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Glycol and Plant Preservation

By Charles Pearson ; Updated September 21, 2017
Glycol is one of many preservatives chemists use to preserve plants.

Different plants have different rates of decomposition. Because plants contain many nutrients that other organisms need to carry out metabolic processes, dead plants become targets of these organisms. This causes problems with various products that use plant materials, such as cosmetics. Glycol can work in combination with other chemicals to fight plant decomposition.

Lab Tissue Preservation

Plants that scientists sexually propagate are much easier to store and preserve than plants that were vegetative propagated. With genetically engineered plants, scientists want to preserve new developments so they can reproduce the results. But the tissue samples are difficult to preserve. However, plants produce many natural preservatives that protect the plant from decomposition which scientists can use to preserve the plant material.

Cut Flower Preservation

Some florists use preservative chemicals to maintain a fresh flower appearance so they do not have to throw flowers away so soon. This also attracts customers who want long-lasting flowers. Removing the water from plant leaves prevents harmful mold from growing on the flower, which can cause decomposition. One method of preserving plants is by immersing the plant material in several preservative substances, including glycol. After using a dehydrating solvent. The botanist lets polyethylene glycol to soak into the plant leaves. This glycol replaces the dehydrating solvent.

Essential Oil Preservation

Plants contain many of their own glycolic compounds, which chemists often try to extract as essential oils. Essential oils can provide health benefits for the skin and can also act as deodorants. Sometimes, for these glycols to remain effective, they must have preservatives added to them to keep them potent during storage.

Bacterial Fighting Solution

Combining phenoxyethanol, sorbic acid and caprylyl glycol creates a solution that can fight bacteria, yeast and mold. When bacteria, yeast and mold are not present, plant material lasts longer. Soaking plant material in this solution can provide effective protection. Manufacturers sometimes add this chemical to plant products so they can reduce the number of preservatives they need to add to these products. The glycol has a lower level of toxicity than other preservative chemicals.

Wetting Solution

To make cosmetics more natural, chemists often use plant material in the cosmetics. To preserve the plant material in the cosmetics, the chemists often use ethoxydiglycol in combination with copper usinate. While this solution can help fight bacteria, the solution must be used in combination with other preservatives. The solution helps wet the other preservatives so these preservatives can more easily penetrate the cell walls of harmful bacteria, improving the preservative’s effectiveness.


About the Author


Charles Pearson has written as a freelancer since 2009. He has a B.S. in literature from Purdue University Calumet and is currently working on his M.A. He has written the ebooks "Karate You Can Teach Your Kids," "Macadamia Growing Handout" and "The Raw Food Diet."