Is RV Antifreeze Toxic? (Answered)

Most people use RV antifreeze to winterize their campers when they are done using them for the season. This is because RV antifreeze has a very low freezing point and will keep your plumbing from freezing over during the winter months.

However, what most people don’t realize is that RV antifreeze is actually quite toxic. It should never be ingested and when you open your camper back up for the season, it’s incredibly important that you flush your tanks and lines thoroughly before using them again.

is RV antifreeze toxic

RV Antifreeze Ingredients Explained

If you have ever had RV antifreeze spill on you, you may have noticed that it has a sweet smell. This is because RV antifreeze contains propylene glycol, which is a food additive that is used to keep things moist.

In fact, propylene glycol is actually used in some food products as well as cosmetics. This ingredient isn’t toxic in small, or even larger quantities.

It also contains an ingredient called ethylene glycol, which is incredibly toxic to humans and animals.

In fact, ethylene glycol is the main ingredient in antifreeze for cars. It’s so toxic that just a few teaspoons can be fatal for a small dog or cat.

While RV antifreeze isn’t as concentrated as automotive antifreeze, it’s still incredibly important that you keep it away from children and pets. Even a small amount can be very harmful.

The exact ingredients of RV antifreeze are:

  • Water. This solution includes water because the liquid component allows it to flow easily through your plumbing system.
  • Propylene glycol. This is the sweet-smelling ingredient that helps to keep things moist. It’s also used in some food products and cosmetics. Its function in RV antifreeze is to lower the freezing point.
  • Ethylene glycol. This is the toxic ingredient that is found in automotive antifreeze. It’s incredibly harmful to humans and animals and can be fatal in small quantities. For antifreeze purposes, it lowers the freezing point even further.
  • Sodium chloride. This is table salt and it’s added to RV antifreeze to raise the boiling point.
  • Sodium hydroxide. This is a strong base that’s added to RV antifreeze to raise the pH. This helps to prevent corrosion in your plumbing system.
  • Potassium hydroxide. This is another strong base that’s added to RV antifreeze to raise the pH. It also helps to prevent corrosion.
  • Dyes. The dyes are added for identification purposes. Different manufacturers use different color dyes, so it’s easy to tell which product is which.

While the exact toxicity of RV antifreeze depends on the ingredients, the amount ingested, and the size of the person or animal, it’s not something you should make a habit of drinking!

Types of RV Antifreeze

There are plenty of RV antifreeze products on the market and they all claim to be the best. However, not all RV antifreeze products are created equal. In fact, some of them are actually more toxic than others.

The most common type of RV antifreeze is the propylene glycol-based antifreeze. This is the kind that is most commonly used because it’s less toxic than ethylene glycol-based antifreeze.

However, it’s still quite toxic and should be kept away from children and pets.

There is also a newer type of RV antifreeze on the market that is made from biodegradable glycerin. This type of antifreeze is considered to be much safer for the environment and for human and animal consumption.

However, it’s important to note that this type of antifreeze is still quite toxic to animals and should be kept away from them.

Ethanol Antifreeze

If you’ve heard the term “ethanol” before, it’s probably because you know it goes by another name – alcohol.

And if you’ve ever tried to put alcohol in the freezer, you know that higher concentrations of the stuff don’t freeze – at least not quickly or easily.

That’s why ethanol RV antifreeze works so well. However, this type of antifreeze is also extremely volatile. It might work, but it’s flammable, which puts your RV at risk.

Oh, and another thing – you know how drinking alcohol dehydrates you? The same goes for your rubber seals and gaskets when mixed with ethanol antifreeze.

You will dry these out much more quickly using this type of antifreeze than others.

And, of course, as mentioned before, its level of toxicity isn’t great in general. Come springtime, you’ll want to flush your tanks and lines with fresh water to get rid of any residual ethanol.

Propylene Glycol Antifreeze

Not only is this type of antifreeze non-toxic, but it actually acts as a lubricant for your gaskets and seals. It’s also a lot less flammable than ethanol antifreeze, so it’s a safer choice overall.

The downside to propylene glycol antifreeze is that it doesn’t work as well in extremely cold temperatures. It has a higher freezing point than ethanol, which means it won’t be as effective in very cold weather.

Another thing RVers on a budget might not like is that it’s a bit more expensive to purchase. While the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, some people still prefer not to spend this much to winterize their camper.

It’s also important to note that this type of antifreeze can cause skin irritation in some people. If you have sensitive skin, you might want to consider another type of antifreeze.

