will have a bad taste in your water lines after using an ethanol-based antifreeze.
Safety for chemically sensitive folks: It is possible to prefer this type to propylene glycol, but individual sensitives do vary.
Biodegradability & disposal: Pure ethanol is biodegradable and if spilled breaks down into harmless substances. However, keep in mind other chemicals are added to ethanol antifreeze (even if it’s not a propylene glycol blend) so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for disposal.
Flammability: Ethanol is highly flammable, which means that it is dangerous to handle around open flames, pilot lights, smoking, or other sources of ignition. It is important to store ethanol-based antifreeze in a cool, dry place away from heat sources and to avoid smoking or using open flames around it (including when draining it) (source and source). One company below says to turn off pilot lights and electric motors and to use it with RV windows open and maintain ventilation until vapors have dissipated.
Toxicity for pets: Ethanol can be life-threatening if ingested by pets. In addition to cats and dogs, birds are also indicated for this toxicity. (source)
Challenges for RV use: An ethanol-only antifreeze can also damage RV parts because it dries out rubber seals. It should only be used with Quest or Pex lines say some of the sellers.
In terms of the ethanol-propylene glycol mixes, one seller says it is unknown how much ethanol is required to taint RV plumbing lines and dry out plumbing seals (source).
Non-Toxic Brands of Antifreeze
1. Prestone Waterline Antifreeze -100°F
Type: Blend: Ethanol, propylene glycol, and potassium hydroxide.
Prestone Waterline Antifreeze has a no-burst guarantee down to -100° F. It’s safe for use in RVs/travel trailers, pools, boats, and seasonal homes. And it’s safe for use in all potable and seasonal water lines.
It provides protection from damage, corrosion & rust and it can be used with metals, plastic, rubber, and elastomers found in most potable water systems.
Warning label: Flammable and flammable vapors, keep vapor and product away from heat, sparks, flame, and other sources of ignition. Turn off pilot lights and electric motors. Do not smoke near the product or when draining it. Use with RV windows open and maintain ventilation until vapors have dissipated.
2. STAR BRITE Non-Toxic Antifreeze -50°F
Type: Propylene Glycol, unknown corrosion inhibitors, no alcohol
Star brite -50°F (-46°C) Non-Toxic Antifreeze provides excellent cold weather and corrosion protection for drinking water systems and all engines. Use it in boats, RVs, vacation homes, and pools.
Its additives prevent corrosion of aluminum, copper, brass, and solder to protect all metal engine components and seals. It’s safe for all types of plastics and will not harm rubber, seals, or hose materials.
The bright pink color provides excellent blow-through visibility. Formulated with virgin, non-toxic USP-grade ingredients. It contains no alcohols. This product is ready to use; do not dilute it.
Star brite -50°F Non-Toxic Antifreeze will provide burst protection to -50°F (-46°C) and freeze protection within a range of +12°F to +16°F (-11°C to -9°C).
Warning label: it is not intended for human or animal consumption. May be harmful if swallowed. Store away from children and pets. Do not store in open or unlabeled containers. Clean up any leaks or spills.
3. SPLASH RV & Marine -50°F and -100°F Antifreeze
Type: Blend: DOW USP Propylene Glycol-based, with Ethyl Alcohol 10-15%, and Glycerol 1-5%
Splash RV & Marine winterizes your recreational vehicles (RVs), boats, spas, hot tubs, pools, vacation homes, and campers. It’s a non-ethylene glycol antifreeze made with a plant-derived additive for -50°F burst protection. This is a biodegradable, non-toxic formula.
It’s a ready-to-use solution; don’t dilute.
The -50F formula can be found on Amazon.
The -100 formula is 20-25% glycerol and the VOCs are listed as zero. It’s also designed to winterize potable & seasonal water systems; RVs, pools, boats, and seasonal homes. It is safe for use in all potable and seasonal water lines. It provides protection against damage, corrosion, and rust, and is safe for metals and plastics found in most potable water systems.
The -100F formula can be found on Walmart.
Safe Storage of Non-Toxic Antifreeze
- Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and sources of heat and ignition, in a well-ventilated area, away from incompatible materials and food and drink.
- Store upright in the original container and make sure the container is tightly sealed to prevent contamination, spillage, and evaporation.
- Label the container clearly with the date of purchase and the expiration date.
- Keep the antifreeze out of reach of children and pets. Store locked up.
- Follow the manufacturers’ and your local jurisdiction’s instructions for disposal.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.