Does Antifreeze Kill Trees?

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People have been using a plethora of substances for killing unwanted trees. Antifreeze is one such substance. It consists of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol.

But is it really effective or safe for killing trees? If Yes, what is the correct method for using it?

Antifreeze is not an effective tree-killer. Chemicals like ethylene glycol and propylene glycol within the antifreeze will only stunt the growth of the tree, but will not kill it. Using excessive amounts of antifreeze, however, can seriously harm smaller habitats in the used area, thus it’s not recommended.

Let’s take a deeper look!

What is Antifreeze?

Antifreeze is a colored engine coolant, and it is used for raising the boiling temperature or lowering freezing points of substances, that is why it is used in car engines. It is largely made up of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. It is usually mixed with water before using.

What is Ethylene Glycol?

Ethylene Glycol is an organic chemical and is usually used in the manufacturing process of fiberglass, plastics, and textiles. It should not come in contact with skin or food items as it causes health problems.

Is Antifreeze A Good Option for Killing Trees?

Antifreeze is not considered to be a good tree killer. Its two main components, ethylene glycol and propylene glycol are either too toxic or do nothing at all.

The former, Ethylene Glycol can have an extremely bad and long-lasting effect on the tree, surrounding soil as well as on other plants. On the other hand, Propylene Glycol has very little to no effect on trees.

In a study conducted on Poplar Trees, it was observed that using excessive amounts of antifreeze led to stunted growth. And an increase in the tree’s exposure will lead to further stunted growth.

Antifreeze will not lead to the death of a large tree, but it can stunt its growth. Antifreeze is usually only used to kill grass or weed.

Should you use Antifreeze instead of herbicides?

No, you should not. Using a herbicide will not only be more efficient but better for the environment as well. Antifreeze affects the soil for a very long time, and it can have devastating effects on the surrounding soil and animals.

A herbicide like Roundup or Relegate will be much better for killing Trees. They are not only efficient, but their effects on the soil also dissipate within a relatively short amount of time.

What Precautions Should You Take While Handling Antifreeze?

If you do have to use Antifreeze on trees, make sure to take all of the safety precautions. Fear full sleeves, full pants, gloves, eye protection, etc.

Properly dispose and wash the clothes and the equipment after use. They shouldn’t be in contact with your clothing; it can take a really long time to dissipate antifreeze and can cause health issues.

How to Correctly Use Antifreeze?

You can pour Antifreeze on the soil over the roots of the tree or you can use Cut Surface Treatment.

You will need Antifreeze along with an axe or a chainsaw and a sprayer.

  1. Make deep gashes into the trunk of the tree using an axe or a chainsaw.
  2. Immediately pour Antifreeze into these gashes and the let it be absorbed.
  3. Make sure there is no water, frost or snow on the surface of the tree as water can decrease the absorption.

How to Treat A Tree Exposed to Antifreeze?

If some Antifreeze has been spilled on the surrounding soil, do not pour water on it, collect the topsoil and transfer it into a plastic bag. Pouring water will just dilute the chemicals and spread them even more.

Take the plastic bag to a recycling center for proper disposal.

How to Correctly Dispose Antifreeze?

You can pour the Antifreeze into an empty container such as an empty bottle. If there is Antifreeze spoil on the ground, collect the top layer of the soil, or try to absorb antifreeze using pads and towels.

Collect all these materials used for absorption and transfer them into a heavy-duty plastic bag. Take the bag to your local recycling center, they will correctly dispose it.


Antifreeze should not be used for killing trees. Using Antifreeze only leads to a stunted growth in trees and it can have long-lasting effects on the health of the soil and nearby organisms.

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