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Thread: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

  1. #1
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    Default Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Newie here. I chose this forum because throughout the internet, only folks on this boat forum(s) seem to know anything about using auto antifreeze for treating wood. I would like to start a discussion on the safety of furniture treated with ethylene glycol. I have a fairly large amount of sugar maple and black walnut that has pp beetles (mostly the sugar maple is infested). I have built a couple of end tables with walnut. After building, but before finishing, I brushed on auto antifreeze diluted with 50% water. It has dried and I am finishing the tables. The top coat will be clear polyurethane. I have read quite a bit about the properties of antifreeze. I think the tables will be totally safe, but someone out there knows. Those are the people I would like to hear from--those with experience, or chemical knowledge, etc., who actually are knowledgeable about this subject. If it is determined that such treated wood is safe, I intend to build more furniture for my own use. Please share your expertise.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Antifreeze is used by some to prevent rot, not kill insects.
    You probably need to tent and fumigate the lumber to kill powder post beetles.
    Last edited by kc8pql; 01-02-2015 at 02:53 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Steaming the lumber (steambox) or kiln drying before processing and assembling will kill bugs. I don't know about EG though.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Here's the full text of Dave Carnell's article on it. He is the originator of using anti-freeze on wood.

    PART 1

    FREEZE WOOD MOTION WITH ANTIFREEZE

    Ethylene glycol, or glycol, readily available as permanent auto antifreeze is the most versatile and effective treating agent for stabilizing wood against the dimensional changes caused by variations in water content. Glycerol and sugar solutions act similarly to glycol, but nowhere near as rapidly. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) can be used to stabilize wood, but operates by a different mechanism and requires a lengthy treatment process which can be used only on green or water-soaked wood.
    Wood is a high-performance, low-cost, easily-worked material. Its principal disadvantage is that it absorbs water to a high degree and its water content changes when the humidity of its environment changes. Wood shrinks as it dries and swells as it picks up water. Sticking doors and drawers; loose furniture joints; cracking furniture, carvings, and woodwork; and boats that leak after they have been hauled out are common manifestations of the dynamic wood-water relationship.
    Bruce Hoadley's book "Understanding Wood" has the most thorough exposition of the wood-water interaction I have
    read. He says "Someone once quipped that more than 90% of all problems with wood involve moisture. For those who ignore basic wood-moisture relationships, that is probably a conservative estimate." A piece of green wood freshly cut from a log is like a sponge; its cell cavities are filled with water (free water) and the cell walls are saturated with water (bound water). There is commonly more water than wood in the piece. As the wood dries, the free water evaporates and leaves the cells empty. This does not shrink the wood, but after all the free water has evaporated the water in the cell walls begins to evaporate, the cell walls shrink, and the whole piece shrinks. Wood shrinks very little longitudinally, but shrinks considerably radially and tangentially; the resulting changes in the width and thickness of a piece of wood cause all the problems.
    Common manifestations of wood shrinkage besides the changes in the dimensions of boards are warping, checking, and cracking. Furniture pieces open up gaps in the winter while doors and drawers stick shut in summer. Carvers and bowl turners working with massive pieces of green wood have their work ruined by gaping cracks as the wood dries out. Wooden boats hauled out for the winter open up the seams between their planks. All of these events are the results of water evaporating from wood or being reabsorbed by it as the relative humidity of the environment changes.
    The ideal compound to treat wood to stabilize it would replace water in the cell walls, interact with cellulose as water does, and not evaporate - a "nonvolatile water". Glycol, available everywhere as auto antifreeze, approaches the ideal most closely.
    Glycerol is the next best treating agent, but it acts much more slowly than glycol because it is less hygroscopic (less strongly attracted to water), is a larger molecule, and is much more viscous. Glycerol has been used commercially to stabilize wood and has been shown to be more effective than PEG in stabilizing wood.
    Sugar solutions have been known to stabilize wood since the early 1900s. They have been used commercially and repeated scientific investigations have demonstrated their ability to stabilize wood. Sugars are quite large molecules, and since they are solids, have to be used as solutions in water. Sugars do interact with cellulose because they have similar chemical structures.
    Polyethylene glycol (PEG) does not interact with cellulose. It is not very hygroscopic. It has to be used as water solutions which will penetrate only green or water-soaked wood, and that very slowly at room temperature. It stabilizes wood by filling the cell cavities and propping them up. After treatment, the piece has to be dried, and even after drying treated pieces are often difficult to glue or finish.
    There is a simple demonstration of all of the above statements. Take a piece of hardwood and drill holes in it that are an easy sliding fit for hardwood dowels. I used a piece of one-inch oak about three inches wide and drilled 25/64" D. holes 7/8" deep in the edges; the holes were an easy fit for the 3/8" by 1 1/2" spiral-grooved maple dowels I had on hand. For each treatment tested, I used a medicine dropper to apply five drops of the material being tested to the rim of the hole so that the liquid ran down the wall of the hole. Here are the results of a test begun December 19, 1987.
    Water: Within about 30 seconds, the dowel was bound tightly. After about 24 hr., it was easily slid out. Water swelled the dowel and the oak piece, but quickly dried out.
    Glycol: After about 30 minutes, the dowel was tight. It still is after a month. Glycol antifreeze diffuses into the cell walls and swells the wood permanently.
    Glycerol: The less hygroscopic, larger molecule, more viscous glycerol took about 8 hours to interact with the cell walls of the wood to make the dowel tight. It has stayed tight.
    Cane Sugar (40% solution): This solution took 6-8 hours to tighten up. It has stayed tight. Even though this solution had 60% water, the water was not free to act on the woods as water does. It must be strongly associated with the sugar.
    "Karo" Corn Syrup: This is about 75% glucose and fructose, smaller sugar molecules than the sucrose of cane sugar. It behaved like the cane sugar solution.
    50-50 Antifreeze-Water: This solution tightened the dowel in just under 10 minutes. Again, association between the water and the glycol slows down the action. PEG-1000 (50% solution): I tested both fresh and used solutions. In each case, the dowel was tight in about 30 seconds. After about 48 hours, both dowels could be removed easily, though not as easily as in the case of the water test because there was a shiny, waxy coating on the dowel increasing its diameter. PEG has little attraction to the water of its solution (quick action) or to the cellulose in wood (waxy coating on surface.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    PART 2

