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How Long you Must Boil Drinking Water to Kill Bacteria

time to boil drinking water

Do you care about the health aspect of your drinking water? Contaminated water can procure diseases and sickness in your body hence affecting your health. Some people die as a result of consuming unclean water.

What’s more? You must assess the condition of your water before consumption. One of the simplest water purification methods is boiling it, but how long should it boil to kill pathogens.

To kill all bacteria, one must boil water for one minute according to the CDC. However, it must be boiled for at least 5 minutes to eliminate other pathogens.

Boiling for such long and at 100 degrees C is necessary to destroy the common bacteria and pathogens which are harmful to humans.

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How Long to Boil Water to Kill Bacteria

Research done by the World Health Organization reveals that a water temperature of 70 degrees Celsius will kill 99.999% of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses in less than one minute. Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. To make our point clear, by the time water reaches a rolling boil, it will be safe to drink.

Among other water purification methods, boiling is the most common and is effective in killing bacteria. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends boiling water for at least one minute to eliminate any doubt. Such an allowance is an extra margin for safety.

Type of Pathogen How long to boil to kill Temperature needed
Giardia species Time of boiling is 5 minutes 55 degrees C
E.coli5 minutes 60 degrees C
Salmonella, campylobacter, and Shigella species3 minutes65 degrees C
Hepatitis A virusOne Minute98 degrees C
Enteric viruses20-40 minutes 56-60 degrees C

From the table, it is important to boil water for around 5 minutes so as to kill all the bacteria and pathogens that survive boiling water temperatures.

Does Boiling Water Make it Safe for Drinking?

You do not have to boil water for 10, 15, or 20 minutes for it to be safe for a drink. Once your water reaches a rolling point, regardless of your altitude, it will be safe for your consumption.

It is an assumption that no toxic chemicals or heavy metals like lead or pesticides are present. You can remove those contaminants by a water purifier or filter. For instance, you can remove chlorine and fluoride to purify water for drinking at home.

Boiling your water for an extra three minutes will help you enter into a margin of safety though it is not a must.

Varying Altitudes Affects Water’s Boiling Point

To take a recap from the point as mentioned earlier on boiling point, 100 degrees as a boiling point is usually at sea-level. The boiling temperature will change with the altitude. The trend is; the higher you are above sea-level, the lower the boiling point of water.

How varying altitudes affects water boiling point

Take, for instance, at 10,000 feet; the boiling point will automatically reduce to 89.8 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, at the peak of Mt Everest, which is 29,029 feet, the boiling point is 70 degrees Celsius.

It is an indisputable fact that even the highest altitude on earth can bring the same water to a rolling boiling point to eliminate pathogens within a minute. To add a safety allowance, the CDC prefers that you heat water for three minutes, especially at altitudes above 6562 feet. 

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Why Should you Treat Water by Boiling

Well, boil water because it is effective to kill bacteria and organic impurities. As a rule of thumb, use clean water for your consumption to guarantee your wellness. There are several circumstances in which it may be necessary to treat water for use. Treatment of water removes or inactive pathogens.

Here are the reasons why you should treat your water:

  • Inability to control measures. It may include lack or improper
    disinfection or unsafe handling or storage.
  • Disasters or emergencies that result in inadequate sanitation, hygiene,
    and protection of water sources.
  • Irregular quality of water, especially when traveling.

While one of the simplest methods of water treatment is through water is boiling, the other methods that assist in water treatment are:

  • Filtration
  • Chemical disinfection
  • Flocculation

Does Boiling Water Kill all Bacteria and Parasites

The bacteria, protozoans, and viruses are usually sensitive to inactivation at temperatures ranging below 100 degrees. The examination of thermal inactivation in water reveals that bacteria are sensitive to heat, and they die at temperatures above 56 degrees Celsius.

For the viruses, they get inactivated at temperatures of between 60 to 65 degrees Celsius. When you boil water to reach a rolling point, most of them die. You should then leave the water to cool naturally.

