Around Central Pennsylvania, “boil water” advisories are common. In fact, they are so common that some people decide it’s not important to follow them.
That’s a terrible mistake.
Boil water advisories require individuals to be very careful when using any tap water for potential ingestion. After all, there could be a host of contaminants lurking in the H2O. Even if the water isn’t cloudy, it could be filled with unacceptable particles or higher-than-normal bacteria counts.
Therefore, it’s best to make sure that any water you’ll use for cooking, drinking (or even brushing your teeth) is boiled accordingly:
- Fill a large pot with water.
- Heat the water until it’s boiling.
- Let the water boil for at least 1 minute.
- Turn off the stove (or other heat source.)
- Let the water cool (if necessary.)
- Pour the water into a clean container.
Other considerations to keep in mind during boil water advisories include:
- Don’t use tap water for ice cube trays. Freezing water will not kill any contaminants.
Making coffee with un-boiled tap water will not protect you, as the water doesn’t get hot for long enough to be sterilized.
- If you have an ice maker that uses water from a tap water line, do not use the ice that’s been made during a boil water advisory.
- Prepare foods using water that has been boiled OR with bottled water.
- If you’re washing surfaces that will be touching food (e.g., countertops, dishes, utensils, cutting boards), use sterilized water.
- During a boil water advisory, it’s safe to use your dishwasher as long as the water reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.
- Give your pets water that has been boiled. (Water for reptiles or fish typically does not need to be sanitized, as reptiles and fish do not typically get ill from the same bacteria counts that could make humans sick. If you have questions, contact your veterinarian.)
- Plants can be watered with regular, old tap water.
- Baths and showers shouldn’t be a problem. Just don’t drink any water while in the tub or shower!
- It’s safe to do laundry when a boil water advisory is in effect.
- Do not drink from drinking fountains during a boil water advisory.
Finally, if for whatever reason you cannot boil your water, you can disinfect it using liquid bleach (as in the bleach used for laundry). The bleach must be unscented, and you must be extremely careful with measurements. Add about 1/8 of a teaspoon of the bleach to one gallon of water, stir it, let it stand for 30 minutes, and then cool or use the water. If you want to store the water, make sure you have clean containers available. (If the water is cloudy, you must strain it before using this method of sanitation.)
As always, be aware, and be careful! Boil water advisories might be a pain, but better safe than sorry!