    FREEZE WOOD MOTION WITH ANTIFREEZE

    The discovery that polyethylene glycol with a molecular weight of l000 (PEG-1000) can stabilize wood against dimensional changes was made by A. J. Stamm at the Forest Products Laboratory. He published his first paper on laboratory results in 1956 and a paper on practical tests with green pine logs in 1959. Mitchell and other workers at the Forest Products Laboratory have published papers on developing recipes for treating various wood articles. Though Hoadley wrote "Antifreeze has no stabilizing effect on wood, so don't bother trying it." (FWW #19) and Spielman repeats the mythology in his book "Treating Green Wood With PEG", neither had tried antifreeze; the only factual statement they could make is that glycol antifreeze is different than PEG.
    The spark that set off my investigation of glycol for stabilizing wood came from Stamm's original 1956 paper. In that paper he tested glycerol as well as PEG. He found that glycerol stabilized wood as well as PEG-1000, but he never did any more work with glycerol. After 40 years in industrial chemical research, I recognize the uncertainties of second-guessing another researcher, but I think Stamm ignored his own results on glycerol because he was biased toward large molecules as "bulking agents" for wood, a term he used frequently. Glycerol was just too small a molecule to fit his theory. I extrapolated from his results with glycerol to the idea that glycol should be better than glycerol because it is a smaller, more hygroscopic molecule. The wood technologist tests for wood stabilization by soaking a piece of green wood in the treating liquid or solution and then drying the piece in an oven at over the boiling point of water (100 C. or 212 F.) until it stops losing weight. Measurements of the piece before and after drying establish whether dimensional stabilization occurred. If you test glycol by this test or any variation which includes drying at over 100 C., in a completely dry atmosphere you will not see any stabilization because the glycol will all be evaporated. Wood articles in common use are always in an atmosphere containing some water, however, and under such conditions, glycol will not evaporate.
    Even after I had obtained encouraging results in the stabilization of wood with glycol, I was concerned about the permanence of the treatment. Glycol has a vapor pressure of about 0.1mm of mercury at room temperature. This is very low, but I set out to determine how rapidly glycol would evaporate by exposing a shallow pan of glycol in my shop and weighing it at intervals. Instead of losing weight, the pan gained weight rapidly until the weight of liquid in the pan was about 75% more than at the start; the glycol was rapidly absorbing water from the air, not evaporating. Some literature search turned up the interesting items that glycol has been used to dehumidify air in air conditioning systems and a test of glycol as a laboratory dessicant (drying agent) which showed it as effective as 100% sulfuric acid and phosphorus pentoxide, two of the most common dessicants.

