Disinfect Drinking Water

Hurricanes, floods, or water pipe breakage can all result in an emergency situation where regular water service is disrupted or discontinued. In these situations, it is recommended to only use bottled water or water that has been properly disinfected for drinking, cooking, washing dishes and even for brushing your teeth. Boiling water will kill most microorganisms such as pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa that may be in the water.

Bottled water is your best choice. But may not always be available to you.

Sources of water:

  • Ice cubes
  • Draining the hot water tank or pipes.
  • Rivers or lakes
    • It is better to use flowing water rather than still, stagnant water.
    • Do not use water with floating material in it, water that has a dark color or questionable odor.


How to properly disinfect water:


  • If the water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter.
  • Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. At altitudes above 5,000 feet (1,000 meters), boil water for three minutes.
  • Let water cool naturally and store it in clean containers with covers.       

Little Tip: Boiled water has a flat taste. Add a pinch of salt to each quart or liter of water, or pour the water from one clean container to another several times to improve the taste.


Household Iodine (Tincture of Iodine):

  • Add five drops of 2% tincture of iodine to each quart or liter of water that you are disinfecting. If the water is cloudy or colored, add 10 drops of iodine. Stir and let the water stand for at least 30 minutes before use.


Water Disinfection Tablets:

  • There are tablets made to disinfect water that contain chlorine, iodine, chlorine dioxide, or other disinfecting agents. They are available online, at pharmacies, and sporting goods stores. Follow the specific instructions on each product label.


Household bleach, if you can’t boil water:

  • Only use regular, unscented chlorine bleach products that are suitable for disinfection and sanitization as indicated on the label. The label may say that the active ingredient contains 6 or 8.25% of sodium hypochlorite. It must be a fresh liquid chlorine bleach or liquid chlorine bleach that is stored at room temperatures for less than one year.
    • Do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • If water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter.
  • Get a clean eye dropper. The Environmentally Protection Agency provides a table as a guide to decide the amount of bleach that should be added to the water.
    • Double the amount of bleach if the water is cloudy, colored, or very cold.
  • Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odor. If it doesn’t, repeat the dosage and let stand for another 15 minutes before use.
  • If the chlorine taste is too strong, pour the water from one clean container to another and let it stand for a few hours before use.
Volume of Water Amount of 6% Bleach to Add* Amount of 8.25% Bleach to Add*
1 quart/liter 2 drops 2 drops
1 gallon 8 drops 6 drops
2 gallons 16 drops (1/4 tsp) 12 drops (1/8 teaspoon)
4 gallons 1/3 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon
8 gallons 2/3 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon

*Bleach may contain 6 or 8.25% sodium hypochlorite.                                                                                            Information provided by the EPA.




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