Also, you should clarify turbid water for aesthetic reasons before boiling. However, not all of them die, since we explored how the Clostridium bacteria can survive boiling water. Despite its survival, it does not cause harm to the human body.

The Bacteria and Viruses Removed by Boiling Water

Bacteria and viruses could be small organisms that you cannot see with a conventional microscope. You cannot see them with naked eyes at the same time taste or smell them. The entrance of bacteria in our environment can be through various means including a leaking septic tank or water runoff from feedlots.

This organism can also enter the water supplies via open wells on the surface. Contamination does not discriminate your location. Both city water and private wells are vulnerable.

Both animal and human digestive tracts have coliform bacteria. It is an undeniable fact that not all coliform bacteria are harmful. Interestingly, some bacteria in that classification can trigger serious illness such as intestinal infections and cholera.

E.coli is a bacteria that is responsible for food poisoning. It also survives in the water though it does not live long in such an environment. Its presences signal that there are other dangerous bacteria in your water. You can get an infection of E.coli via your water supply.

E.coli is a bacteria that is responsible for food poisoning. It also survives in the water though it does not live long in such an environment.

Its presences signal that there are other dangerous bacteria in your water. You can get an infection of E.coli via your water supply.

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Symptoms of Bacterial Infections after Drinking Unboiled Water

Symptoms can differ depending on the type of infection. Bacterial infections can cause the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

The best way to ensure your water is safe is through adopting various water purification methods or installing a home drinking water filtration system. While boiling is effective in purifying water, other methods like decantation, filtration and chlorination come in handy to guarantee safe drinking water.

How to Store Drinking Water after Boiling to Avoid Re-contamination

1.    Copper Vessels and Steel Containers

Once you know the amount of water that your family consumes, you can store them in copper vessels and steel containers. The main advantage of such storages is that they do not contaminate your water. You have a guarantee that the vessels will store your water and remain safe for long term use.

2.    Bottles

Another effective way of storing water is putting in bottles that you can easily use. Go for the bottles that consist of excellent material construction such as food-grade plastics. Glass bottles are ideal in storing water for regular use. Do not use regular plastic bottles as toxins could sweep in through them and cause harm to the user.

3.    Drums and gallons

If you store water in drums and gallons, make sure you use a clean pipe to the faucet. Ensure that the lid remains covered even when the tube remains inserted into the drum to prevent contamination that comes from the air.

blue drum to store water

While using drums, take the following precautions;

  • Fill the containers to the brim before closing the lid to prevent air
    bubbles inside.
  • Keep your storage containers away from light or areas of too much use of

How Long will Drinking Water be Safe After Boiling

It will entirely depend on the type of water stored and how the water got stored. There is a boundary between the tapped water and bottled water from commercial companies.

  • Duration

The commercially available water has an expiration date.  The shell life would be approximately one year if the manufacturer did not indicate the expiration date. Replace your water for every six months, especially those that originate from your faucet or pumped municipal water.

  • Storage containers

The storage containers will determine the length of time stored water to remain consumable. Store water in the containers made from food-grade plastics or those containers designed specifically for storing water.

  • Chlorine

Tap water from the municipal usually has chlorine that can keep it safe for six months. If you are filling your bottles with water from the well, add one or two drops of plain and unscented bleach to each cylinder.

  • Storage

When storing water, the optimum temperature should be between normal room temperature to extend shelf life. On the other hand, freezing will help to last almost indefinitely.

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Water is an essential asset to all living things. Without water, life ends with most living organisms. The composition of the human body is 70% water. Water determines the health and the lifespan of any living creature. If you want to live long, make sure the condition of your water meets the sanitary standards.

The state of your drinking water could procure or destroy your health. Scientists argue that untreated water contains harmful bacteria which can have diverse effects on the user when he consumes.

The cheapest way to purify dirty water and kill the bacteria is through boiling to an optimum temperature. Boiling your cooking and drinking water will save your life. Boil your water to kill bacteria and prolong your life.