    In 1978, I cut one-inch thick slabs from a 4-inch diameter green black locust log and soaked them in glycol for four days at room temperature or at about 200 F. for four hours in a slow cooker pot. I laid them out in the sun along with untreated controls; the controls cracked badly in a couple of days while the treated samples were sound after two weeks.
    In 1981, my wife was carving a wood sculpture of red cedar. Her instructor told her if she kept it wet with antifreeze it would not crack. This rekindled my interest in stabilizing wood with glycol and I have carried out a variety of experiments and practical test which demonstrate that antifreeze is a very effective treatment for stabilizing wood.
    I ran comparative tests of undiluted glycol, 40% sugar solution, and 50% PEG-1000 solution on one-inch thick slabs cut from freshly-cut longleaf yellow pine and live oak logs. Untreated controls were compared with samples soaked in antifreeze, 50% PEG-1000 solution, and 40% cane sugar solution. The untreated controls cracked radially; esp., the live oak pieces. All three kinds of treated samples stayed sound. From the same logs I cut pairs of 9" billets; one control and one treated with glycol by standing on end in a shallow pan of antifreeze and turning end for end for 16 days. The billets then air-dried for 4 1/2 months before they were photographed. Figure 1 shows the live oak samples. The untreated piece on the left is badly cracked and has shrunk so that the bark is coming loose. The treated piece is sound with tight bark; the rays are quite prominent. In Figure 2, the untreated pine on the left has two prominent cracks and a network of finer ones over the whole end; the wood has shrunk so that the bark is very loose. The treated pine has no cracks at all and the bark is tight, indicating no significant shrinkage. The photographs of Figure 3 show another effect of antifreeze on dried wood. A billet of live oak on my wood pile had been drying for about a year and both ends were badly cracked. After standing on end in a shallow pan of antifreeze for a month, I cut the billet in half for simultaneous photographing of the ends. The treated end has its cracks closed nearly completely; originally it looked like the untreated end.
    I cut 3" by 1" by 1" pieces longitudinally, radially, and tangentially from a live longleaf pine log. The samples were treated with glycol by painting them 3-4 times with antifreeze; they air-dried to stable weights in about six weeks with no shrinkage. Untreated controls dried in about two weeks and shrank 2% radially and 3% tangentially.
    A common woodworking problem is cupping of boards. Thin mahogany (3/8") I had planed for a table shelf cupped badly. I painted the concave surface with antifreeze and the next morning the board was flat; glued up into the shelf it is still flat three years later.
    A 26' reproduction surfboat at New Hanover County Museum was taken out of the water and put in dry inside storage. Within two months all of the lapstrake planking joints had opened, as shown by the broken paint film on the outside. The curator agreed to my suggestion that I treat it with antifreeze. The boat had an oil finish inside and oil-based enamel outside. I loaded a garden sprayer with antifreeze and wet down the inside. Every plank joint dripped on the floor. After three more treatments 1-2 weeks apart, not a joint leaked and all of the breaks in the outside paint had disappeared as the juniper boards swelled back together. I was surprised that less than two gallons of antifreeze were needed for the successful treatment. The boat has stayed tight for over two years. If we put the boat back in the water, the glycol will probably leach out fairly rapidly and we would have to retreat the boat. After I reported this at the Small Craft Curators Conference in 1986, George Surgent at Calvert Maritime Museum reported that he had used antifreeze to swell hull planking.
    Going from boats to archaeology, Leslie Bright at the North Carolina Underwater Archeology Unit gave me a musket butt recovered from a Civil War blockade runner. The century-plus old piece had been stored in a tank of fresh water since it came out of the sea. I soaked it in antifreeze for three months and then let it air dry. Without treatment it would have fallen apart on drying, but my piece was in the same condition as when I got it; even the tool marks where a metal plate had benn inlet were still intact.
    My dining room chair squeaked with every fork motion. My wife said I should fix all of the chairs. I took them out to the shop, set them upside down and used a dropper to put antifreeze in every joint. By the next morning they were tight. Some time later a syndicated newspaper columnist (Bruce Johnson, "Knock on Wood") wrote that products advertised to tighten chair joints do not work because they are mostly water. I wrote him and suggested he try antifreeze. A later column reported that my suggestion worked.
    Recently a local lumber company had a sale to clear out their leftover half whiskey barrel planters. I brought three home which had dried out so that the staves were rattling. I sprayed the insides and the end grain exposed on the tops with antifreeze. The next morning they were all tight enough so that they no longer rattled and in a couple of days you could not get a knife blade through any of the joints. They could have held Jack Daniels again.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    PART 3

