Can RV antifreeze be dumped on the ground?
Three types of RV antifreeze are used for ‘Winterizing’ gray and black storage tanks and lines. All three of the non-toxic RV antifreeze are not recommended for dumping on the ground. Even though these are considered non-toxic, there are perfectly rational reasons why you should never dump them. The only accepted place should be at a septic tank container dumping station. Here are the exact reasons why:
The difference between auto antifreeze and RV antifreeze
For the sheer sake of clarifying the safety of defining antifreeze, auto antifreeze is very different than RV antifreeze. Automotive antifreeze is only used for engines and is very toxic for the environment. You don’t ever want to use auto antifreeze in your RV tank or connecting hoses for Winterizing. This is why there are special RV antifreeze products that are non-toxic.
This is not to say that they are all alike since they all contain various alcohol or ethanol additives. Depending on the weather your RV experiences, different blends provide higher freezing points within your tanks and connecting lines. Then again, some antifreeze brands will be better suited for rubber hoses and PVC connections. So, can RV antifreeze be dumped on the ground, let’s find out?
· Alcohol and ethanol-based RV antifreeze
This type of RV antifreeze is commonly found at all the local stores including Walmart and hardware stores. It’s often cheap to buy and a jug of this stuff is enough to last a full season. The problem starts with the alcohol that can attack rubber gaskets and seals. It soaks in ad dries them out which can lead to cracks. Did I mention that it’s flammable too?
This is a big problem for toilet gaskets and even pipe fittings that use rubber gaskets. Even gaskets made from PVC (polyvinyl-chloride) can be broken down and become damaged by this type of antifreeze. It also makes water taste bad and smell terrible if it has leached into your rubber gaskets or it wasn’t properly flushed-out when cleaning all the lines.
· Propylene ethanol-based RV antifreeze
This product is a bit better because it contains propylene and is non-toxic. But sadly this is also flammable, so you need to be careful as well. Many versions that are sold in stores will have a rating on what the freezing point is rated at -50 Fahrenheit. The problem with this is that gelling or freezing can occur at 10-20F so that minus 50 is describing the bursting point.
There is still a problem with using ethanol since this type of alcohol will dry out gaskets. It also will leave similar bad tastes and smells if you use it to Winterize your freshwater lines. Not that you ever want to have this problem, putting RV antifreeze in your freshwater is simply a bad idea to start with!
· Propylene glycol-based RV antifreeze
And here we have the undisputed winner that is found more often through RV supply and shops. Propylene glycol in RV antifreeze is a non-flammable material and by itself is used as a food and drug additive. That doesn’t mean you should start drinking it, but it provides the best solution for not damaging your PVC hose lines and rubber gaskets.
It’s often praised that it helps promote longer gasket life on rubber seals and doesn’t leave water lines smelling or tasting foul as a result. But just like the others, it should be disposed of properly and not drained onto the ground. Can RV antifreeze be dumped on the ground when it comes to seasonal flushing? Let’s find out.
Is RV antifreeze harmful to the environment?
In a simple answer that should be cause for being environmentally aware of what these antifreeze liquids can do. Both alcohol and ethanol are bad to pour onto the ground. It can poison water supplies (despite the non-toxic nature of the alcohol) but are damaging for plants and animals.
It takes time for alcohol to evaporate if it goes into the soil and is worse for draining into water supplies. Alcohol is not easy to remove chemically from sewage drain water and creates a danger for combustion or explosions. Just as swamp gas is just as deadly, sewer gas with high amounts of alcohol or ethanol is asking for trouble.
Any antifreeze with propylene glycol is equally damaging since it can kill grass and damage plant life. It should always be drained into containers that are meant for storing septic tank waste. There are many claims that these three types of antifreeze dumping are safe. There are however MSDS sheets that tell a different story of possible hazards. [1, 2]
Why is this antifreeze harmful to animals and plants?
Any kind of RV antifreeze is not safe for animals, fish, plants, and especially people. It’s meant to prevent freezing inside RV water lines and tanks. It’s been proven that Propylene glycol-based antifreeze damages plants and causes color loss in beans and corn. These are liquids that cause health problems for animals that come into contact with poisoned soil.
Fish and aquatic life are especially at risk since these antifreeze compounds mix readily with water. It causes them to die because of the alcohol and propylene glycol that is added. It’s also a poor excuse for disposing of gray and black tank water that can also have various bacteria elements.
What to do with dumped RV antifreeze?
Anything that is drained and collected should immediately be stored in a plastic storage container made from polyethylene. These can then be sealed and transported to a proper dumpsite where these are allowed. If there’s a septic tank dumpsite, this process is a bit easier since most RV sites offer dumping service.
For those who are beginning to flush out their winterized tanks, the excess antifreeze that’s purged shouldn’t go into sewers. It’s also prohibited in many states to dump waste tanks near public water supplies or in national parks. Unless these so-called non-toxic antifreeze liquids are properly contained, they are considered a hazardous waste material.
Which is better for rubber gaskets and seals?
Using the propylene glycol RV antifreeze is the best to use if your RV uses rubber gaskets. It also helps form a coating on the inside of connecting hoses that help preserve PVC gaskets and hoses. These can be flushed using a variety of techniques with either some hot, warm, or cold water. So, can RV antifreeze be dumped on the ground in special cases when flushing-out propylene glycol-based antifreeze?
Some RV owners will also use compressed air to further flush their lines to wash-out the excess antifreeze. But it’s still not advised that these are diluted further with extra water. Just because this type of RV antifreeze cannot be smelled or tasted, this doesn’t mean there is less concern. If there is minute residue it still soaks into the soil either way.
Most people prefer to look at the flushed water to see that the color is totally clear. This can only be done when filling up polyethylene containers to see the true color otherwise.
- Essential RV Winterizing Kit: 10 piece kit contains all the products you need to prepare your RV for winter storage
- Winterize Your RV's Plumbing: The Premium Ban Frost 2000 antifreeze concentrate, blow out plug and hand pump kit help winterize your RV's plumbing
- Keeps Your RV Smelling Fresh: Mini dehumidifier, refillable dehumidifier moisture absorber, hanging dehumidifier and fridge door stay help keep your RV smelling fresh while closed up for storage
- http://chemicalspec.com/Winter_Care_4060_RV_Antifreeze.pdf 
- http://s7d9.scene7.com/is/content/GenuinePartsCompany/1247791pdf 
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Last update on 2020-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API