Is RV antifreeze toxic? How much RV antifreeze do I need? and what is the best RV antifreeze in the market? Click to learn more.
Winterizing your RV properly is essential, especially if you plan to park your RV in a climate that gets really cold. While proper RV insulation and the perfect RV cover can protect your RV from the outside, the functioning parts of the rig need a little more TLC. RV antifreeze is a popular product used to treat RV holding tanks and plumbing systems to protect them from the cold.
But how do you add antifreeze to your holding tanks? Will it harm your pipes? and is it safe to use in your freshwater tanks? Read on to learn more.
Table of Contents
What is RV Antifreeze?
Antifreeze is a combination of different chemicals that together help lower the freezing point of water, causing it to expand less quickly in sub-freezing temperatures. Using antifreeze to winterize RV holding tanks protects the plumbing system of your RV from getting damaged in colder winter months. The antifreeze replaces the water in the plumbing system keeping it safe from freezing and getting damaged from the cold. Antifreeze is essentially a combination of different alcohols, the three main types of antifreeze you will find in the market include:
Propylene Glycol RV Antifreeze
Ethylene Glycol Antifreeze
How is RV Antifreeze Different from Regular Antifreeze?
As mentioned above, there are three main types of antifreeze you will find in the market. Of these three types, Ethanol antifreeze and Propylene Glycol antifreeze are the two types of antifreeze that are safe to use in RV holding tanks. Ethylene Glycol antifreeze, also known as 'automotive antifreeze', is only safe to use in car engines and is not suitable for RV holding tanks. This is because it is highly toxic and dangerous to ingest, inhale, and touch. It also causes damage to the rubber seals and plastic casings of RV holding tanks.
What Type of Antifreeze can you put in your RV Holding Tanks?
You can use both Ethanol antifreeze and Propylene Glycol antifreeze in your RV holding tanks. Ethanol antifreeze is a non-toxic RV antifreeze but when used in a higher concentration it can kill the good bacteria that break down the waste in your black water tank. It can also harm the rubber seals by making them by drying them out. A good way to remedy this is diluting RV antifreeze in water so that it isn't as concentrated.
Propylene Glycol based antifreeze products are the safest option when it comes to RV winterization. They are non-toxic and safe for both living beings and the environment. They don't harm the good bacteria in your tanks or the rubber seals. However, you need to keep topping up the antifreeze in your holding tanks regularly when using Propylene Glycol antifreeze since the good bacteria in your tanks can start feeding on it over time.
How Much Antifreeze to Put in Holding Tanks?
The amount of antifreeze you need to put in your RV holding tanks depends on the size of the holding tanks and the RV. Generally, you will need anywhere between 2 to 5 gallons of RV antifreeze to properly winterize RV holding tanks. Non-toxic RV antifreeze concentrate is usually sold by the gallon so you can buy RV antifreeze in bulk and be set for the winter.
How to Pump Antifreeze into Your RV Plumbing System?
Once you have enough antifreeze for RV tanks, it is time to pump it into your RV plumbing system. Here is how to do that:
Step 1: Drain the RV Plumbing System
An RV plumbing system consists of all pipes, valves, faucets, and/or pumps in your RV. Before you can pour antifreeze into the RV plumbing system, you need to make sure all water has been drained out of the system. There are two ways to do this:
Open All Outlets of Water: You can drain water from your plumbing system by opening all outlets of water in your RV including kitchen and bathroom faucets to drain the fresh water tank. Connect the black and grey water tanks to a dumping station via drain pipe, open the valve on the tanks and drain them completely. Drain the water heater by following the instructions in the user's manual.
Use Compressed Air to Drain Water: To use compressed air to empty RV holding tanks, first drain all three tanks manually by opening all outlets of water and letting them run till empty. Then, connect a blow-out plug to a water inlet (not freshwater) and attach an air compressor to the plug with a hose. Set the air compressor to 30 psi or lesser pressure and drain the RV.
Step 2: Pump RV Antifreeze into the Plumbing System
There are a few ways to add antifreeze to your RV, here is the best one:
Note: You need to bypass your RV water heater before you start pumping antifreeze into the plumbing system. To do this use the pre-installed RV water heater bypass kit, if your RV doesn't have one, then buy one. This is an important step because if you don't bypass the water heater any antifreeze you add will first fill up the water heater which will cost you a lot of antifreeze and money.
Buy a water pump conversion kit for adding antifreeze to your RV.
Connect the RV water pump antifreeze hose to the city water inlet on your RV.
Connect the intake siphon on the pump to the RV antifreeze bottle.
Turn on your 12-volt RV antifreeze pump to pressurize the system and pump RV antifreeze into the water lines.
Open the faucet closest to the pump and let it run until you see pink antifreeze come out of it. Close that faucet and open the next one.
Repeat this process for all faucets and valves in your rig.
Fill the toilet bowl with antifreeze and flush it to get antifreeze into your black and grey water tanks.
Also, pour a little amount of antifreeze down each drain in your RV.
