Is RV Antifreeze Toxic?

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If you’ve ever seen a hint of pink in your RV faucet water, you’ve probably wondered “Is RV antifreeze toxic?”

You’ll be relieved to learn that RV antifreeze is made up of different ingredients than regular antifreeze. Not only is it engineered to be non-toxic, but it also helps protect the various plumbing components within your rig.

RV antifreeze is the only product you should ever use to winterize the plumbing in your RV. Although RV antifreeze is not toxic to people, it’s important to understand how to properly handle it.

While this “pink stuff” is the best for plumbing it can cause serious damage to other elements of your rig. It’s also important to note that RV antifreeze can still be toxic to animals, especially in large quantities. Similarly, it can have a harmful effect on vegetation.

Although RV antifreeze is considered non-toxic, you must always dispose of it properly. Take care to clean up any spills. By understanding how and where to use RV antifreeze you can avoid damage to animal and plant life, as well as to your RV.

Read on to learn all the ins and outs of RV antifreeze.

What Is RV Antifreeze?

The purpose of RV Antifreeze is to protect your RV’s plumbing system. In cold weather, any residual water left in your RV is at risk of freezing, expanding, and damaging your RV.

RV Antifreeze prevents this freezing and expansion and is an important component of proper winterization.

Just as it can be challenging to remove all water from your RV, removing all antifreeze can also be tricky. RV antifreeze is non-toxic because often residual amounts will be left behind in freshwater holding tanks and faucets.

Even if you don’t live in a colder climate, it’s a good idea to add RV antifreeze to your lines anytime you’ll be storing your rig for an extended amount of time. Doing so will help to keep your plumbing in good working order.

RV antifreeze is one of the most essential components of proper RV maintenance.

What’s The Difference Between RV Antifreeze And Automotive Antifreeze?

What's The Difference Between RV Antifreeze And Automotive Antifreeze

RV Antifreeze isn’t toxic, while automotive antifreeze is highly toxic. Fortunately, it is easy to tell the difference. 

RV antifreeze is typically pink and commonly referred to as “the pink stuff.” On the flip side, automotive antifreeze is usually green and alternately known as engine coolant. 

The active ingredient in RV Antifreeze, propylene glycol, has been acknowledged by the FDA and CDC as safe. In fact, it’s even a common component in food preservatives. 

Propylene glycol has the added benefit of acting as a lubricant for your RV’s plumbing. It prevents PEX plumbing, seals, and other aspects of your RV plumbing system from drying out.

On the other hand, automotive antifreeze is highly toxic if ingested. What’s worse, the active ingredient, ethylene glycol, has a naturally sweet taste. This sweetness makes traditional antifreeze especially dangerous for children and pets who may be drawn to it.

Fortunately, industry regulations now require manufacturers to add a bittering agent to ethylene glycol-based products to help prevent accidental ingestion.

RV antifreeze may not be toxic and is the appropriate choice for your RV’s plumbing. But automotive antifreeze has its application. Never use RV antifreeze in the engine of your motorhome.

It can’t withstand the heat and will burn up. Motorhome owners should keep extra of both the pink and the green stuff on hand as they are not interchangeable.

Accidental poisoning is possible if traditional antifreeze is used in your plumbing. Damage to your motor is likely if RV antifreeze is used in your engine. That’s why it’s crucial to differentiate between RV antifreeze and automotive antifreeze.

Is RV Antifreeze Toxic?

No, RV Antifreeze isn’t toxic. It’s designed specifically for RV plumbing with the understanding that residual amounts may be left behind even after a camper is de-winterized.

You may still want to remove undesirable RV antifreeze taste or smell from your camper. But don’t panic if you feel some of the pink stuff has been left behind in your plumbing. Propylene glycol-based RV antifreeze is not toxic, and accidental ingestion shouldn’t hurt you.

Final Thoughts If RV Antifreeze Is Toxic

Is RV Antifreeze Toxic to Animals and Pets?

Although significantly less dangerous than ingesting traditional antifreeze, RV antifreeze can be toxic to animals and pets.

