Antifreeze is a compound in engine coolant that mixes with water to keep the engine temperature level, especially in extreme weather conditions. It reduces the freezing temperature of water while increasing its boiling point. As outside temperatures fluctuate toward extreme heat or cold, coolant is pumped throughout the engine to stabilize its temperature. It also prevents corrosion when kept at ideal levels in your car’s tank.
You should check your antifreeze levels at least twice a year, just before hot and cold seasons, as well as when your vehicle’s owner’s manual prescribes it. However, even if the levels in the coolant tank remain constant, it may need to be changed. Antifreeze can turn acidic over time and actually contribute to corrosion, damaging other parts of your car’s cooling system.
Antifreeze mixes with water, but it also contains chemicals like ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and methanol. Ingesting a small amount is poisonous to humans and animals; pets are particularly attracted to its scent. To safely dispose of old or used antifreeze, keep these rules in mind:
Do not pour used antifreeze down the drain.
Animals can still access where the liquid flows through a storm drain and drink it because it smells and tastes sweet. It should also not be placed in a septic system.
Antifreeze contains glycol, which is toxic to humans and animals in certain doses. The two types of antifreeze are:
Ethylene Glycol Antifreeze: Ethylene Glycol is a toxic material associated with birth defects, reproductive harm, or even death if ingested. It should be handled with care, as its sweet smell and taste make it attractive to pets and young children.
Propylene Glycol Antifreeze: Significantly less toxic than ethylene glycol, propylene glycol antifreeze is still harmful if ingested in large quantities. Small, accidental doses are rarely lethal, but it is recommended to keep them out of the reach of children and pets.
Don’t pour your antifreeze outside on the ground.
If it spills outside, follow these 6 steps:
- Put on protective gloves and wear a mask to avoid breathing in the odor.
- Cover the spill with an absorbent material such as baking soda, kitty litter, or sand.
- Cover the materials with paper towels and let it sit for no more than three hours.
- Clean the material and paper towels with dry paper towels and throw everything away. Make sure to seal the bag and wash your hands well.
- Wash the area with soap and water. Rinse the remaining stains with more water.
- Let the wet stain air dry as much as possible or cover with newspaper or paper towels.
Take your old, used, or contaminated antifreeze to a local recycling center, service station, or auto parts store.
Although there are no EPA regulations, different service shops may be willing to accept, treat, and completely dispose of antifreeze, motor oil, and other used oils. After finding a download location, follow these 3 recommendations for proper disposal:
- Make sure contaminated and just plain old antifreeze is separated and stored separately. They require different disposal treatments – Contaminated antifreeze can contain heavy metals and is considered a hazardous waste, so only that type of installation will accept it.
- Take the substance to the appropriate disposal facility or hire a commercial waste hauler to collect the antifreeze for you.
- Some locations will have coolant recycling machines that remove the glycol from the old coolant and, with an additive, can make it reusable. However, this process requires that the antifreeze is not contaminated with oils or other materials, otherwise it will not work.