How to get Antifreeze out of my RV?
You can drain all antifreeze out of your RV when de-winterizing it by running clean water through your entire plumbing system. Connect your RV to a water inlet and let the water flow through every inch of your plumbing system. Open all faucets and valves and let the clean water run through until you don't see any pink antifreeze coming out anymore. Flush the toilet with clean water until it clears off all pink color.
How to choose the best RV Antifreeze in the market?
RV antifreeze is only as good as its quality. Here are some considerations you should keep in mind when looking for the best RV antifreeze for your rig:
Temperature Rating: RV antifreeze comes with a temperature or burst rating of -50 degrees Fahrenheit and above. While a basic temperature rating of -50F is good enough for keeping your RV pipes safe in cold weather, choose antifreeze with a -100F rating if you're planning to park your RV in frigid climates.
Safety: Choose an antifreeze product that is non-toxic and safe to use in your freshwater tank as well. Propylene-Glycol-based antifreeze is both eco-friendly and FDA-approved. Ethanol-based RV antifreeze is flammable and can be dangerous.
Concentration: RV antifreeze is available as both a concentrated and pre-diluted solution. Concentrated RV antifreeze is cheaper and has a longer shelf life. However, you have to dilute it yourself which can be tricky and dangerous. Pre-diluted RV antifreeze comes ready to use but doesn't have a longer shelf life.
Compatibility: RV antifreeze is specially designed for RV holding tanks and pipes. Make sure you buy antifreeze that is RV-safe, otherwise you run the risk of damaged pipes.
Additives: There are different kinds of RV antifreeze formulas available in the market. Choose ones that come with beneficial additives like rust or corrosion inhibitors and lubrication additives to help preserve RV pipes and rubber seals.
Color: Normally, RV antifreeze comes in the form of a pink-colored liquid. However, you can find uncolored ones as well. We would recommend getting a colored RV antifreeze so it is easy to detect.
Price: You can find RV antifreeze ranging from $30 to $50 and up in price. Ethanol-based or propylene-ethanol antifreeze is cheaper and you can find ones that cost less than $30 as well. Propylene-glycol-based antifreeze that is safe for your drinking water system normally costs between $30 to $50 depending on the formula and additives. There are RV antifreeze bundles that cost over $50 that are suitable for anyone who wants to buy RV antifreeze in bulk.
Top 5 RV Antifreeze Brands
Is RV antifreeze toxic?
Propylene Glycol RV antifreeze and Ethanol RV antifreeze are not toxic and can be easily used to winterize your RV plumbing system.
Blowing out RV water lines vs antifreeze, which is better?
Blowing out water lines is a method that helps remove all water from your RV plumbing system when storing it for the winter. While this process may be enough to keep your RV holding tanks safe in climates that are not that cold, RV antifreeze is recommended when winterizing your RV for colder climates.
Can you winterize RV without antifreeze?
Technically yes, you can winterize your RV without antifreeze as well. However, if you are planning to park your RV in a place that gets really cold, antifreeze can help keep your holding tanks, pipes, and valves safe and crack-free.
Is RV antifreeze safe to drink?
Any kind of antifreeze is not safe to drink out of the bottle. When de-winterizing your RV, make sure you get all the antifreeze completely out of the plumbing system before using the water. Propylene glycol-based antifreeze is safe and will not harm you if traces of it are consumed accidentally diluted in water.
Is RV antifreeze toxic to animals?
Propylene glycol antifreeze is not toxic to animals but read the instructions and cautions on the antifreeze bottle carefully before using it.
Will RV antifreeze harm a septic system?
No, the antifreeze you use for your holding tanks will not damage your RV septic system. Both concentrated and diluted RV antifreeze contains enough water that the damaging effects of alcohol and chemicals are minimized. Just make sure to empty the black and grey water tanks of your RV completely when de-winterizing your RV to get the antifreeze out of the septic system.
Will RV antifreeze thaw frozen pipes?
No, the antifreeze will not thaw frozen pipes. The purpose of antifreeze is to keep your RV pipes from getting frozen and damaged by lowering the freezing point of water. However, once the pipes are frozen already, antifreeze cannot unfreeze them.
How long is RV antifreeze good for? Does RV antifreeze expire?
If stored in an unopened bottle, RV antifreeze can last ages. Once opened, antifreeze can remain effective for 1-5 years provided it stays in its original packaging and is sealed properly.
Can I reuse RV antifreeze?
Yes, concentrated RV antifreeze can be reused. You can use an air blower to get all the antifreeze out of your holding tanks when de-winterizing and then store the antifreeze for use later. But keep in mind, any antifreeze that has been diluted in water cannot be reused.
How to get rid of RV antifreeze smell?
You can remove the antifreeze smell and taste from your RV plumbing system by flushing it at least 5 times with fresh water when de-winterizing. If the smell still persists, add some baking powder down each drain and run a cycle of hot water through the system. Alternatively, you can also use vinegar and do the same process to get rid of the antifreeze smell.