Can we also use glycerine after it has expired

Clean with glycerine: dirt simply rolls off

What is glycerin?

First encounter: a slightly thick, clear liquid drips from the bottle. It doesn't smell like anything, but it tastes sweet. What is that, actually? Glycerine (often spelled glycerine) is chemically correctly called glycerol, and the ending -ol identifies it as alcohol. More precisely, it is a so-called sugar alcohol.

Anyone who immediately thinks of nitroglycerin when they hear the name is not completely wrong. In fact, this liquid could also be used to manufacture explosives using a number of other chemicals in a complex process. But glycerine itself is completely harmless and - if you don't drink it in large gulps - non-toxic. It is even approved as a food additive and then bears the name E422.

How is glycerine made and why is organic glycerine sustainable?

Still, it sounds like a chemistry kit at first. And that should now be eco? The fact is that our grandmothers already knew glycerine as a household remedy. In their day it was a by-product of soap making. It always arises when vegetable or animal fats are split, as happens with saponification. Today, glycerine can also be obtained from petroleum or, with the help of yeast, from molasses. A large part now comes from the production of biodiesel.

How sustainable glycerine is depends to a large extent on its raw materials. Anyone who uses vegetable glycerine can at least rule out the possibility that crude oil or beef tallow from factory farming was at the beginning of the production chain.

Vegetable glycerine can also be problematic for the environment: for example, when genetically modified plants are grown for the production of biodiesel or the vegetable oil used comes from conventional palm oil plantations. With organic glycerine, both are excluded, and if it is also locally produced, it is definitely the most environmentally conscious choice. Another ecological aspect speaks in favor of glycerine: It is completely biodegradable, so that it does not pollute the water.

Glycerine: An old home remedy with real talents

But what makes this sugar alcohol such a versatile household helper? It scores with four properties that our grandmothers found practical. Glycerine ...

  • is an excellent degreaser.
  • Coats surfaces with a smooth, shiny film that prevents dirt and dust from adhering to them.
  • binds water - very practical for everything that needs to remain soft and supple, from rubber seals to human skin.
  • has a very low freezing point and can therefore serve as an antifreeze.

Shine for smooth surfaces: cleaning with glycerine

When cleaning, glycerine rarely takes on the role of a helper for the rough. Sure, if someone with oil-smeared hands has left black marks in the apartment, then you can attack them with pure glycerine (and pass the bottle on to clean your hands). But the real strength of the home remedy is: high gloss. And this is what glycerine plays when cleaning the house, especially on smooth surfaces, for example when cleaning windows or on bathroom tiles. Simply add a few drops of glycerine to the cleaning water. This ensures that a very thin, very smooth film is created on windows or tiles. And where dust, dirt or limescale cannot hold onto, everything stays clean longer.

In the bathroom, glycerine can be used on wash basins, tiles and the like. Limescale deposits have a hard time - the cleaning effect lasts longer.

The principle also works with furniture. Especially on smooth, dark surfaces, on which you can see every grain of dust immediately, you can delay the time until the next swing of the rag by wiping the furniture with a little glycerine in the water. In this way you take away the chance of the dust to make itself comfortable on the furniture.

Even water vapor surrenders to such a super smooth film. You can take advantage of this to protect the bathroom mirror or glasses from fogging up. Simply soak a soft cloth with a little glycerine and wipe it over the glass after cleaning before polishing it dry. The result: a clear view the next time you come into the house from the cold or when you want to comb your hair in front of the mirror after showering.

Glycerine is also a useful helper for metal maintenance. After cleaning, simply rub silver or brass thinly with a cloth soaked in glycerine and polish shortly after it has dried. This means that the silver cutlery does not tarnish so quickly and your brass chandeliers stay shiny longer.

Oh, messed up! Glycerine against stains

The second major area of ​​application for the old home remedy is textile care. It can even soften dried stains and, with a little patience, make them disappear. Removing stains with glycerine is very straightforward. The white pants got an unsightly patch of grass? Coffee, red wine or the juicy peach have left their mark on a good blouse? On the tablecloth you can understand the menu of the last few days using a colorful pattern made of mustard, ketchup and chocolate pudding? Simply dab the stains with glycerine, leave for one to two hours and then wash out with clear water or a lukewarm soap solution. For stubborn stains such as tar, shoe polish or pollen, dab from the outside inwards with a soft cloth after the exposure time. If necessary, repeat the treatment.

