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boiling water on stove top (C) Daniel FriedmanHow to boil water for drinking: Details of Using Boiling Water to Purify or Sterilize Drinking Water

  • BOILING WATER for DRINKING - CONTENTS: How to use boiling to treat, purify, or sterilize drinking water in an emergency. How hot, or how long to boil water for drinking purposes. Water heating time requirements at various temperatures in order to sterilize water for drinking
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs on boiling drinking water for safe use: how long, what temperature, preparation of the water
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How to boil drinking water for safe use: here we provide the details of just how long to boil water to sterilize it for drinking purposes. We give water temperatures needed and time durations needed for safe drinking water.



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Guide to Boiling Water for Drinking

This article series outlines methods to purify or sanitize drinking water in an emergency following a disaster such as an earthquake, flood, or hurricane.

If drinking water is of questionable purity, boil the water for at least five minutes, and/or add bleach, and/or distill drinking water before using if a distiller and electrical power or an alternative heat source are available. See information on water treatment under the "Disaster Supplies Kit" section of some public documents.

Boiling water can kill nearly all microorganisms except, as author Matthew Stein points out in When Technology Fails, prions - which are not often present in a water supply. Remember however that boiling water will not reliably remove most chemicals nor will it remove radioactive contamination.

Even if there has been a loss of electrical power, natural or LP gas may be available at some buildings, allowing you to boil water to produce safe drinking water in an emergency. Our page top photo shows a pot of cold water that has just been placed on a natural-gas fired stovetop to begin the boiling procedure. Tip: your water will boil faster and you'll waste less fuel if you keep a top on the container during heating.

Safety Warning: do not enter a building nor attempt to use gas appliances in a building if there is a smell of gas odors or if the gas piping and appliances have been damaged by a storm, earthquake, or other event.

How Long to Boil or Heat Water for Drinking Purposes 
Water Temperature Over
Fahrenheit degrees
Water Temperature Over
Celsius Degrees
Minimum Required Water Heating Time for Purification 
160 degF 71. degC 30 minutes
185 degF 85 degC 5 minutes
212 degF 100 degC 1 minute

In most environments, the length of time that water is exposed to temperatures of 185 degF. or higher between the time it reaches 185 degF. and the time that it reaches boiling at 212 degF. is sufficient to kill most organisms and pathogens in the water.

That's why experts have not suggested that you need to boil the water for more than a minute or so. If you are boiling water on an unusually hot powerful heat source, boil it a bit longer to be safe.

Typically, experts recommend three minutes of rolling boiling water at sea level altitude to safely disinfect water for drinking.

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