Will Antifreeze Kill Grass?

Yes, antifreeze can be extremely harmful to grass and can potentially kill it. Antifreeze, which is primarily composed of ethylene glycol, is a toxic substance for plants and animals alike. When antifreeze is accidentally spilled on grass or if it leaches into the soil, it can cause severe damage to the grass and its root system. According to this study, the grasses seemed to lose 30 percent of their height after six days of being sprayed with the antifreeze. In the long run, the grass loses growth by up to as much as 80%!

Ethylene glycol is known to inhibit photosynthesis, which is essential for plants to produce energy and grow. When grass is exposed to antifreeze, it disrupts the plant’s ability to convert sunlight into energy, leading to wilting, yellowing, and stunted growth. Moreover, the toxic properties of antifreeze can also penetrate the plant’s tissues, causing irreversible damage.

It’s crucial to note that even small amounts of antifreeze can have adverse effects on grass. Additionally, the risks extend beyond the impact on the grass itself; the toxic chemicals in antifreeze can also contaminate the surrounding soil and water sources, further harming the environment.

If accidental spills occur, immediate action should be taken to mitigate the damage. This includes quickly diluting the antifreeze with water and thoroughly rinsing the affected area to prevent it from seeping further into the soil.

What is antifreeze?

Antifreeze is a liquid substance used in vehicles to regulate the temperature of the engine. It prevents the engine from overheating or freezing, and also lubricates the engine. Antifreeze is typically a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, or other chemicals.

Types of antifreeze

There are two main types of antifreeze:

  • Ethylene glycol antifreeze is the most common type of antifreeze used in vehicles. It is toxic to animals and humans and is responsible for most antifreeze-related poisonings. Ethylene glycol is sweet-tasting, which attracts animals to ingest it, leading to fatal consequences.
  • Propylene glycol antifreeze is a safer alternative to ethylene glycol. It is less toxic to animals and humans and is commonly used in food and cosmetic products.

Uses of antifreeze

Antifreeze is primarily used in vehicles to regulate engine temperature. However, it is also used in other applications, such as:

  • HVAC systems
  • Solar heating systems
  • Refrigeration units
  • Industrial cooling systems

How does antifreeze affect grass?

Antifreeze can have a severe impact on grass and other plants. The primary component of antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is toxic to living organisms, including grass.

The impact of ethylene glycol on grass

When antifreeze spills onto grass, the ethylene glycol is absorbed by the plant’s roots, which can cause significant damage to the grass. Ethylene glycol inhibits the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients, causing the grass to wilt, turn yellow, and eventually die.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in grass

If your lawn has been exposed to antifreeze, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Yellowing or browning of the grass
  • Wilting and drooping
  • Stunted growth
  • Death of the grass

Factors that influence the severity of antifreeze damage

Several factors can impact the severity of antifreeze damage to grass, including:

  • The amount of antifreeze spilled
  • The concentration of antifreeze in the spill
  • The duration of the spill
  • The type of grass affected
  • The weather conditions at the time of the spill

Will antifreeze kill grass?

The level of toxicity of antifreeze to grass depends on several factors, including the concentration of antifreeze, the amount of antifreeze spilled, and the duration of the spill.

In general, antifreeze is toxic to grass and can kill it if left untreated. However, the grass can recover from antifreeze damage if treated promptly and appropriately.

Factors that determine whether or not grass can recover from antifreeze damage

Several factors can impact whether or not grass can recover from antifreeze damage, including:

  • The severity of the damage
  • The type of grass affected
  • The amount of antifreeze spilled
  • The duration of the spill
  • The promptness and appropriateness of treatment

What to do if antifreeze spills on grass

Antifreeze spills on grass can cause severe damage and should be treated promptly and appropriately. Here are the steps to take if antifreeze spills on your lawn:

  1. Contain the spill – Use a barrier, such as sand or soil, to prevent the spill from spreading.
  2. Protect yourself – Wear protective gloves and clothing to avoid contact with the antifreeze.
  3. Remove the contaminated soil – Use a shovel to remove the contaminated soil and dispose of it properly.
  4. Flush the area with water – Use a hose to flush the affected area with water to dilute the antifreeze.
  5. Apply activated charcoal – Apply activated charcoal to the affected area to absorb any remaining antifreeze.
  6. Replant the area – Once the soil has been treated and cleaned, replant the area with new grass or other plants.

