- No, you cannot use a water filter during a boil advisory.
- Water filters may remove most forms of contamination such as bacteria and protozoa, but they will not remove viruses from your water.
- The best way to sanitize water during a boil advisory is to boil water for 1+ minutes at 212 F when it's at a rolling boil.
When official boil advisories are announced, safety precautions must be implemented immediately. But can water filters be used during a boil advisory?
No, you cannot use a water filter during a boil advisory. Water filters may remove most forms of contamination such as bacteria and protozoa, but they will not remove viruses from your water. The best way to sanitize water during a boil advisory is to boil water for 1+ minutes at 212 F.
After extensively researching water safety protocols, I have gathered enough information to determine the most effective procedures for boil advisories. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at why water filters are not reliable during boil advisories and how you can safely drink water in this situation.
What Is A Boil Advisory?
If there is a boil advisory in your region, you need to take measures to ensure you are consuming water safely. These types of advisories and alerts occur when there is a form of contamination present in the local water supply - implying that tap water is not safe to drink or consume.
There are various reasons why boil advisories are issued, but the overall procedure is generally the same across the board - do not drink tap water before it's treated. The most common reasons include a contamination breach in the water supply from bacteria, viruses, or protozoa.
Much as the name suggests, a boil advisory requires you to boil your home’s tap water before you consume it. Leaving water at a rolling boil for more than 1 minute will kill virtually any contamination that is present in your water.
When Are Boil Advisories Issued?
Boil advisories are much less common these days. However, they are issued periodically as a health and safety measure in response to an event or outbreak.
When an advisory is announced, it means that some form of contamination has entered the water source and may be circulating in the public water supply. Types of contamination and the reasons behind them can greatly vary depending on the incident that occurred. These are the most common situations in which boil advisories are issued.
1. Power Outages
A power outage can interfere with your local water plant’s ability to process water. If the outage is serious, the water plant may lose power completely and have to shut down until the power is back on.
During this time, any water flowing through your taps could potentially be contaminated. While this is not always the case, you should check to see if your local area has issued a boil advisory in response to the power outage to confirm if your tap water is safe to drink.
2. Sewage Contamination
A common reason for a boil advisory is sewage contamination. The sewage lines could have been damaged, causing a leak in the water supply.
Sewage contains lots of different harmful contaminants that can severely impact public health. This may happen due to outdated infrastructure, human error, or a natural event.
3. Broken Water Main
Broken water mains have been the root cause behind plenty of boil advisories. As soon as the water main is broken, it can let contaminants into the pipes; sabotaging the drinking water.
4. Natural Disasters
A natural disaster may disrupt a lot of systems in your area, which could sabotage your water supply.
Earthquakes and floods are particularly problematic in this regard as they can destroy sewage lines and overwhelm processing plants. This results in untreated water flowing through your taps.
5. Water Pressure Issues
Maintaining consistent pressure as water is processed and distributed is important to encourage healthy flow and prevent contamination.
When water pressure drops, it often allows contaminants and bacteria into the entire water supply.
6. Chemical Spills
When dangerous chemicals seep into your region's water, you need to take extreme caution when using tap water. In this situation, your local municipality may issue a boil advisory with very specific guidelines.
It’s not uncommon for chemical spills to sabotage entire water supplies, making them unusable. If that’s the case, you should not use your tap water under any circumstance unless it’s in line with the guidelines of the advisory.
Can You Use A Water Filter During A Boil Advisory?
You should not use a water filter during a boil advisory. Most of the standard water filters that people have in their homes, will not filter out all harmful pathogens during a boil advisory.
An advanced water filter may remove most contaminants such as bacteria, but it will not remove viruses. This is the main reason why you should not rely on a water filter during a boil alert, as they may not completely sterilize your tap water.
A virus circulating through the water supply may not be the issue, with many boil alerts being announced for bacterial contaminations. Nonetheless, official boil advisories should not be taken lightly, as you never know what the true risks are until a statement is issued by your local authorities.