Cats are especially prone to kidney and nervous system problems if they ingest even a small quantity of RV antifreeze. Dogs can also be harmed by ingesting larger quantities of RV antifreeze.

This is especially concerning when we consider how a pet might come in contact with RV antifreeze. Humans may encounter small residual quantities of RV antifreeze from tap water within their rig. Animals, on the other hand, are far more likely to come across RV antifreeze that has been spilled or improperly dumped.

This means that if your furry friend has come across RV antifreeze, it’s likely that they’ve consumed a larger quantity than could ever be left as a residual in your RV’s plumbing.

Large amounts of any chemical ingestion can be very dangerous. If you suspect your pet has taken a drink of antifreeze, even if it’s the less toxic RV antifreeze, it’s best to call your veterinarian immediately.

Dog outside a RV at a campground

How Do I Get Antifreeze Into My RV Water Lines?

There are two methods to get RV antifreeze into your RV’s water lines. The first is to use an external hand pump and the second is to use your RV’s internal water pump. 

Both methods are similar, but if you go with the latter you’ll need to make sure that your pump has a bypass kit. This will allow you to pump from an antifreeze bottle and not from your freshwater tank.

It’s a two-step process that requires first removing as much water as possible from the system and then adding RV antifreeze.

Draining The Water From Your RV

Regardless of which method you use, the first step is to drain all the water from your rig.

Blowing out the system is the best way to do this. This method requires compressed to be blown into the city water inlet on your RV and through the water lines. Water line to airline adaptors are available to make the job easier.

If you’re unable to do that, open the low-point drain then flush the toilet and run the faucets and showers until there is no more water coming out. Also, be sure to dump and flush both your gray and black water tanks.

Once you have as much water as possible removed from your RV’s system, make sure you engage the bypass on your hot water heater.

Next, it’s time to make sure each of your tanks and all of your plumbing traps are protected from the cold with RV antifreeze. 

Adding Antifreeze To The System

To move RV antifreeze through your RV water lines, attach the intake siphon on a hand pump or on the water pump bypass valve to the RV antifreeze bottle. (Each bypass valve may be a little different, so consult your owner’s manual for specifics.)

Start with all faucets closed. Then open the hot side of the highest faucet, this is usually in the kitchen or the shower. Watch for the water to run pink.

Close the hot water side and open the cold water side and wait once again for the water to run pink before shutting off that faucet and moving on to the next. Repeat this step with all of the faucets, as well as the inside and outside shower. 

You’ll also want to pour RV antifreeze in the shower and toilet, be sure to flush once, so the antifreeze makes it into the traps. This will also ensure that you are protecting your black and gray water tanks with RV antifreeze.

Use a funnel to add RV antifreeze to your freshwater tank as well. It’s important that RV antifreeze is present throughout your RV’s plumbing as every piece is susceptible to damage from freezing temperatures if not properly protected.

How Much Antifreeze Do I Need?

In order to properly winterize your RV, you’ll need to know how much non-toxic RV antifreeze you need. Of course, the answer to this depends on the size of your rig.

In particular, the number of bathrooms, sinks, and holding tanks should influence the quantity of antifreeze that you use. As a general rule, most RVs will require 2-3 gallons of RV antifreeze.

Should You Put Antifreeze In Your RV Water Heater?

Although RV antifreeze is not toxic, you still don’t want to put it in your hot water heater. This is because antifreeze can eat away at the inner layer of the hot water heater and cause damage to the anode.  

Exceptionally old hot water heaters may be immune to this problem. But unless you have a 1980s or older hot water heater it’s best to just use a simple bypass system to avoid potential damage to your unit.

It is important to winterize your hot water heater properly in order to avoid damage and costly repairs come springtime.

Where Do You Put RV Antifreeze In An RV?

The purpose of RV antifreeze is to prevent any residual water left behind in your RV’s plumbing from freezing, expanding, and cracking the plumbing in your rig.

That being said, you’ll need to make sure that antifreeze is present in all of the waterlines and in all water tanks. Keep in mind that your water tanks don’t need a lot of antifreeze. Aim for ⅛ of a tank of antifreeze and you should be good to go.

