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RV Antifreeze Facts Cover

Winterizing Your RV with Antifreeze:
7 Facts about RV Antifreeze Every RVer Should Know

When RVers hear that winterizing their rig often involves pumping in RV antifreeze, the reaction is often something along the lines of "Wait, I'm supposed to pour antifreeze where I drink? Is this stuff toxic?"Or maybe you have questions about how much RV antifreeze you should use, or effective it is at low temperatures, or how you should actually, you know, put it in your RV.Every new RVer has questions about RV antifreeze. Below, we've tackled the most common questions we receive. Check out our answers, then head over to our handy winterization guide for a step-by-step walkthrough on winterizing your rig.In this article:
Auto vs RV Antifreeze

Is RV Antifreeze Toxic to Humans?

No—in trace amounts, RV antifreeze (and ONLY RV antifreeze, which is bright pink) won't harm you.RV antifreeze receives the label of "GRAS" (Generally Regarded As Safe) by The Food and Drug Administration and is generally considered safe for potable water systems due to its extremely low toxicity.While we don't recommend quenching your thirst by downing a bottle of pink antifreeze (spring for the pink lemonade instead), as long as you thoroughly flush out your plumbing, trace amounts left over in your pipes won't hurt you.What's Different About RV Antifreeze?The reason RVers question the health risk of using RV antifreeze in their pipes is that automotive antifreeze is highly toxic, of course, and should never be used in your RV plumbing system.What's the difference between these two types of antifreeze? In short, automotive antifreeze contains the toxic chemical ethylene glycol, whereas RV antifreeze is always either ethanol or propylene-glycol based. These chemicals all sound pretty similar, but ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) is a very different and highly toxic substance you don't want anywhere near your RV plumbing. However, the chemicals ethanol and propylene glycol in RV antifreeze can be found in certain food, drink, or medicinal products. As for which type of RV antifreeze you should use, the ethanol type costs less, but it can leave your RV's fresh water with an odd lingering taste and smell. It can also damage your rubber seals and is combustible. Propylene-glycol products cost a bit more, but they are not flammable, they extend the life of your rubber seals, they don't leave behind a gross antifreeze taste, and they are generally considered the safest products for use in RVs.
Antifreeze in RV Compartment

Is RV Antifreeze Toxic to Animals?

Of course, what's safe for humans isn't always safe for our furry friends (this is why, much to my dog's disappointment, I never share my chocolate with her). So is RV antifreeze safe to use if you're bringing pets along?As long as you're very thorough in cleaning the antifreeze from your system (and you keep any open antifreeze containers away from Fido), you should be fine bringing pets along on next spring's camping trip. RV antifreeze is much less toxic than automotive antifreeze is to animals, and the taste is much less appealing to them, so they're less likely to try to drink it.However, in large amounts, propylene glycol (an ingredient in many RV antifreeze products) can cause illness in animals. Cats are particularly susceptible to the effects of propylene glycol.If you are bringing a pet along in your RV, be sure to thoroughly flush out your water lines before allowing your pets to drink from your fresh water system. If you're bringing a cat and you want to be particularly cautious, you can also consider blowing the air from your lines rather than using antifreeze to winterize your system. (Read more about how to do that here.)
How Much RV Antifreeze Infographic

How Much Antifreeze Do I Need to Winterize My RV?

Most RVs require about 2-3 gallons if you fill the pipes and pour the recommended 2 pints (on average) down the drains afterward. However, the exact amount of antifreeze needed depends upon your specific rig.As a general guide, estimate about 2 bottles for rigs under 18' long, 3 bottles for those 18-30' long, and 4 bottles for units over 30' long.NOTE: It's important to bypass your water heater tank when pumping antifreeze into the RV. If you don't, you'll end up wasting gallons of antifreeze filling the tank.
RV Antifreeze Burst Point

Does RV Antifreeze Freeze?

Yes, but you don't really need to worry about antifreeze freezing.The real concern is the antifreeze's burst point, which occurs at a temperature much colder than the chemical's freezing point. Unlike water, antifreeze does not immediately expand and damage your plumbing when it freezes.You'll notice that every bottle of RV antifreeze has a burst rating listed. A common rating is -50 degrees Fahrenheit, although some provide protection up to -100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the point at which your pipes are at risk for damage.
RV Dump Hose

How Do I Dispose of RV Antifreeze?

Many RVers simply dump their antifreeze into their sewer, since RV antifreeze is non-toxic. (Some even dump it right onto the ground, but dumping an entire tank full of this stuff onto your grass can kill it, so we don't recommend it.)The best option is properly disposing of your antifreeze at an RV dump station after flushing it from your pipes and into your gray water tank.

How Do I Put Antifreeze in an RV?

The best way to add antifreeze to your RV's plumbing is to use your water pump to push the antifreeze into the lines. Many RVs are equipped with a siphon hose connected to the pump just for this purpose (check your owner's manual if you're not sure if you have a siphon hose or don't know where it is). If you don't have a built-in siphon, you can easily, affordably install a siphon hose kit yourself.Once your hose is inside your antifreeze bottle, your siphon valve is open, and your fresh water valve is closed, turn on your water pump to pull the antifreeze into your RV.As an alternative, you can also use a hand pump kit to pump antifreeze directly into your city water inlet. The downside here is that pumping antifreeze into your plumbing by hand requires a bit more effort than simply using your water pump and a siphon hose.
How to Pump Antifreeze Into RV
How to Pump Antifreeze Into RV
RV Antifreeze Bottle

Can You Put RV Antifreeze in the Fresh Water Tank?

We advise against putting antifreeze in your fresh water tank. For one thing, it can be difficult to flush the taste and smell of antifreeze from the tank come spring. For another, it's just not necessary—the fresh water tank is big enough that a little frozen water won't expand enough to damage it.It's better to use a winterization pump kit to pump antifreeze into your system without going through the fresh water tank at all.
Amber S.
About Amber S.As a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training classes for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article.At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
Related ContentRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 11/12/20

Phil N.


My coach is fully winterized and all lines from the fresh water tank have been filled with pink RV antifreeze. The fresh water tank has been drained. Does the pink antifreeze act as a disinfectant or do I still need to run a bleach solution through these lines when I sanitize my fresh water tank with bleach. It sure would be easier if I didn't need to run the bleach solution through each of the interior RV fresh water lines! Thanks!

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.


RV antifreeze doesn't contain any sanitizer. After draining the antifreeze out of the system, you'll need to sanitize it separately using a bleach solution. Use 1/4 cup of bleach for every 16 gallons of water.



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