Ethanol/Propylene Glycol Blend Antifreeze

This type of antifreeze is a mix of the two most common types of RV antifreeze – ethanol and propylene glycol. This gives you the best of both worlds like a lower freezing temperature with lubricating action!

The advantage of this type of antifreeze is that it’s less likely to cause skin irritation than pure propylene glycol. It’s also more effective in very cold temperatures than pure propylene glycol.

Another thing to consider is that this type of antifreeze may be non-toxic, or it may not. It’s important to check the ingredients thoroughly because its toxicity will depend on the proportions of the blend.

Can You Get Non-Toxic RV Antifreeze?

There are some non-toxic RV antifreeze products on the market that don’t contain ethanol. These products are made with propylene glycol and they are safe for humans and animals to ingest in smaller amounts.

However, these products are also more expensive than traditional RV antifreeze and some people choose not to spend this amount of money to winterize their RV.

What Is RV Antifreeze Used For?

RV antifreeze is used to winterize your camper when you are done using it for the season. This is because RV antifreeze has a very low freezing point and will keep your plumbing from freezing over during the winter months.

Camco RV Antifreeze Concentrate

One of the most popular RV antifreeze products on the market is Camco’s RV Antifreeze Concentrate. Camco makes all kinds of camping products and most RVers trust their products.

This particular product is non-toxic and extremely user-friendly. Most people find that they can winterize their camper themselves by just mixing this antifreeze concentrate and water.

SPLASH RV/Marine Antifreeze

There are both good things and bad things about this particular product. The good thing is it’s incredibly cheap. The bad news is that it’s not safe for consumption.

If you have pets or small children, you will want to be very careful with this product because it is toxic. However, if you’re on a budget and don’t mind being extra careful, this could be a good option for you.

Is RV And Automotive Antifreeze The Same?

No, RV antifreeze is not the same as automotive antifreeze. Automotive antifreeze is much more concentrated and contains a higher percentage of ethylene glycol, which is incredibly toxic to humans and animals.

The reason automotive antifreeze is more concentrated is because it needs to be able to withstand a wider range of temperatures.

RV antifreeze only needs to be effective down to about -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Automotive antifreeze has to withstand cold temperatures in addition to the incredibly hot temperatures of a running engine.

A car may sit outside in the winter months, which means the antifreeze has to withstand negative temperatures, but when the car is running, it has to be able to withstand temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Antifreeze For Motorhomes and Other Trailers

Because RV and automotive antifreeze are different, you may have already guessed that if you drive a motorhome, you’re going to need two different types of antifreeze.

One of those goes in your motor and the other goes in your plumbing.

The type that goes in your plumbing is the same type of antifreeze that you would use in a fifth wheel, travel trailer, or another type of camper while the kind that goes in your motor is the same type that would go in a car or truck.

Is RV Antifreeze Toxic To Animals

RV dog

Yes, RV antifreeze is toxic to animals. The main ingredient in RV antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is incredibly toxic to both humans and animals. In fact, just a few teaspoons of ethylene glycol can be fatal for a small dog or cat.

Because dogs and cats are smaller than humans, it takes even less of this substance to harm them than it would a person.

Make sure you never dump your RV antifreeze onto the ground where animals can get to it, and flush your tanks thoroughly before filling up your pet’s drinking water bowl.

Is RV Antifreeze Safe To Drink?

You should never drink RV antifreeze. While this may seem obvious, some people wonder about getting their tanks flushed completely before hooking up to a water source and using them.

Even if you do manage to completely flush your tanks and lines, there is still a chance that some RV antifreeze could be left behind.

And, since RV antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is incredibly toxic, it’s just not worth the risk.

It’s incredibly important that once you dump your tanks and get hooked up to a water source, you flush your lines thoroughly with fresh water.

This will ensure that any RV antifreeze that may be left behind is diluted and won’t be harmful.

Is RV Antifreeze Safe To Dump On The Ground?

It’s not ecologically or environmentally responsible to dump your RV antifreeze on the ground. RV antifreeze can contaminate the soil and water, which can be harmful to plants and animals.

If you are going to dispose of your RV antifreeze, the best way to do it is to take it to a local hazardous waste disposal facility. This way, you know it will be disposed of properly and won’t harm the environment.

Related: Here’s how much antifreeze you really need.

Conclusion 

RV antifreeze is a toxic substance that can be harmful to both humans and animals. If you have pets or children, it’s probably best to just avoid using RV antifreeze altogether.

There are other ways to winterize your camper that don’t involve using a toxic substance.

If you do decide to use RV antifreeze, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and always keep it out of reach of children and pets.

Madeline Cooper
Latest posts by Madeline Cooper (see all)