Is RV Antifreeze Biodegradable? (Complete Guide)

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Having an RV means you are likely to spend a lot of time outdoors and in nature, and you may want to minimize your negative impact on the environment. The problem is, no matter how cautious you are, you still need to maintain your RV. So, is RV antifreeze biodegradable?

Here’s what I discovered:

As a general rule, most RV antifreeze is biodegradable in addition to being non-toxic. Automotive antifreeze is not biodegradable and is toxic. RV antifreeze is often biodegradable and non-toxic as it gets pumped through the RV’s water lines.

There are a few brands, however, that are only labeled non-toxic and not labeled biodegradable.

The main difference between RV antifreeze and automotive antifreeze is that RV antifreeze is made from propylene glycol compared to auto antifreeze which is ethylene glycol.

Having no impact on the environment is almost impossible for most of us to achieve. However, every little bit helps. The 1st step is understanding how the products that you use impact the ecosystem.

So, let’s jump into the article.

Is RV antifreeze harmful to the environment?

RV antifreeze will not harm the environment if labeled both non-toxic and biodegradable. Those are also generally regarded as safe by the FDA. They are safe to dispose of around children or animals. But it is best disposed of in a sewer or septic drain as opposed to on the ground.

It is important to differentiate between the two main types of antifreeze when it comes to your RV.

You get your general RV antifreeze which gets pumped through your water lines and your holding tanks. You also get automotive antifreeze which is meant for the engines of any motor vehicle.

And then, as I mentioned, a few brands of RV automotive such as Star Brite, are only labeled non-toxic and not labeled biodegradable.

So make sure you know which one you have.

Automotive antifreeze that you use in your RV engine is toxic and is terrible for the environment if not disposed of properly. When you go out and buy antifreeze, whether for your RV’s water lines or the engine, try and look for a non-toxic variant.

There is no way around using antifreeze if you will be traveling in the colder parts of the country during winter.

And that’s even more true if your RV will be parked in a cold part of the country.

And while we advise you to get a non-toxic antifreeze, it is essential to remember, regardless of whether or not it is toxic, treat it as a product that is not good for the environment.

Can you put RV antifreeze down the drain?

As long as the antifreeze being used is RV antifreeze and labeled biodegradable and non-toxic, it is acceptable to pour down the drain of a sink or toilet as those go to a wastewater treatment plant. Do not pour it down a sewer drain which often feeds directly to lakes and streams.

Just make sure to get the right kind of antifreeze.

Some experts say that you can dispose of non-toxic and biodegradable antifreeze down the drain, while others say that you should never do this.

Also, just because something is biodegradable or non-toxic does not necessarily mean that it is good for the environment.

Over time, if everybody disposes of their antifreeze in a sewer drain, it could harm the ecosystem within lakes, and overall, that is terrible for their environment.

But what about using RV antifreeze to protect a septic system?

Luckily, I covered that, step-by-step, in a recent article. What really surprised me was just how little you have to add to keep your system protected when it’s cold outside!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is there an environmentally friendly RV antifreeze?

Several brands of RV antifreeze are both non-toxic and biodegradable, including the brands PolarZone, Camco, and Splash.

CLICK HERE to check out Camco antifreeze on Amazon.

But a lot of products claim that they are “environmentally friendly.” And legally, a claim like that has no regulated meaning. In other words, it doesn’t mean anything and is just a marketing term.

However, some products seem to live up to their bold claims.

Camco RV antifreeze, one of the ones I mentioned, only contains 38% PG and a 2% inhibitor agent. The rest is made up of water that you add to the jug after buying. (that also keeps shipping charges down).

Finally, the solution has a freezing point of -50 degrees Fahrenheit.

When looking for an environmentally friendly antifreeze, you want to look at the ratio of these ingredients. It should always be predominantly water, and the PG volume should be around 36% to 39%.

CLICK HERE to check out Camco antifreeze on Amazon.

Will RV antifreeze hurt grass?

RV antifreeze labeled biodegradable and non-toxic will not hurt grass. Large amounts poured on the ground can be diluted with a garden hose to disperse it more evenly.

Non-biodegradable RV antifreeze could harm grass though.

So, while it most probably won’t do permanent damage to that area of your lawn, you still want to try and get rid of it as quickly as possible by soaking the area well with a hose.

And, definitely, if you spill any automotive coolant that you use in your RV, clean that up immediately.

If you spill even a little bit of automotive antifreeze on your grass, you will be damaging that area of your lawn, and if you spill enough or do not wash it off quickly enough, it could permanently damage the grass.

This is because the chemicals soak into the soil and will hinder any new grass from growing in that area.

Again, whether you have antifreeze that is biodegradable and or whether or not they are toxic, you should not intentionally dump it on your grass.

And try to avoid any spillage as much as you can. 

Don’t just think of your grass but think of everything that lives on your lawn. Some species that you find around your yard are vital to the environment.

No form of antifreeze is good for the species that live on your lawn, so try and avoid harming them with it. At the same time, remember that all species play an essential role within your ecosystem.

How do you dispose of RV antifreeze?

Here is the best way to dispose of your RV antifreeze:

  • Drain your antifreeze into containers (not plastic bags)
  • Make sure that your containers have a lid that completely seals
  • Take the correctly stored antifreeze to a recycling center
  • Or a local auto parts shop
  • Automotive service shops usually have the facilities to dispose of antifreeze safely
  • You can also take antifreeze to your nearest gas station. Not all of them have the facilities to dispose of antifreeze, so you might want to check beforehand
  • Do not dump your antifreeze down the drain or on the lawn
  • Do not throw your antifreeze in the garbage can

As a last resort, if your RV antifreeze is labeled non-toxic and biodegradable, it will work to pour in a septic tank or down the sink or toilet drain.

One last consideration is whether RV antifreeze can catch on fire.

Luckily, I have a recent article on that too, which covers exactly what temperature could cause it to ignite, and how to make sure and store or dispose of it to prevent that from happening.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How to DeWinterize a Travel Trailer - Winnebago Micro Minnie

Final Thoughts

As we discussed, not every brand of RV antifreeze is labeled biodegradable.

However, many of them are, and all are labeled non-toxic. Look for the brands Camco, Splash, or PolarZone to make sure you are getting the safest antifreeze for your RV.

They will not only do the trick when temps get down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (and some go down to -50). But they are more easily disposed of without the risk of harm to plant and animal life.

Of course, RV antifreeze is mostly used for winterizing an RV.

I have written a recent article about winterizing your RV. I discuss everything you need to know but mainly, we talk about how cold it needs to be to warrant winterizing your RV.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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