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How to Dispose of Antifreeze

Antifreeze spilled on the ground next to a car tire

Antifreeze is also known as coolant, and it plays a vital role in your car’s performance. In frigid weather, this liquid keeps the water in your car’s radiator and engine from turning to ice. On the hottest summer days, antifreeze helps prevent the water that keeps the radiator and engine running from boiling over.

Changing your antifreeze every 30,000 to 60,000 miles is essential to maintaining your vehicle. Since antifreeze is toxic, it’s important to know how to dispose of antifreeze safely, so that it won’t harm you, your pets or the environment.

Why Is Antifreeze Toxic?Pouring antifreeze

Antifreeze is toxic because it contains glycol, a chemical that can be harmful to both humans and animals. There are two types of antifreeze, and they differ in their toxicity:

  • Ethylene Glycol Antifreeze: By far, this is the more toxic of the two types of antifreeze commonly sold today. It contains ethylene glycol, a chemical which, if ingested, can cause damage to the brain, liver, lungs and kidneys. This can ultimately lead to organ failure or death if left untreated. Ethylene glycol can also cause birth defects, and it can harm the reproductive system. Making matters worse is the fact that this type of antifreeze has a sweet odor and taste that can make it appealing to pets and small children.
  • Propylene Glycol Antifreeze: This type of antifreeze substitutes the previously mentioned ethylene glycol component in antifreeze for a different component called propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is a lot less poisonous than ethylene glycol, but it still needs to be handled with care. It can cause harm if it’s ingested in large quantities.

Tips for Safe Antifreeze Disposal

Here are some tips for safe antifreeze disposal:

  1. Check to see whether your antifreeze is used, diluted or unused/undiluted. The disposal practices for used, diluted and unused/undiluted antifreeze are different. Antifreeze that’s used and/or diluted may contain heavy metals, and it needs to be handled separately.
  2. Use a large drain pan to flush coolant from your car. First, put on gloves to help prevent the antifreeze from making direct contact with your skin. Place a drain pan underneath the car’s drain plugs to collect the antifreeze. Choose a large drain pan — a sizable container will help to ensure that the antifreeze is collected without spills.
  3. Transfer the coolant to a safe, sealable container. The antifreeze needs to be packaged securely during the trip to the disposal facility. To avoid spills, antifreeze should be stored in a safe, sealable container.
  4. Dispose of your antifreeze at a service station, recycling center or auto parts shop. Many service stations, recycling centers and auto parts shops will get rid of antifreeze, and they’re the safest means of disposal. As mentioned, used and diluted antifreeze have different disposal requirements from unused and undiluted antifreeze. Call ahead or check online beforehand to make sure the facility you’ve chosen accepts the type of antifreeze you want to get rid of.
  5. Never pour your antifreeze down the drain or outside on the ground. Since this liquid is toxic, it can cause harm to people and animals that may come in contact with it if it’s poured outside or down a drain.

Antifreeze is essential to preventing your car’s engine from freezing or overheating, and it needs to be handled with care. These tips will help make sure your interactions with antifreeze are safe.

Check out all the antifreeze and coolant products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to dispose of antifreeze, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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