The Many Uses of Propylene Glycol

Get to Know Propylene Glycol

The Facts and Many Uses of This Versatile Ingredient

What is Propylene Glycol?

Propylene Glycol (PG for short) is one of those ingredients that’s derived from a byproduct of making other things. Basically, it’s derived from the processing of petroleum, natural gas, or plant based sources. While that sounds scary, it shouldn’t deter you from using PG as many consider it to be eco-friendly to repurpose any type of  byproduct or secondary product that may be considered waste. PG is considered organic (because it contains carbon), but most importantly, PG is considered safe by the FDA and is a non-toxic substance so it will not harm the environment.

Current Use of Propylene Glycol in commercial products.

Propylene glycol has a long history of safe use in personal care products, in food products, in cosmetics, in pharmaceutical products, and as an eco-friendly antifreeze, and most recently in e-cigarettes. PG is  in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of ingredients that are Recognized As Safe.

Before we discuss using propylene glycol as an ingredient in your home and before you buy propylene glycol, let’s go into more detail on the current uses of bulk Propylene Glycol in products.

Personal and Skin Care Products

Propylene glycol is a common ingredient in cosmetic, personal, and skin care products. A recently published research  report shows that PG is contained in   anywhere from 26.4% to 37.8% of registered personal care products. Clearly, PG is widely used and well accepted as an important ingredient in personal care products.

Propylene Glycol has 4 important functions in personal care products:

1) Propylene Glycol is a humectant and humectants are included in cosmetic and skin care products for their moisturizing abilities. Propylene glycol works as a humectant by attracting moisture to the skin and consequently hydrating and moisturizing it.

2) PG is also an emollient. Emollients are ingredients that soothe and hydrate the skin and they’re instrumental in skin care products for treating dry skin. Propylene glycol forms an oily layer on the skin and prevents water loss.

3) Product smoothness, also called viscosity control. Propylene glycol reduces the thickness of cosmetic formulations and products. This helps them spread across the skin better, and it also improves how well the products are absorbed. 

4) As a preservative. Although most people do not pay attention to them, personal care products do have expirations dates. Propylene Glycol works as a preservative and extends the useful life of personal care products.


Propylene Glycol in Food Preparation

Propylene Glycol is a common ingredient in many food products and quite often in baked goods. Its properties as a humectant, preservative, and emulsifier make it a popular choice among food manufacturers and its safety and non-toxic properties make it a great choice for home use as well. 

Propylene Glycol improves food products in several important ways:

  1. When used as a  preservative, PG can extend the shelf life of any food products. As a natural preservative, PG can retain moisture in food while its antimicrobial properties help to kill or prevent the growth of microorganisms like bacteria and mold.
  2. Propylene glycol  is a good choice as a flavor enhancer in many products, and PG is also used as a component in natural flavorings to help distribute the flavoring evenly throughout the product.
  3. Propylene glycol helps to improve and maintain food texture and consistency and is often used as a dough stabilizer, as an anticaking agent, helping to prevent lumps from forming in food, and as a safe and effective food thickener.

Propylene Glycol in Non-toxic Antifreeze

There are different grades of propylene glycol and it should be noted that propylene glycol is not antifreeze.  But, certain grades of propylene glycol play an enormous role in converting the world to safer, non-toxic antifreeze products. Here’s a link to a great article by the Scientific American that explains propylene glycol and why it’s so important to use it in antifreeze products.


Using Propylene Glycol at Home

There are some very specific practical uses for propylene glycol at home or small business.  Many people use propylene glycol for the following applications.

Cigar Humidor Uses 

Maintaining a perfect 70% humidity in a cigar humidor is essential to keeping cigars fresh. Propylene glycol plays a crucial role in maintaining that humidity level. Check out this article on using propylene glycol in a humidor solution.


RV, Marine, and Pool Antifreeze and De-icer

Products marketed as RV and Pool antifreeze are often just a mix of propylene glycol and distilled water and this simple mix can save quite a bit of money over the expensive consumer packaged products. If you would like to save some money and create RV antifreeze in bulk then a 50/50 mix of propylene glycol and distilled water is a common recipe. 

It’s so important to note that you should never, ever use auto antifreeze in an RV, boat or swimming pool as auto antifreeze can contain poisons that can affect humans and pets. Also worth noting is that there have been reports that ethanol based RV antifreeze can leave a foul taste in the water lines of some systems. So whether making your own RV antifreeze or pool line antifreeze always, or purchasing RV antifreeze at Walmart, always make sure that it is propylene glycol based.

Similarly, propylene glycol can make a non-toxic, pet friendly propylene deicer that works well on removing ice from steps and sidewalks and won't harm your pets or local wildlife. Start with a  50/50 mix of PG and water and add more PG if the ice is particularly thick or stubborn.  


Making Your Own DIY Fog Juice for a Fog Machine 

Propylene glycol is a great source ingredient in making homemade fog juice, fog liquid, for professional and home use fog machines and smoke machines.  Follow this fog juice recipe lINK and you’ll save money and create a safer fog juice. 


E-Cigarettes and Vaping 

Propylene glycol is used in e-liquids for vaping. PG is paired with vegetable glycerin (VG) to form the base of all e-liquids. The PG works well as an emulsifier to keep the ingredients of the e-liquid mixed together. Plus, it works well as a product that can be vaporized and inhaled. The VG acts as a thickening agent - if an e-liquid has more VG in it, then it will produce more vapor and more intense flavor.

If you choose to vape you may be wondering, Is propylene glycol safe to vape? Yes, to be clear, it is considered extremely safe, non-toxic, and has no cancer-causing properties, unlike tobacco! If you choose to purchase propylene glycol and make your own e-liquids it is absolutely imperative that you purchase it from a reputable site that sells only the highest quality propylene glycol.


Many people use bulk propylene glycol at home in their DIY recipes for personal care products and baking. Millions of cigar enthusiasts and e-cigarette vapors use PG to make their hobby more affordable and enjoyable, and millions of homeowners, RVers, and DIY enthusiasts use propylene glycol as an alternative to dangerous toxic deicers and antifreeze. Used responsibly, bulk propylene glycol is a great addition to your DIY ingredient supply kit. 

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