Speaking of clothes: If you like to wear fluffy woolen sweaters, you can use glycerine as a fabric softener. Just put a tablespoon in the machine for the last rinse or a splash in the water when hand washing and the wool will be nice and cozy.

A few drops of moisture - glycerine in cosmetics

This is due to a property that the cosmetics industry also makes use of. Glycerine binds water, yes, it even attracts humidity and thereby makes skin and hair smooth and supple - including animal hair such as wool. The same applies to animal skin, i.e. leather. For example, to keep leather gloves permanently soft, you can rub them thinly with glycerine. After drying, they are even water-repellent.

Incidentally, in living human skin, the softening effect depends on the amount. Critics claim that glycerine can dry out the skin because it removes moisture from the connective tissue when the ambient air is dry. That's also true - theoretically. As a practical matter, cosmetics and skin care products usually contain less than 10 percent glycerine; the drying effect only occurs from a concentration of approx. 30 percent. So no need to worry - but you should still not bathe your hands in pure glycerine for longer than necessary.

Always elastic: rubber care with glycerine

Fortunately, there are no such problems with rubber. Here, glycerine does exactly what it should: It ensures that elastic remains elastic. Apply a thin layer to, for example, refrigerator seals or the rubber seals of windows so that they do not become brittle. Rubber boots and hot water bottles can also be rubbed with a thin layer of glycerine from time to time to extend their lifespan.

© CC0 / ThorstenF

Cared for with glycerine, you extend the life of rubber boots.

In action when it gets chilly: refrigerator maintenance

And if you have the glycerine bottle standing next to the refrigerator anyway - isn't it time to defrost it again? If ancient, frozen food remains in the depths of the fridge or freezer, it is best to remove them with the alcohol. After defrosting and cleaning, you can rub the walls of the refrigerator with a rag soaked in glycerine. This will prevent new ice from forming too quickly. Glycerine also works well as an antifreeze in cars: in winter, coat the rubber seals on the doors with it to prevent them from freezing and then tearing when opened with force.

And glycerine is often used for another winter-specific purpose: traditionally, many people put a few drops in the water for the Christmas tree and hope that this will prevent it from needling. However, it seems to be more of a myth.

Little helper for great cake art: glycerine for fondant

What is undisputed, however, is that glycerine is of great help to all baking fans when they want to cover and decorate their cakes with fondant. As a humectant, it makes the sugary coating and kneading material easier to shape. Only pure vegetable glycerine with a content of approx. 85% is suitable for this. A lower percentage means a higher proportion of water, and water would dissolve the sugar.

© Julia N.

Fondant like here as the final layer on the petit four is easier to knead and roll out with a little glycerine.

If you want to make fondant yourself, you need about 10 grams of glycerine for 1 kilo of powdered sugar. It is important to work it in gradually to see how much is really necessary. Store-bought fondant, which is sometimes quite hard, can be kneaded so softly with two to three drops of glycerine (and a little patience) that it can be processed. When using the product, make sure that the glycerine is suitable for consumption.

And now: time for soap bubbles

From cleaning to baking, from rubber care to frost protection: the old household remedy glycerine proves to be a very versatile helper in the household. But it comes at its nicest when you stop working. Glycerine ensures that soap bubbles last longer and shimmer with a beautiful color. To make your own bubble solution, simply mix 75 milliliters of dish soap with 1 liter of water and 1 teaspoon of glycerine. Just bend a wire into a noose and wrap it with some wool - and then let the bubbles float!

More tips for ecological cleaning with home remedies and sustainable helpers

Read our posts on other home remedies you can use to clean ecologically:


Image sources

  • rubber boots: © CC0 / ThorstenF
  • fondant: © Julia N.

Sabine Schlimm

Sabine Schlimm prefers to write about good food and sustainable living, and the copywriter and cookbook author likes to come up with creative ideas while meditatively chopping vegetables. Or when she looks at the water - luckily the Elbe is just around the corner.