In theory, having a quality water filter in your home that has a micron rating of 0.2 or better, will remove just about any type of bacterial or protozoa contamination. If your local authorities update you on the boil advisory procedures, indicating that the contamination is due to bacteria, they may give residents the green light to use filters.
How To Safely Use Water During A Boil Advisory
The most reliable and effective way to drink tap water during a boil advisory is to boil water. As the name implies, you should be boiling any water that you plan on drinking or consuming.
Water boils at 212 F, which is the minimum temperature you need to sterilize water. Follow this procedure to properly boil water during a boil advisory:
- Pour water into a pot or kettle
- Inspect the water for sediment or debris (remove or filter if any)
- Heat water to 212+ degrees
- Let the water sit at a full rolling boil for at least 1 minute
It’s important to differentiate simmering from boiling. You need to wait until that water starts to actually bubble rapidly - not just a gentle simmer. If you live at a higher altitude that is above 6,000ft, you should boil your water longer due to water boiling at a lower temperature at a high altitude. When a boil alert is announced, you should be using boiling water in the following situations.
1. Drinking Water
Any water that you drink, should be boiled first. Many people rely solely on their taps as their primary drinking source, and you should absolutely be using boiled or bottled water for anything that you drink until the advisory is cleared.
If your meal requires you to incorporate water, make sure that it’s boiled first. Even if you plan on heating up the water during your meal, you need to confirm that it was properly boiled at 212 F for 1 minute at a full rolling boil before it's safe to use for cooking.
3. Washing Produce
When you wash your fruits and vegetables, especially if you want to consume them raw, make sure you are using boiled water. Even a few drops of contaminated water can potentially make you sick, which is why it's best not to take any chances.
4. Brushing Teeth
This is a very easy mistake to make as it's so easy to overlook how brushing your teeth can result in pathogens entering your system. Until the boil advisory is called off, only use boiled water when brushing.
5. Making Ice
Freezing will not eliminate all bacteria and pathogens in your water. This is somewhat of a myth, as freezing just puts bacteria in a state of hibernation and does not actually kill them, which is why any ice that you make and consume should be from boiled water.
6. Baby Formula
If you have a toddler in the house, remember to use sanitized boiled water when mixing baby formula. To be on the safe side, I would even recommend sticking to bottled water until the boil water advisory is called off for this kind of use.
7. Pet Water
Your four-legged friend will not appreciate drinking contaminated water any more than you. If you want to ensure that your pet is drinking safe water, keep their bowl filled with boiled water until the advisory passes.
Alternatives To Boiled Water During A Boil Advisory
If boiling water does not appeal to you or if it's simply not an option, you may want to consider the following alternatives to have access to safe drinking water during a boil advisory.
As per the CDC guidelines, you should add eight drops of unscented bleach per gallon of water to make it safe for drinking. However, if the water is cloudy, you may need to double the amount of bleach at 16 drops per gallon of water.
UV Water Purification System
A sophisticated UV water purification system is a great resource to have at home. A UV purification system that was designed to sterilize water from viruses and other contaminants will be required during a boil advisory if you do not want to use boiled water.
Water Purification Tablets
I personally like to keep a bottle of water purification tablets in my home at all times.
These are great to have around for hiking, camping, and boil advisories, as they get rid of pretty much all common forms of contamination.
Factors to Keep in Mind During a Boil Advisory
If you stick to the boil water advisory procedures, you will not have any issues with contaminants getting into your drinking water.
However, there are a couple of obscurities regarding boiling water guidelines that are sometimes left unanswered by local authorities. Keep the following factors in mind during a boil advisory.
You can only use boiling water to wash dishes unless you have a washing machine that has a sanitization feature.
In addition, making a water and bleach solution with 6 teaspoons of bleach for 3 gallons of water will also make your tap water safe for washing. Just remember to let the dishes air dry after washing.
You should be able to safely shower during any boil advisory unless specifically stated by the local authorities that you can’t. When doing so, do not let any water get into your mouth.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker