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3 Ways to Treat Your Water to Make It Drinkable

April 06, 2016

3 Ways to Treat Your Water to Make It Drinkable



The instructions below are for treating water of uncertain quality in rare emergency situations in the absence of instructions from local authorities when no other reliable clean water source is available and you have used all of your stored water. Keep in mind that if you store enough water in advance, you will not need to treat water using these or other methods.


1. Method: Boiling

Boiling is the safest method of treating water.

Here are the steps:

  1. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate.
  2. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
  3. You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners.
  4. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use only bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.


2. Method: Chlorination

  1. Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of bleach, discard it and find another source of water.


For both water treatments, boiling and chlorination, water treatment products that contain 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite are recommended.

Boiling or chlorination will kill most microorganisms but will not, however, remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals. Before treating your water by boiling it or adding chlorination, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel, clean cloth, or coffee filter.

In addition to using either water purifiers or water filters on questionable water, you can also treat your water with purification tablets to make it drinkable.


While the two methods described above will kill most microorganisms in water, distillation will remove microorganisms that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals.


3. Method: Distillation

Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities.

  1. Fill a pot halfway with water.
  2. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water), and boil the water for 20 minutes.
  3. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled (see illustration.)



While the three mention water treatment methods are fairly effective in treating your water to be drinkable in an emergency they are time consuming and require some planning.

Be sure to plan ahead before a disaster strikes, and keep a good supply of drinking water on hand at all times.



Need More Information?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Community and Family Preparedness Program and American Red Cross Community Disaster Education are nationwide efforts to help people prepare for disasters of all types. You can find information for your specific region on the American Red Cross website.

For more information, please visit and, or contact your local emergency preparedness outlet.

Contact FEMA at:



P.O. Box 2012

Jessup, MD 20794-2012


Here are some of the water purification items we currently sell:
(Note: we sell additional items; this list is not exclusive)

LifeStraw Go Water Filter




Water Preserver, 55 Gal., 5-Year





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