Proper cleanup and disposal of antifreeze

Antifreeze is a hazardous substance and should be disposed of appropriately. Here are the steps to take when disposing of antifreeze:

  • Collect the antifreeze – Collect the antifreeze in a container designated for hazardous waste disposal.
  • Label the container – Label the container as “hazardous waste” and include the date of collection.
  • Contact a hazardous waste disposal facility – Contact a local hazardous waste disposal facility for proper disposal.

Preventive measures to avoid antifreeze spills on grass

Preventing antifreeze spills on grass is the best way to avoid damage. Here are some preventive measures to take:

  • Store antifreeze in a safe and secure location away from pets and children.
  • Use a funnel when pouring antifreeze to avoid spills.
  • Check your vehicle for leaks regularly and repair any leaks promptly.
  • Clean up any antifreeze spills immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer the most frequently asked questions about antifreeze and grass.

1. Will diluted antifreeze kill grass?

Diluted antifreeze can indeed be harmful to grass and even kill it. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a toxic chemical that is used for its freezing point depression properties. When spilled on grass or soil, it can be absorbed by the plants, hindering their ability to take up water and nutrients. This can lead to dehydration, wilting, and eventually death of the grass. Even in diluted form, antifreeze can pose a threat to grass and other vegetation. Therefore, it is crucial to handle and dispose of antifreeze properly to prevent harm to the environment.

2. Can you save grass after an antifreeze spill?

No, it is highly unlikely to save grass after an antifreeze spill. Antifreeze contains toxic substances like ethylene glycol that can severely damage plant life, including grass. The chemicals in antifreeze can be absorbed by the roots, affecting the metabolism of the grass and leading to its withering and eventual death. Additionally, it can contaminate the soil, further hindering grass growth. Timely removal of the spill or dilution with water might minimize the impact, but often the damage caused by antifreeze is irreversible. It is best to promptly clean up any spills and take preventive measures to avoid harming the grass or the environment.

3. How do you clean up antifreeze on the lawn?

To clean up antifreeze on the lawn, follow these steps to minimize its impact on the environment. Firstly, act quickly: dilute the spilled antifreeze by spraying water over the affected area. This will help to disperse and reduce its concentration. Next, contain the spill by creating a barrier with absorbent materials like kitty litter or sawdust. Gently spread the absorbent material and allow it to sit for a while, absorbing the remaining liquid. Once absorbed, carefully collect the soiled absorbent material, seal it in a plastic bag, and dispose of it at a designated hazardous waste facility, following proper guidelines provided by local authorities.

4. How long does antifreeze stay in the ground?

Antifreeze, also known as ethylene glycol, can persist in the environment for an extended period, depending on various factors. When spilled on the ground, it may seep down into the soil, where its degradation depends on soil characteristics, temperature, and microbial activity. Ethylene glycol is biodegradable and can break down within a few months to a few years under favorable conditions. However, if it reaches groundwater or is in an area with limited microbial activity, it can persist for longer periods. Quick action in cleanup and prevention of accidental spills is crucial to mitigate the environmental impact and prevent potential contamination.

5. Is RV antifreeze environmentally friendly?

RV antifreeze is not environmentally friendly. Most RV antifreeze brands contain ethylene glycol, a toxic and hazardous substance. If released into the environment, it can contaminate soil, water sources, and harm wildlife. While some RV antifreeze brands might claim to be non-toxic, they still contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. It is important to dispose of RV antifreeze properly by bringing it to designated hazardous waste facilities, as pouring it down drains or on the ground can have severe environmental consequences. To minimize the environmental impact, individuals could consider using greener alternatives or ensuring proper disposal methods are followed.


Antifreeze is a necessary component in maintaining a vehicle’s engine, but it can have severe consequences when spilled on grass. Understanding the impact of antifreeze on grass, and what steps to take in the event of a spill, is crucial to protecting your lawn and the environment. By taking preventive measures and following the proper cleanup and disposal procedures, you can help mitigate the impact of antifreeze on grass and other plants.


  • Nathan Collins

    Having spent years working in the landscaping industry, Nathan Collins has cultivated a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. He is committed to helping others appreciate the beauty in their backyards, whether it's through identifying rare rocks and minerals or crafting the perfect landscape.

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