    FREEZE WOOD MOTION WITH ANTIFREEZE

    In the fall of 1986, I had some yellow pine plywood sheets that had been used outside for lofting a boat; they had two coats of white latex house paint on them and had checked badly. I cut two adjacent pieces and treated one by painting it with antifreeze a couple of times; all of its checks closed up and are still tight.
    I have collected experiences with antifreeze from others. Bob Pickett, Flounder Bay Boat Lumber, Anacortes, WA, wrote me that they use antifreeze to prevent checking on the flat grain surfaces of large fir timbers. James Marsh, Marblehead, MA, wrote in Small Boat Journal that he carved a large dugout canoe from a cottonwood log and used antifreeze to prevent cracking. I asked him for details and he also told me he had heard of elm slabs in Maine kept from cracking with antifreeze and walnut baulks for gunstocks treated with antifreeze in Massachusetts during World War II. In Haines, AK, in 1987 I asked an Indian carver of totem poles if he had ever considered using antifreeze to prevent cracking; he told me he knew it would work, but preferred to let his work crack naturally. When I told the boatbuilder who built the surfboat mentioned above what I had done to his creation, he said that explained why he had seen large redwood slabs being soaked in a tank of antifreeze in California in the 1960s.
    Though Stamm neglected glycerol, there has been interesting work with it by others. Leffingwell and Lesser reported in 1941 that undiluted glycerol was being used commercially in the furniture industry to flexibilize and stabilize veneers and as an additive to water-based glues to prevent their drying out; the authors recognized that glycerol (like glycol) was effective because it is very hygroscopic and does not evaporate. In 1968, Pankevicius in Australia tested glycerol and PEGs with molecular weights of 200, 555, and 1000 for stabilizing five varieties of Australian timbers. He got significantly better results with glycerol in all his tests and concluded "Glycerol, having the lowest molecular weight, has proved to be the best dimensional stabilizer." (Glycol is even lower.)

    Glycol antifreeze is best used undiluted; it acts more rapidly and no subsequent drying step is needed. Not only can glycol be used on dry wood, but it can penetrate many finishes without damaging them. I have treated pieces that were finished with oil, oil-based enamel, latex paint, spar varnish, or lacquer without staining or lifting the finish. Glycol does not penetrate polyurethane or epoxy coatings. The dyes in antifreeze are so weak that they do not discolor even the lightest colored wood. I started out soaking pieces as you would for peg, but that is generally more treatment than is needed. I spray or paint the antifreeze on with special attention to the end grain. Once the piece is dry to touch, it can be glued or finished.
    Glycol antifreeze is toxic if taken internally; animals like its sweet taste, so do not leave it out for them or children to get into. I use only coarse sprays to avoid inhaling fine mists.
    Try antifreeze for all your problems with wood motion. Paint it on the concave surfaces of cupped boards. Use a medicine dropper to get it into loose joints, For a cracked panel, remember that the crack occurred because the whole panel shrank, so paint the whole surface on both sides. Dip, paint, or spray a pieces you are carving or turning to prevent cracking, or to cure cracks which have already occurred. Keep your antifreeze in closed containers to avoid picking up water from the atmosphere and slowing down the action. As in any other process with as many variables, each problem is different and you may have to experiment to get the optimum treatment. Pass on your experiences so that we all can learn from them.

    David W. Carnell
    322 Pages Creek Drive
    Wilmington, NC 28411 July 21, 1989

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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Kurylko View Post
    PART 2

    "They could have held Jack Daniels again."
    FREEZE WOOD MOTION WITH ANTIFREEZE

    Wow! Thank you for a thorough and detailed reply. You have convinced me of every point you made, namely that ethylene glycol will preserve and stabilize wood. I even think the barrels could have held whiskey again (but I would pass on drinking it! I see all that you wrote as a benefit to using EG on wood.

    What about safety? From what I have read, EG should kill just about all insects and spores, even when dilated 50% to make it go farther. If that is true, then safety is my main concern. I did get your point that undiluted would be best for wood stabilization, and probably for pp beetle and rot control also. Here's my uneducated reasoning: If it takes about half a cup to kill a man weighting 150 lbs, then diluted with an equal amount of water, it would a full cup to do the same damage. Granted, a teaspoon is much more than I want in my body. Now, this stuff is harmless until ingested into the body, by mouth, skin, or vapor. If brushed on wood, allowed to dry a day or so, and covered with polyurethane, it seems to me difficult to ingest enough to do harm. Someday, someone might sand and refinish such a piece of furniture. By that time, the EG should be no more harmful then PT wood, for example. Common sense would indicate a dust mask anyway. What do you think?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    That article was written by Dave Carnell, not by me. He was a chemical engineer, I believe, now deceased. There is still a lot of controversy swirling around the use of anti-freeze on wooden boats, but I think Dave makes a good case for it. Once antifreeze is absorbed and dries, it apparently ceases to be harmful (at least that's what Dave has stated). It can then be sanded and painted or even epoxied, but it's probably best to experiment with it first on some test pieces before fully committing to it. I would still be cautious with it though. It's nasty stuff and pets love the taste of it.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Oh yes, one more thing. The dye in it will slightly tint the surface of the wood, so sanding will be required to remove it. Dust mask and gloves. Be careful.

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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    One of my neighbors had a problem with squirrels chewing on the ends of the logs on his log home. The commercial repellant was kinda pricey if you were to be coating a large area. According to the label the major ingredients in the spendy commercial soup was capsaicin in a propylene glycol vehicle.

    Propylene glycol is used as antifreeze in RV potable water tanks. It has very low toxicity and is used in a variety of human and animal food products.

    I mixed habanero peppers with propylene glycol in a blender and let the stuff sit for a few weeks before straining it and applying it to the ends of the logs. No squirrel issues for the last 5 years.

    Based on that success I mixed boric acid with propylene glycol and used it for mold mitigation in an outbuilding on the same neighbor's property. That has been extremely successful as well.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    I'd be leery of using antifreeze, which is pretty toxic. Propylene glyco sounds like a better idea.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Since Mr. Carnell was advocating use of EG to stabilize wood (prevent or minimize movement due to changes in moisture content),I'd be leery of using it on anything not yet glued and screwed. Nelsonite Wood Stabilizer has to be applied to a piece requiring no further fabrication (with glue) because it severely weakens glue applied on top of it.
    Goat Island Skiff and Simmons Sea Skiff construction photos here:

    http://s176.photobucket.com/albums/w...esMan/?start=0

    and here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/37973275@N03/

    "All kings are not the same."

