Propylene Glycol vs Vegetable Glycerin

Exploring Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin for Vaping

When looking at different e-liquids, the first question that many vapers ask is what is the difference between PG and VG? This short guide will explain what these two ingredients are, how they are used in vaping, and what mixture of PG and VG is right for you and your vaping setup.

What are PG & VG?

Propylene Glycol:

Propylene Glycol, or PG for short, is a by-product of petroleum.

  • It has a low viscosity, similar to water.
  • It has no odor or flavor and is colorless.
  • Due to its neutral character, it carries flavor well.
  • It is commonly used in vaping to provide a “throat hit”, similar to the sensation of smoking.

Aside from vaping, Propylene Glycol USP/EP (pharmaceutical grade) is an ingredient in many household items:

  • Therapeutic drugs and medicines, such as cough syrup.
  • Solvent and carrier for flavor and color in foods and beverages.
  • Pet food.
  • Beauty products, including soaps, make-up and shampoo.
  • Dental care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

Safety

Studies have demonstrated that PG has a very low toxicity when ingested orally. The FDA has ruled that it is generally recognized as safe when used as a food additive. Limited studies exist on the inhalation of Propylene Glycol. One long-term study from 1947 concluded that inhalation of PG was “completely harmless”. Propylene Glycol should not be confused with Ethylene Glycol, a structurally similar chemical. It is commonly used in anti-freeze and is toxic to humans.

There is a link between consumption of PG and development of Heinz body anemia in cats. At the moment there are no studies specifically targeting airborne PG and cats. But if you have cats at home, it may be wise to switch to a high VG blend – or vape outdoors. Some people may experience throat irritation from PG. A small percentage of people report an allergic reaction. If you are transitioning from smoking to vaping, you may experience dryness and increased thirst as your body gets used to PG. Some side-effects may be a result of giving up cigarettes too. Be sure to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. However, if you experience any unpleasant symptoms or body rashes, then try out a max VG e-liquid as an alternative to PG.

Vegetable Glycerin:

Vegetable Glycerin, also known as VG, is a non-toxic chemical derived from vegetable oils, and is therefore safe for vegetarians.

  • It is thick and viscous, similar to syrup.
  • VG is naturally sweet in flavor.
  • When vaporized, VG produces large clouds of vapor.
  • High VG e-liquids are popular among vapers who sub ohm, drip, and cloudchasers.

Vegetable Glycerin has many applications outside vaping. These include:

  • Sweetener and sugar replacement.
  • Food preservative.
  • Thickening agent in liqueurs.
  • Humectant (to increase moisture), E.g. in baked goods.
  • Additive in beauty products such as aftershave, make-up, and hand cream.

Safety

Vegetable Glycerin is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. The SIDS Initial Assessment Report, published in 2002 by the IPCS found Glycerol to have low toxicity when ingested, inhaled or in contact with the skin. As with Propylene Glycol, limited studies exist on inhalation of VG.

The chance of an allergic reaction to Vegetable Glycerin is very low. Actually, if you are allergic to VG then you probably know already, as it’s present in so many household products. Thick, gloopy e-liquids with a high VG percentage can clog up coils. It is important to prime your coil properly before vaping when using high VG e-juices to avoid dry hits.

PG & VG mixing ratios

In the early days of e-cigarettes, it was common to vape using a 100% PG e-liquid. As technology has advanced and vaping preferences have changed, it’s now possible to get e-juices in a variety of mixing ratios. Which VG/PG blend is right for you? Here are the most common ratios and what you can expect from them:

  • 100% PG – very strong throat hit, good carrier of flavor, minimal vapor production.
  • 70/30 PG/VG – increased vapor production, strong throat hit.
  • 50/50 PG/VG – ideal for beginners – flavor and bite on the inhale, quality vapor on the exhale.
  • 30/70 PG/VG – popular ratio for sub ohm tanks – the throat hit won’t overwhelm, and vapor production is cloudlike.
  • 100% VG – suitable for people with a PG allergy, and dedicated cloudchasers. 100% VG blends will affect taste, steeping times, and tank and coil maintenance.

Best PG/VG ratios for clearomizers, RDAs, sub ohm tanks, and RTAs

The device you’re vaping on will also determine what PG/VG blend is right for you. Finding the right blend is a matter of personal preference and experimentation. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Clearomizers typically work well with a blend of 30/70 to 50/50 PG/VG.
  • RDAs tend to work best from 30/70 PG/VG up to 100% VG.
  • RTAs – most vapers report the “sweet spot” to be around 25/75 PG/VG.
  • Sub ohm tanks function best at 30/70 PG/VG. 100% VG e-liquids take longer to wick and risk getting a “dry hit”.

Tips

With so many different blends available, it is also rewarding – and cost effective – to mix your own e-liquids. Some factors to consider:

  • Throat hit and nicotine – it’s not only PG that creates the “throat hit”, but nicotine too. Most flavorings and nicotine are suspended in Propylene Glycol. Mixing these with VG will influence your PG/VG ratio.
  • VG and flavor – flavors take differing amounts of time to steep, and will take longer in VG. The naturally sweet flavor of Vegetable Glycerin won’t work optimally with tart flavors like cola and some fruits.
  • However, VG is a good choice for sweet flavors like cream, custard, and yoghurt.
  • Thinning e-liquids – some “pure VG” blends use around 15% distilled water to thin the e-juice out. This can help the cotton in your coils absorb (wick) the liquid faster.
  • Steep time – keeping your e-liquids in a cool, shaded place helps them steep. Some people experiment with accelerated steeping in ultrasonic cleaners and report getting a typical 1-week steep from 2 hours’ exposure.

Conclusion

There are no strict rules when it comes to blending PG and VG in e-liquids. Each have their own pros and cons. We recommend starting out with a 50/50 PG/VG blend and experimenting from there. Make sure your gear can handle the mix you’re using. Too much e-liquid can lead to flooded coils. Too little and you get a dry hit, every vaper’s worst nightmare. The huge variety of flavors is one of the most exciting things about vaping. Follow your tastebuds and have fun mixing it up!

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