The best way to get antifreeze into the gray and black tanks is to pour antifreeze down each drain. Don’t forget toilets and shower(s).

Where Do You Put RV Antifreeze In An RV

How Do You Properly Dispose of RV Antifreeze?

You can properly dispose of RV antifreeze at most auto stores or auto shops as well as at many RV service centers. You’ll want to call ahead to make sure they offer this service.

It’s also okay to dispose of it at an RV dump station. In fact, we like to book our first trip of the season at a full-hookup site to make de-winterizing our camper and flushing the tanks that much easier. 

You can’t reuse RV antifreeze, so don’t try to save it for next year.

5 FAQs On RV Antifreeze

1. Can I Use RV Antifreeze In My Motorhome Engine?

Don’t ever use RV antifreeze in your motorhome’s engine. Non-toxic RV antifreeze and automotive antifreeze both have their applications.

Automotive antifreeze, also known as engine coolant, is the only product you should be using in your motorhome’s engine. 

Pink RV Antifreeze simply can’t withstand the temperatures an engine puts out and will cause damage to your engine as a result. So while the typically green ethylene glycol-based antifreeze is the toxic version, it’s the only kind of antifreeze that will adequately protect your engine. 

2. What Should I Do If I Ingest RV Antifreeze?

If you accidentally ingest RV antifreeze, there is no need to panic. Propylene glycol, the active ingredient in RV antifreeze, is used in food preservatives and other products we use all the time.

Remember, because of its application, RV antifreeze is specifically formulated to be non-toxic. 

While you still probably don’t want to go drinking a bottle of the pink stuff, any residual RV antifreeze drops left behind in your plumbing lines shouldn’t cause harm to anyone in your family.

3. Is It Okay To Put RV Antifreeze In My Freshwater Tank?

Yes, it’s a good idea to put RV Antifreeze in your freshwater tank. As in your gray and black tanks, cold weather can cause any remaining water left to freeze and crack your freshwater tank. 

Even though this RV antifreeze is not toxic, remember to properly flush it from your freshwater tank to avoid unwanted tastes and smells.

Adding to freshwater tank

4. Is It Safe To Dump On The Ground?

It’s never a good idea to empty any of your RV tanks directly on the ground. Not only will your fellow campers look at your cross-eyed, but you’re likely to incur a hefty fine. Dumping RV antifreeze is no different. 

It can kill vegetation, and in large quantities, it can still be harmful to animals. While spilling a few accidental drops won’t cause any harm, always make an effort to dispose of RV antifreeze properly.

5. Where Can I Buy RV Antifreeze?

RV antifreeze can be a little trickier to find than automotive antifreeze. RV specialty stores will undoubtedly have it, as will gas stations and service centers located near popular camping destinations. 

If you can’t find RV antifreeze for purchase locally, it can always be ordered online.

Is RV Antifreeze Is Toxic?: Final Thoughts

RV antifreeze is not toxic, unlike its traditional green counterpart. This means that when you are de-winterizing your rig, you need not worry about residual amounts of antifreeze being left behind.

You’ll still want to be careful not to spill the pink stuff, as it can be detrimental to plant and animal life in large quantities. Furthermore, it’s important to remember to bypass your RV hot water heater and to avoid using RV antifreeze in your engine. Although RV antifreeze is not toxic, it can cause irreversible damage to these components of your rig.

Overall, RV antifreeze and its non-toxic components make it easier than ever to protect your RV and your family.

Related Reading:

Remove Antifreeze Tast And Smell From RV Water

How To Sanitize Your RV Freshwater Tank

Can You Use Drano In An RV?

How Cold Does It Have To Get Before RV Pipes And Tanks Freeze?

Laura Tyrell – Author and Part Time RVer

Laura is a part-time RVer and a full-time mom of three.  Long-time campers and RVers before children, Laura, and her husband have fallen even more in love with the RV lifestyle since becoming parents to a child with food allergies. 

Having her own kitchen on wheels makes her RV trips amazing. Laura is passionate about finding ways to make traveling with young children fun, easy, and attainable.

Laura Tyrell3

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