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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Dave lived down the road from the yard that I worked for in the 90s. We had a big wh oak stick that needed drying so we painted the ends, bagged it in a visquine and rr tie trough and added ten gallons of prestone mixed with a few boxes of borax. Worked like a charm in a year. He was a Corning engineer btw.

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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    I want to thank everyone who replied to my original post. I think there are two safety conerns for users here: safety of using EG in boats (pretty safe and a real help in many situations, I gather), and safety in furniture (less certain, but I think not so dangerous). At this point, I plan to go ahead with EG use on my lumber, which will someday become furniture for my home. If anyone has anything else, pro or con, of using ethylene glycol on my lumber, please comment soon, so this thread can be closed in a few days. Again, thank you.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Lane,
    My observation is that the proposed polyurethane topcoat is as, or more, potentially a problem than the ethylene glycol underneath!?

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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    This is what I have from Dave Carnell...


    Chemotherapy for Rot
    Friday, February 13 2004 @ 06:43 PM EST
    Contributed by: Carnell
    Once rot gets a toehold in wood it is difficult to cure completely--- it is like a cancer. Digging out the rotted
    wood will still leave spores and water in the sound wood. After you fill in the cavity with something like
    epoxy, the rot continues to flourish underneath. Products promoted to make rotted wood sound and stop rot
    penetrate only until they meet water, with which they do not mix. Under the solid repair rotting goes on. With
    one exception (more later), the commercial products sold to treat dry wood to prevent rot are completely
    ineffective against established rot in wet wood because they are dissolved in petroleum solvents and oil and
    water do not mix.
    There are two commonly available inexpensive materials that will kill rot in wood and prevent its recurrence.
    First, there are borates (borax-boric acid mixtures) which have an established record in preventing rot in new
    wood and in killing rot organisms and wood-destroying insects in infested wood. Second, there is ethylene
    glycol, most readily available as auto antifreeze-coolant. Glycol is toxic to the whole spectrum of organisms
    from staphylococcus bacteria to mammals. All of the published material on its effectiveness against wooddestroying
    fungi and insects that I am aware of is the result of my investigations over the past 15 years.
    Both borate solutions and glycol penetrate dry and wet wood well because they are water-soluble; in fact,
    penetration by glycol is especially helped by its extreme hygroscopicity-its strong attraction for water. For
    both, the fact that they are water-soluble means they are not permanent solutions to rot in wood that is
    contnually exposed to water-below the waterline and in ground-where they will eventually be extracteddissolved
    out.
    I first was interested in glycol as a wood-stabilizing agent, where it is in many ways superior to polethylene
    glycol (PEG), and it was during this work that I realized the useful effect of glycol on organisms, though I
    was pretty dense in interpreting the first experiment.
    The ladies immerse the stems of greenery such as magnolia branches in glycerin to keep them green. Glycol
    is very similar to glycerin in all its physical properties and much cheaper, so I stuck a magnolia branch in
    antifreeze. The next day it was brown. After the third attempt I tumbled to the fact that the glycol was killing
    the greenery.
    This was the reason that glycol never replaced glycerin in applications such as a humectant for tobacco and
    an ingredient of cosmetics and pharmaceutical ointments, though it had all the desirable physical properties.
    I had two 2" thick slabs of a 14" diameter hickory tree that had just been cut. I treated one with antifreeze
    and left one untreated. I was looking at wood stabilization, not rot prevention. After about six months stored
    inside my shop the untreated control was not only cracked apart, but it was sporting a great fungal growth,
    while the treated slab was clean.
    The local history museum wanted to exhibit two "turpentine trees", longleaf pines that had many years ago
    been gashed to harvest the sap that made everything from turpentine to pine tar. The trees delivered to us
    the boatbuilding.community: Chemotherapy for Rot 7/21/12 9:15 AM
    http://www.boatbuilding.com/article....pyforRot/print Page 2 of 3
    after cutting were infested with various beetles and had some fungal growth. I treated them with antifreeze
    outside under a plastic tarpaulin every few days for three weeks. They were then free of insects and fungus
    and have remained so after being moved inside and installed in an exhibit over four years ago.
    I took three pieces from a rotting dock float that were covered with a heavy growth of fungus, lichens, etc. I
    treated one with antifreeze painted on with a brush, the second with a water solution containing 23% borates
    (as B2O3), and left the third untreated as a control. They were left exposed outdoors and were rained on the
    first night. By the next morning the growth on the antifreeze-treated piece was definitely browning and the
    borate-treated piece showed slight browning. After two months exposure to the weather the growth was dead
    on the antifreeze- and borate-treated pieces and flourishing on the control.
    I have a simple flat-bottomed skiff built of plywood and white pine, which has little resistance to rot. After
    ten years some rot developed in one of the frames. It may have begun in the exposed end grain. It consumed
    the side frame, part of the bottom frame, and part of a seat brace fastened to the side frame. The plywood
    gusset joining the side frame to the bottom frame was not attacked. I excised the rotted wood, saturated all
    with ethylene glycol antifreeze to kill all the rot organisms, and there has been no further deterioration in four
    more years afloat with wet bilges. I have not replaced any pieces, as I am building another boat that can
    replace it; that is more fun, anyway.
    I have a 60+ year old case of the fungus infection known as "athlete's foot". Many years ago it infected the
    toenails extensively. The whole thing was pretty grotesque. My dermatologist and druggist both assured me
    there is no known cure. About six years ago I started using antifreeze applied under the nails with a medicine
    dropper about every five days. The professionals are technically right. I have not completely cured it, but the
    nails have grown out pink and thinned almost to the ends and I never have any trouble with blistering,
    peeling, or itching between the toes as I had had for six decades. No drug company is going to have any
    interest in this because the information has been in the public domain for so long that there is no opportunity
    for any proprietary advantage. The various wood-rotting organisms cannot be anywhere near as tough.
    Glycol by itself has one big advantage over solutions of borates in either water or glycol. Glycol pentrates
    rapidly through all paint, varnish, and oil finishes (except epoxy and polyurethanes) without lifting or
    damaging those finishes in any way. You can treat all of the wood of your boat without removing any finish.
    The dyes in glycol antifreeze are so weak that they do not discolor even white woods. Once bare wood has
    been treated with glycol or the borate solutions and become dry to the touch it can be finished or glued. If a
    borate solution leaves white residues on the surface, it will have to be washed off with water and the surface
    allowed to dry.



    Continued next post
    RodB
    Last edited by RodB; 01-03-2015 at 09:12 PM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Continued... From above...

    R



    This is my preferred process to treat rot. Once you find soft wood or other evidence of rot, soak it with
    antifreeze even if you cannot do anything else at the moment. Paint it on or spray it on with a coarse spray.
    Avoid fine mistlike spraying because it increases the likelihood that you will breathe in unhealthy amounts of
    glycol. Put it on surfaces well away from the really damaged wood, too. Use glycol lavishly on the suspect
    wood, which will readily absorb 10-20% of its weight of antifreeze.
    Next dig out wood that is rotted enough to be weak. Add more glycol to wet the exposed wood thoroughly.
    Then add the 25% borate solution of the recipe below so long as it will soak in in no more than 2-3 hours.
    Then fill in the void with epoxy putty and/or a piece of sound treated wood as required. The reasons I use
    borates at all are: 1) it is a belt-and-suspenders approach to a virulent attack, and 2) over a long period glycol
    will evaporate from the wood; especially, in areas exposed directly to the sun and the high temperatures that
    result.
    the boatbuilding.community: Chemotherapy for Rot 7/21/12 9:15 AM
    http://www.boatbuilding.com/article....pyforRot/print Page 3 of 3
    If there is any question about water extracting the glycol or the borates, you can retreat periodically with
    glycol on any surface, painted or bare, and with borate solutions on bare wood.
    Glycol's toxicity to humans is low enough that it has to be deliberately ingested (about a half cup for a 150
    lb. human); many millions of gallons are used annually with few precautions and without incident. It should
    not be left where children or pets can get at it, as smaller doses would harm them, and they may be attracted
    by its reported sweet taste that I have confirmed by accident. The lethal dose of borates is smaller than of
    glycol, but the bitter taste makes accidental consumption less likely.


    Borate Wood Preservatives
    Commercial and Home brew:


    Tim-BorŽ: about $3/lb. plus shipping.
    Ship-BorŽ: Same as Tim-BorŽ; $19.95/lb. plus $2 shipping.
    Bora-CareŽ: $70/gal. plus shipping


    Home-Brew Water Solution of Borates: Based on U.S. Navy spec. of 60% borax-- 40% boric acid (this ratio
    gives the maximum solubility of borates in water); 65% water, 20 %borax, 15% boric acid; 15.8% borates;
    borax costs 54 cents/lb. (supermarket), boric acid costs about $4/lb. in drug stores (sometimes boric acid
    roach poison, 99% boric acid, is cheaper in discount stores); equiv. to Tim-BorŽ or Ship-BorŽ at 30 cents/lb.
    To make this solution mix the required quantities and heat until dissolved. The boric acid, in particular,
    dissolves slowly. This solution is stable (no crystals) overnight in a refrigerator (40°F.), so can be used at
    temperatures at least as low as 40°F.


    Home-Brew Glycol Solution of Borates: 50% glycol antifreeze, 28% borax, 22% boric acid. To make a stable
    solution you mix the ingredients and heat till boiling gently. Boil off water until a candy thermometer shows
    260°F. (This removes most of the water of crystallization in the borax.) This solution is stable at 40°F and
    has a borate content of 26%. With antifreeze at $6/gal. and borax and boric acid prices as above, this costs
    about $15/gal.
    1 comments

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    It is my understanding that Ethylene Glycol poisons pets by stopping their kidneys from functioning.

    The little p-trap-like tubes in there are the wrong size for the EG molecules, and so they stop passing fluid. Wrong surface tension, or something.

    Anyway, I have been told that the cure for EG poisoning in pets is Ethyl Alcohol.

    Apparently, Ethyl Alcohol is just the right solvent for the EG, and it breaks the big molecules into more manageable chunks, allowing the kidneys to filter the stuff out and pass it on to the bladder.

    All that aside, I don't think EG should pose a problem on furniture, but I would do lots of tests to make sure my finish was going to stay put.
    Rattling the teacups.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Quote Originally Posted by kc8pql View Post
    Antifreeze is used by some to prevent rot, not kill insects.
    You probably need to tent and fumigate the lumber to kill powder post beetles.
    Thanks for your input. Based on comments on this thread and the toxic effects of EG to mammals, it should kill insects.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Quote Originally Posted by jackster View Post
    Lane,
    My observation is that the proposed polyurethane topcoat is as, or more, potentially a problem than the ethylene glycol underneath!?
    I just applied polyurethane. So far, no problems or noted differences from untreated wood. My concern: could the EG ever escape he wood and be harmful? I believe not, but that is why I started this topic. Thank you for your input.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Propylene glycol won't kill the insects, or rot, if any. Thanks for your input.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Glued and screwed first, check. No brew until the job is done. Thanks for your input.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    I believe habanero peppers might even kill insects! Thanks for your input.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    All that info from David Carnell is very valuable, thanks for posting.
    Gerard>
    ​Freeland, WA

    Be patriotic, save the country: next election, vote against EVERY Republican, for EVERY office, at EVERY level, they are all #Complicit.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Propylene Glycol as a vehicle to carry boric acid works well. The boric acid is commonly available under various names as ant, roach, flea and mold killer.

    The boric acid is water soluble and will eventually leach out. For interior or well sealed surfaces it should last quite a while.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Ethylene glycol (auto antifreeze) treated wood safey

    Thanks to everyone for sharing great information. I will keep a file of this thread.

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